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This is your King, er, Captain speaking!
King Willem-Alexander has revealed he is still working as an airline pilot for KLM Royal Dutch Airlines since his accession in 2013, when his mother Queen Beatrix abdicated.
He flies twice per month, often as a co-pilot with Captain Maarten Putman (pictured below, left), to keep his hours up.
‘This is your Royal Highness speaking’ pic.twitter.com/koDBlHWqa8
— Royal Dutch Airlines (@KLM) May 17, 2017
Captain Putman told De Telegraaf, “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 said he loves flying, an interest which was said to be encouraged by his mother, Queen Beatrix.
“I find flying just fantastic, “said King Willem-Alexander. “You can’t take your day-to-day problems with you in the air. You can completely switch off and focus on something else. That, for me, is the most relaxing thing about flying.”
King Willem-Alexander began his career 21 years ago, after obtaining his private and commercial pilot’s licences, followed by a supplementary licence to fly multi-engine aircraft during the 1980s.
His grandfather Prince Bernhard presented Willem-Alexander with his Military Pilot’s Licence in 1994.
Prince Bernhard was a combat pilot who saw active service as a Wing Commander (Royal Air Force) during World War II, flying both fighter and bomber planes.
King Willem-Alexander earned his Airline Transport Pilot Licence in 2001 and flew for Martinair, then KLM Cityhopper flights as a “guest pilot” especially on flights to Britain, Germany and Norway.
Cityhopper services are short-haul flights mostly used by business travellers in many European cities.
Thousands of KLM Cityhopper passengers have had no idea that a reigning monarch had been flying their planes during the past four years.
King Willem-Alexander was rarely recognised in uniform when welcoming passengers aboard flights and his name was never mentioned during the in-flight announcements, including updates on weather conditions and their estimated time of arrival.
“The advantage is that I warmly welcome passengers on behalf of the captain and crew,” King Willem-Alexander said. “Then I don’t have to give my name. But then, most people don’t listen anyway.”
He also flew the government aeroplane or a Fokker 70 from the regular fleet.
However, the Fokker 70 is being phased out and will be replaced with the Boeing 737.
King Willem-Alexander will be updating his skills learning to fly Boeing 737 aircraft later this year.
He said he has no plans to fly bigger aircraft on long-haul flights involving overnight stops, which means he could not return in time to the Netherlands in the case of an emergency.
He once said if he had not been born in a palace his dream would have been to fly large passenger planes such as Boeing 747s.
Some news outlets have said it certainly put the royal into KLM Royal Dutch Airlines!