Dutch King: So I've been piloting KLM for 21 years
Thursday, 18 May 2017


For two decades, the king of the Netherlands has been putting the royal in KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.

King Willem-Alexander said in an interview published Wednesday that for the last 21 years, he has flown twice a month as a commercial airline co-pilot for KLM’s Cityhopper subsidiary, a regional carrier that flies among European cities.

He was seldom recognized in uniform, particularly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, when safety protocols were introduced to limit access to cockpits, he said.

The king would often greet passengers over the intercom, but not readily identify himself. “The advantage is that I can always say that I wish everyone a heartfelt welcome in the name of the captain and the crew,” he told De Telegraaf newspaper. “So I don’t have to say my own name. But most of the people don’t listen anyway.”

Willem-Alexander, 50, became king in 2013 after his mother, Queen Beatrix, abdicated at age 75. He became the Netherlands’ first king in 123 years after three successive queens.

While Willem-Alexander’s love of flying was not secret, his interview revealed far more detail about the extent of his regular piloting for KLM. Kysia Hekster, a reporter who covers the Dutch royals for the broadcaster NOS, said the interview was intended to highlight the king’s role with the national carrier after he was criticized for taking Emirates Airlines last year to visit Australia and New Zealand.

 He is one of a handful of royals who are also known to be pilots.

Prince William of Britain was a search-and-rescue helicopter pilot for the British military and has flown for an air ambulance service. His younger brother, Prince Harry, flew Apache attack helicopters in Afghanistan with British Army Air Corps. Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei sometimes pilots his own flights on state visits.

Willem-Alexander said the intense focus needed for piloting took his mind away from other concerns.

“For me the most important thing is that I have a hobby for which I need to concentrate completely. You have an airplane, passengers and a crew. You carry responsibility for that. You cannot take your problems from the ground with you in the sky. You can for a brief moment disconnect and concentrate on something else. That is the biggest relaxation of flying to me.”

KLM Cityhopper plans to retire its fleet of Fokker 70s, the aircraft the king normally co-pilots. He said he planned to begin training on a Boeing 737 to continue flying with KLM.

 


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