Dutch king reveals he’s been leading secret double life as a pilot
The King of the Netherlands has a secret identity: For the past 21 years, King Willem-Alexander has secretly been a commercial airline pilot.
King Willem-Alexander has spent 21 years as a co-pilot for KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, working in the cockpit twice a month — even after he acceded to the throne in 2013, he told the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf.
It wasn’t a secret that Willem-Alexander, who served in the Royal Netherlands Air Force, had a pilot’s license. But no one knew how frequently he went incognito in the cockpit of regular commercial flights.
He welcomes customers on board “on behalf of the captain and crew” – rather than revealing his true identity – and said he is rarely recognised in pilot’s uniform anyway.
“I find flying simply fantastic,” he told the newspaper, according to a BBC translation. “You can’t take your problems with you off the ground. You can completely switch off for a while and focus on something else.”
'This is your Royal Highness speaking' pic.twitter.com/koDBlHWqa8
— Royal Dutch Airlines (@KLM) May 17, 2017
The 50-year-old father of three and monarch to 17 million Dutch citizens calls flying a ‘hobby’ that lets him leave his royal duties on the ground and fully focus on something else.
“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 King will take a break from his pilot duties in order to learn to fly Boeing 737s, KLM’s upgrade of choice for its short haul fleet.
The king used to fly the Fokker 70, a narrow-body regional airliner. Now he’s being retrained, so he can fly a Boeing 737. He said it “seemed nice to fly to other destinations one day, with more passengers and bigger distances,” according to the BBC.