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King Willem-Alexander reveals his secret double life as a KLM pilot for 20 years

The Dutch king has been co-piloting KLM flights twice a month

by Ainhoa Barcelona

So that's why it's called Royal Dutch Airlines! King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands has revealed that he works as a co-pilot for national airline KLM. The monarch has held down the part-time job for 21 years, alongside his royal duties. He does short-haul flights for KLM Cityhopper, the airline's regional subsidiary. Prior to that he piloted planes for Dutch airline Martinair. The 50-year-old king explained that he flies about twice a month and finds it "relaxing".

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"For me the most important thing is that I have a hobby for which I need to concentrate on completely," the royal told Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf. "You have an aircraft, passengers and crew. You have responsibility for them. 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."

King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands was a co-pilot for KLM

He added that when he's in pilot uniform and cap, walking through Amsterdam Schiphol airport, members of the public rarely recognise him. "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. As a co-pilot, he is also not required to give his name when speaking. "The advantage is that I can always say that I wish everyone a heartfelt welcome in the name of the captain and the crew. So I don't have to say my own name," said the royal. "But most of the (passengers) don't listen anyway."

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Willem-Alexander is now retraining to fly Boeing 737s, which will soon replace the airline's fleet of Fokker 70 planes that are being phased out of service. He first started flying as a student more than 30 years ago, even venturing to Kenya to work as a volunteer pilot for both African Medical Research & Education Foundation and Kenya Wildlife Service.

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