King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands has revealed his secret double life: as a pilot for KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines).
For followers of the Dutch Royal Family, it is no secret that the King was keen on flying as a Prince and continues to hold a pilot’s licence. However, what was unknown is that the Dutch Monarch is a KLM pilot, flying commercial aircraft at the same time as reigning over the Netherlands.
The King revealed to the Dutch paper, De Telegraaf on Wednesday that he has been flying passengers on regular commercial flights as an incognito co-pilot twice a month.
Willem-Alexander welcomes customers “on behalf of the captain and crew” and said that it is rare that he is recognised in uniform. Most passengers have no idea that a King is flying their aircraft, but some have reportedly said that they ‘recognise his voice.’ The Monarch is now retraining to fly the Boeing 737 aircraft, which will enable him to continue flying for the Dutch national airline, as the Fokker aircraft, for which he is currently qualified, is being phased out.
The King said, “You have a plane, passengers and crew and you are responsible for them. The advantage is that I can always say I am speaking on behalf of the captain and crew to welcome them on board, so I don’t have to say my name. But then, most people don’t listen anyway.”
Willem-Alexander went on to say, “I think flying is just amazing. You can’t take your day-to-day problems with you into the air. You can completely switch off and focus on something else. That, for me, is the most relaxing thing about flying.”
The Dutch monarch learned to fly in Wales, after he completed secondary school, in 1985. An airline pilot requires at least 150 hours a year to be flown, to keep an Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL) valid, hence Willem-Alexander’s continued flying. In order to get the ATPL in the first place, the King would have had to take 14 examinations on subjects ranging from Meteorology, to Weight & Balance, to Human Performance (learning about the human body and how it reacts in flight.)
Captain Putman, who flies with the King frequently, told the Dutch paper: “When we put on our KLM uniform, I’m in command and the King is the co-pilot. For the relatively few hours he flies, he is always very sharp!”
The King now requires a new ‘type-rating’ in order to fly a different aircraft model. The duration of a type-rating course, can last between one and two months. Assuming that His Majesty passes his exams, he will be able to continue flying for KLM on its signature aircraft, for years to come.
The King remarked: “It also seemed nice to fly to other destinations one day, with more passengers and bigger distances. That was the real motive for training on the 737.”
The Dutch King isn’t the only flying Royal; Prince Philip and Prince Charles were once pilots, and Prince William and Harry are currently qualified, as well as The King of Jordan and The Sultan of Brunei.