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Dutch king reveals secret life as an airline pilot for KLM

The Dutch are more used to seeing their Royal Family mixing with the citizens on a daily basis, a King flying fare paying passengers around is not something that even the Dutch, we imagine, thought could happen. The Dutch citizens were quite used to seeing King Willem-Alexander’s grandmother Queen Juliana riding the streets on her bicycle, and Queen Juliana was particularly interested in the problems of developing countries, the refugee problem, and had a very special interest in child welfare, particularly in the developing countries, and on the night of 31 January 1953, the Netherlands was hit by the most destructive storm in more than five hundred years. Dressed in boots and an old coat, Queen Juliana waded through water and slopped through deep mud all over the devastated areas to bring desperate people food and clothing, permanently endearing her to the citizens of the Netherlands.

Maybe it was with this upbringing and home environment that set King Willem-Alexander onto a path as a commercial pilot with Dutch national carrier KLM and for 21 years he has taken to the skies twice a month to ferry passengers around on short-haul services. The presence of the royal was never revealed on any of the flights, although it is believed that many of the passengers he was flying may have recognised his voice, when he updated them during the flight on such things as weather, time of arrival and other matters that we are all so used to hearing.

Willem-Alexander is trained to fly the Fokker70 aircraft as co-pilot or first officer, or should we say, looking at the three shiny gold rings on his sleeve, senior first officer, but as this marque of aircraft are being phased out by KLM, he needs to take time out to retrain and learn to fly Boeing 737s. He says that he has no plans to learn how to fly bigger aircraft such as jumbos because he “cannot get back in time to the Netherlands in case of an emergency”.

Although he is still focussed on his royal duties he does admit that being able to leave his royal duties behind to concentrate on flying was “relaxing” and went on to say that what he described as his casual flights was just a hobby! Speaking to Netherlands newspaper De Telegraaf on being incognito he said: “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.”

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