Putting the "Royal" in KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
May 19, 2017 6:37 PM   Subscribe

The world was surprised and charmed this week to learn that King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands has been moonlighting as a pilot for KLM twice a month for the past 21 years, flying commercial passenger flights. He is rarely recognized. posted by Eyebrows McGee (36 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
(I couldn't find an ungated Dutch source but please add them!)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:38 PM on May 19


I read a headline for this on twitter at a glance and thought it said "The King of the Neanderthals led a double life as an airline pilot". It probably says something about my state of mind that I thought "Wow! They found out the Neanderthals had a king!"
posted by srboisvert at 6:41 PM on May 19 [26 favorites]


This is just hella charming.
posted by suelac at 6:50 PM on May 19 [4 favorites]


Royalty at the controls? What could possibly go wrong?
posted by Devonian at 6:55 PM on May 19


in Dutch
posted by one weird trick at 6:57 PM on May 19


I love this story!
posted by lalex at 7:03 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


srboisvert, that sounds like a very entertaining dream I would have and forget to write down
posted by Countess Elena at 7:20 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


"'Dubbelleven' vliegende koning is wereldnieuws"

I swear it's just English with extra letters.
posted by traveler_ at 7:20 PM on May 19 [24 favorites]


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.”
I really hope that at least a couple of times he has said "I'm your pilot, King Willem-Alexander" just to see if anyone was paying attention.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:25 PM on May 19 [20 favorites]


Huh. And here I thought that the ability of royals to travel incognito was a thirteenth-century thing. I guess the entourage still makes the king, huh?
posted by clawsoon at 7:29 PM on May 19


It's a heart warming story, but as a passenger I really want a pilot with a gazillion hours of flight time who flies every day, not a guy who flies once in a while.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:45 PM on May 19 [2 favorites]


Twice a month for twenty-one years is enough experience for me, Flash.
posted by rokusan at 7:58 PM on May 19 [26 favorites]


I'm sure he is a great pilot. If given the choice, I will still prefer the person who is doing it day in and day out. (We aren't given the choice, of course -- I flew today and for all I knew the pilot could have been a derelict rounded up from the nearest bar.)
posted by Dip Flash at 8:17 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


King Vajiralongkorn of Thailand is also licensed to fly passenger jets, and apparently would occasionally pilot commercial flights for Thai Airways when he was the Crown Prince.
posted by Guernsey Halleck at 8:19 PM on May 19 [3 favorites]


Good. Who needs those bloody royals swanning about? "Oh, aye, look at me! All rich and no real trade. Just because Daddy and Mum were special..."

(Seriously? Really rather neat.)
posted by Samizdata at 8:24 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


Do you think Greyhound would be willing to keep Trump occupied for a couple or so days/month?
posted by she's not there at 8:29 PM on May 19 [60 favorites]


Has he considered flying Iron Maiden around so Bruce can catch a nap?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:39 PM on May 19 [10 favorites]


He could pick a sweeter ride, considering he has his own air force. Just sayin'.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:44 PM on May 19


Do you think Greyhound would be willing to keep Trump occupied for a couple or so days/month?

The hat. Imagine the hat.
posted by rokusan at 8:59 PM on May 19 [2 favorites]


I read a headline for this on twitter at a glance and thought it said "The King of the Neanderthals led a double life as an airline pilot". It probably says something about my state of mind that I thought "Wow! They found out the Neanderthals had a king!"

We have a queen actually.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 12:04 AM on May 20 [45 favorites]


If given the choice, I will still prefer the person who is doing it day in and day out.

Per the first two articles, His Majesty actually serves as co-pilot. Presumably someone who does it "day in and day out" is captain. Although see Pilot and Co-Pilot: What's the Difference? (tl;dr: less than you might imagine)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 4:01 AM on May 20


The Netherlands' famous bicycle jumbo jet monarchy in action.
posted by acb at 4:18 AM on May 20


I'm flying to Amsterdam on Monday. I'll double-check and say hi from Metafilter if he's my pilot.
posted by mfu at 4:18 AM on May 20 [4 favorites]


the ability of royals to travel incognito

Still happens. Prince Philip has - probably had - a black London cab; he doffed a flat cap and drove himself around the city in it, and he could probably do a good imitation of a gabby cabbie if he ever bothered to pick up a fare. David Bowie (OK, he was only a duke) was another master of urban disguise, also using headgear and a Greek newspaper to pass the time on the streets unremarked.

