While some Dutch passengers might have recognized his voice while flying on Klm’s Cityhopper services, American passengers would have had no idea that their co-pilot was none other than King Willem-Alexander. It’s hard to imagine, but a member of royalty was the one telling passengers the estimated time of arrival and the weather conditions on landing.

King Willem-Alexander is a qualified pilot

While one can’t imagine the likes of Queen Elizabeth II or Prince Philip performing such a menial task, it seems King Willem-Alexander is a qualified pilot.

According to an interview with the Dutch newspaper, De Telegraaf, he "guest-piloted" KLM’s Fokker 70 planes and also used to co-pilot flights for the Dutch carrier Martinair. However, the monarch's time of guest-piloting is over for now, as the Fokkers are being taken out of service. The royal will now be retrained to fly the airline’s Boeing 737s.

An enjoyable hobby for the Dutch King

As reported by the New York Post, the 50-year-old Dutch monarch and father of three told the Dutch newspaper that considers flying to be an enjoyable “hobby,” giving him a break from his rather more somber royal duties and allowing him to focus on something different. He reportedly thoroughly enjoys the responsibility and concentration involved in flying a plane.

As noted by the Washington Post, the Dutch King got his military pilot’s license when he was a member of the Royal Netherlands Air Force. However, according to Willem-Alexander, passengers rarely recognize him. Before the 9/11 attacks, the cockpit was always open during flights and people would regularly pop in to have a look.

When they spotted the King sitting there, they always got a pleasant surprise.

A 'heartfelt' welcome from a King

The one thing that is handy about being a co-pilot is that the King doesn’t have to identify himself.

According to Willem-Alexander, all he does is address passengers on behalf of the captain and crew and wish them a “heartfelt” welcome. He said while he doesn’t have to give his own name, most people probably don’t listen to the announcements anyway.

His mother, Queen Beatrix abdicated the throne to Willem-Alexander four years ago, after ruling for 33 years. Before that, he was actually flying as the Prince of Orange. According to the Washington Post, Reuters said at the time that the Dutch royal was the first to not have a formal political role.

Reportedly Dutch royals have wealth and political power, but appear to lead what is almost a middle-class lifestyle. This is probably what gives the Dutch King the opportunity to perform a part-time job that he thoroughly enjoys.

Listen out for your co-pilot when flying KLM in the future

The Dutch airline flies various U.S. routes and, while it is not clear how long retraining for the Boeing 737s will take, U.S. passengers could get lucky some day by being piloted by a real live Royal while flying KLM.