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The Dutch King Has Been Masquerading as a Secret Commercial Airline Pilot for 21 Years

It's tough to imagine a cushier gig than being king of a chill European country like The Netherlands. You're essentially a figurehead, occasionally called upon to employ official duties of plaque-unveiling and ribbon-cutting, with plenty of time day-to-day to invest in hobbies or other work. Just ask the Dutch King Willem-Alexander, who's been running a secret side hustle as a commercial airline pilot for the past 21 years. 

As revealed by the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, the 50-year-old King has been schlepping passengers for the airline KLM twice a month for the last two decades, and is rarely -- if ever -- noticed. He says that before 9/11, when the cockpit doors were occasionally open, passengers would occasionally spot him as they boarded or deplaned, but that he is never officially acknowledged as a co-pilot. Even when he's walking through the airport or making in-flight announcements, people rarely notice him as the King, a title he's officially held since 2013. 

The part-time gig involves him piloting short-haul flights around Europe (mostly the UK, Germany, and Norway), and he's avoided doing any longer overnight stints, so as not to stray too far from The Netherlands in case he must return immediately to the country he reigns over on short notice. As the article describes, the King has long considered flying a hobby and a "relaxing" distraction from his royal duties, but few knew how frequently -- and publicly -- he was doing it. He plans to continue his gig with the airline, but as KLM begins to phase out the model of passenger plane he's been at the controls of for years -- the Fokker 70 -- he's going to need to retrain to fly the carrier's fleet of Boeing 737s. 

Who knows, next time you hitch a ride from Amsterdam to London, you may very well be entrusting your life to one of the world's last living (and youngest) monarchs. 

h/tSkyNews via De Telegraaf

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Joe McGauley is a senior writer for Thrillist. Follow him @jwmcgauley.