Dutch King Secretly Kept Pilot Job for 21 Years

He flew incognito for KLM
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 18, 2017 2:51 AM CDT
Dutch King Secretly Flew for Airline
Dutch King Willem-Alexander gestures as he celebrates his 50th birthday on Kingsday during a tour of Tilburg, south central Netherlands, Thursday, April 27, 2017.   (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

Dutch passengers on KLM flights might have recognized the co-pilot's voice when he introduced himself on the airline's Cityhopper services. It was not just their co-pilot telling them weather conditions and estimated time of arrival. It was their king. King Willem-Alexander told national daily De Telegraaf in an interview published Wednesday that he has ended his role as a regular "guest pilot" after 21 years on KLM's fleet of Fokker 70 planes and before that on Dutch carrier Martinair. He will now retrain to fly Boeing 737s as the Fokkers are being phased out of service.

While it was no secret that Willem-Alexander is a qualified pilot who had flown KLM passenger flights, it wasn't widely known that he did it as often as twice a month and continued flying incognito after becoming king in 2013, the BBC reports. The 50-year-old calls flying a "hobby" that lets him leave his royal duties on the ground. "You have an aircraft, passengers and crew. You have responsibility for them," the king told De Telegraaf. "You can't take your problems from the ground into the skies. You can completely disengage and concentrate on something else." He said he is rarely recognized by passengers as he walks through Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport in his KLM uniform. (More Dutch royal family stories.)

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