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Turns Out the Dutch King Is a Secret Airline Pilot

Willem-Alexander has been flying people across Europe for the past 21 years.

The Dutch government has revealed that King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands has been secretly co-piloting commercial air flights for the past 21 years—while being the country's monarch for the past four.

Willem-Alexander told Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf that he typically gets behind the joystick twice a month, co-piloting small Fokker 70 aircraft and flying to dozens of destinations throughout Europe for Dutch airline KLM. He's often accompanied by the airline's captain, Maarten Putman. While his royal duties prohibit him from co-piloting long overnight flights, he's flown thousands of people between the Netherlands and cities like London and Berlin completely incognito.

The King told the paper that if he hadn't been born into royalty, being a commercial airline pilot would be his first choice of work. He also said that despite his status, passengers very rarely recognised him on board by appearance, although some occasionally recognised his voice. He never introduces himself formally, and notes that stricter in-flight security measures since September 11 mean he rarely has visitors in the cockpit who will uncover his identity and alert their fellow passengers.

"The advantage is that I can always say I am speaking on behalf of the captain and crew to welcome them on board, so I don't have to say my name… but then, most people don't listen anyway," he explained. Unfortunately, the Fokker 70 aircrafts that Willem-Alexander flies are being phased out by KLM. In the interview, he said he was learning how to fly Boeing 737s in order to continue his commercial flying career. "It also seemed nice to fly to other destinations one day, with more passengers and bigger distances. That was the real motive for training on the 737," he said. Pursuing a secret side hustle as a commercial airline pilot might sound kind of stressful, but apparently Willem-Alexander finds the whole thing relaxing in comparison to ruling a nation. "I find flying simply fantastic," he said. "You have a plane, passengers, and crew and you are responsible for them. You can't take your problems with you off the ground. You can completely switch off for a while and focus on something else."

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