And this week we learned that the Queen has an incognito Facebook account (caution, bad phooshop).
posted by Devonian at 4:33 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


According to this article, the Dutch have known for a while that he's been doing this, so the news seems to be more about their amusement that the rest of the world is just catching on, rather than any big reveal. Apparently, any time he had to get on the intercom to make the welcome-aboard speech, he would welcome people on behalf of the captain and the entire flight crew and thereby avoid giving himself away.

Also, I just have to say: if you speak English and German fluently but have never studied a word of Dutch, listening to people speak Dutch feels like listening to people who are talking in hushed voices in the next room--you get the sense that you should be able to make out what they're saying, but you can't quite do it. It's a very strange feeling.
posted by colfax at 5:07 AM on May 20 [16 favorites]


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,”...
.
.
.
the Dutch have known for a while that he's been doing this, so the news seems to be more about their amusement that the rest of the world is just catching on, rather than any big reveal. Apparently, any time he had to get on the intercom to make the welcome-aboard speech, he would welcome people on behalf of the captain and the entire flight crew and thereby avoid giving himself away.

...the thread has known for a while that he's been doing this, so the news seems to be more about their amusement that the rest of the world is just catching on, rather than any big reveal. ;)
posted by fairmettle at 5:26 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


This somehow reads like a mislaid episode of Cabin Pressure...
posted by Grangousier at 5:38 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


Guess I missed that bit. In the Guardian article, he's just quoted as saying that no one is really listening anyway, and then I went looking for Dutch sources on the matter. I thought it was cute that he seemed so proud of his little trick.
posted by colfax at 6:47 AM on May 20


He's only metal royalty, but Iron Maiden lead singer Bruce Dickinson is a licensed pilot, and he pilots the band's 747 when they are on tour.
posted by COD at 8:48 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


I guess this is the place to admit I've been moonlighting as King of the Netherlands twice a month. I too am rarely recognized.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:25 AM on May 20 [11 favorites]


Well, as I've said for a long time now, practice safe government, use a Kingdom...
posted by DreamerFi at 3:21 PM on May 20


That king and queen look like pretty cool people.
posted by BentFranklin at 6:14 PM on May 20


The Dutch royal family has been my favorite for years. This is a charming story.
posted by kimberussell at 7:17 PM on May 20


Air & Space Smithsonian, August 2009: From Pilot to President — Do aviators make better leaders? lists several US and international leaders with flight experience:
  • George H.W. Bush
  • George W. Bush
  • Sons of King George V (1910-1936): Albert, Edward, George
  • Prince Charles, son Prince William, brother Andrew
  • Ian Smith, PM of Rhodesia (Zimbabwe)
  • King Hussein bin Talal of Jordan
  • Hosni Mubarak, President of Egypt
  • Ezer Weizman, President of Israel
  • Nguyen Cao Ky, PM of South Vietnam
  • Jerry Rawlings, President of Ghana
  • René Barrientos Ortuño, President of Bolivia
  • Prince Felipe VI of Spain
Comments in the article mention WWII aviators George McGovern and John Grey Gorton, Prime Minister of Australia.

One can only imagine how different history might have been if USN aviator Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. (eldest brother of John, Ted, and Robert) had survived the war.
posted by cenoxo at 11:01 PM on May 20


Do aviators make better leaders?
  • George H.W. Bush
  • George W. Bush...
Apparently, not necessarily.
posted by she's not there at 11:24 AM on May 21 [3 favorites]


King Hussein bin Talal of Jordan

He's a particularly special badass of aviator, because not only is he fixed-wing qualified in a couple of airframes, both military and civilian, but he is also rated to fly attack helicopters.
posted by Thistledown at 6:04 AM on May 22


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