(GUA) Willem-Alexander co-piloted commercial KLM flights twice a month, saying it had been a ‘relaxing’ hobby.
The Dutch king has revealed that for more than two decades he has, alongside his royal duties, held down a part-time second job.
In a newspaper interview published on Wednesday, King Willem-Alexander said that he recently ended his role as a regular “guest pilot” after 21 years on KLM’s fleet of Fokker 70 planes and before that on Dutch carrier Martinair.
As a guest flier, the king worked about twice a month, always as co-pilot. He will now retrain to fly Boeing 737s as the Fokkers are being phased out of service. 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 have an aircraft, passengers and crew. You have responsibility for them,” the king told De Telegraaf. “You can’t take your problems from the ground into the skies. You can completely disengage and concentrate on something else. That, for me, is the most relaxing part of flying.”
While it is no secret that Willem-Alexander is a qualified pilot who sometimes flew KLM passenger flights, it was not previously clear how frequently it happened. Willem-Alexander said he is rarely recognised by passengers, especially since security was tightened on board planes in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
“Before September 11, the cockpit door was open. People regularly came to have a look and thought it was nice or surprising that I was sitting there,” he said, adding that very few people recognise him as he walks through Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport in KLM uniform and cap.
And even when he makes announcements to passengers, Willem-Alexander says that as a co-pilot he doesn’t have to give his name. So while some people recognise his voice, it does not happen often. “Most people don’t listen anyway,” he added.