King Willem-Alexander And Queen Maxima Of The Netherlands Visit New Zealand
King Willem-Alexander in Christchurch, New Zealand, Nov. 8, 2016. Kai Schwoerer—Getty Images

Dutch King Says He's Been Secretly Flying Commercial Planes for the Past 21 Years

May 18, 2017

The King of the Netherlands said he has been leading a double life as a co-pilot and has been taking the controls of commercial flights twice a month for the past 21 years.

King Willem-Alexander, an avid aviator, told Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf that he finds flying "simply fantastic," the BBC reports.

While it was known that he was a "guest pilot" on passenger flights before his 2013 coronation in order to maintain his pilot license, it wasn't publicly known that he was flying incognito while monarch.

Willem-Alexander would ferry passengers on short-haul flights for KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, according to the Dutch government. But the carrier's fleet of Fokker 70 planes, which were flown by the king, is being replaced by Boeing 737s, and Willem-Alexander said he would retrain to co-pilot the new aircraft.

In the interview, the Dutch king said he never revealed who he was to passengers when flying, although some recognized his voice when he gave announcements from the cockpit.

He called flying a hobby in which he could "switch off for a while and focus on something else."

[BBC/De Telegraaf]

All products and services featured are based solely on editorial selection. TIME may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website.