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Passengers on KLM flight 613 got a royal surprise when they boarded their Boeing 737-800 to Istanbul this week.
King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands jumped in the cockpit and took the helm of the flight, a three-hour jaunt from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport (AMS) to Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport (IST) aboard a Boeing 737. The king recently got certified on the 737 after the Dutch government discontinued use of the Fokker 70. The Fokker 70 had been the Dutch monarch’s personal royal aircraft, which he normally flew himself.
Last year, King Willem-Alexander revealed he had been secretly flying for KLM for more than 20 years. He had made the arrangement with the national airline in order to log his flight hour requirements to keep his certification on his Fokker. The king —still wanting to go flying when he could— got checked out on the Boeing 737, and now it seems he will be taking to the flight deck of KLM 737s for the same reason. The Dutch government has since bought a 737 that will be converted into the official royal aircraft. But the monarch has adamantly stated his certification to fly a 737 had nothing to do with the government’s decision to purchase the 737 instead of a less expensive Airbus option for the new royal aircraft.
According to the king, he is rarely recognized when he is in his KLM uniform in the airport, and he never uses his name when making announcements to the passengers, preferring to say “On behalf of the captain and crew” —though he jokes that most people aren’t listening anyway. The flight crew was only notified about 90 minutes in advance that the king would be one of the pilots on board.
It’s clear the dutch monarch loves to be in the air and has said before that had he not been born in a palace, his dream would have been to fly large commercial aircraft like the Boeing 747.
Next time you board a KLM 737, you just might get a royal treatment as well. The king averages a couple flights a month to meet his 150 hours per year requirement, and with his love of flying, it doesn’t look likely that he will stop flying with KLM anytime soon.
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