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The king of the Netherlands has been anonymously co-piloting KLM flights for past 21 years.
Axar.az reports citing Economist.
ONE of the more disquieting rumours of the year is that of the Iraqi transport minister who reportedly demanded a turn at the yoke of a plane carrying 200 passengers flying from Baghdad to Basra. According to a report in the New Arab last month, and a witness account on al-Sharqiya television news, the politician entered the cockpit and asked if he could land the plane. The captain told his co-pilot to give his seat to the minister so that he could land it under his supervision. New Arab quoted one official, speaking on the condition of anonymity: "The minister did not do a good job. He slammed the front of the plane into the ground, sending the passengers into a panic."
That all sounds a bit far-fetched to Gulliver. (The Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority did not reply to an e-mail requesting confirmation that the episode took place.) But then over the weekend came the equally bizarre news that the king of the Netherlands (pictured, right) has been anonymously co-piloting KLM flights for past 21 years. There is no suggestion that King Willem-Alexander is unqualified to fly the services, which use small Fokker planes, or that he ever put the wind up passengers in the way that the Iraqi minister supposedly did. Still, it makes one wonder how many hobbyists are flying our commercial jets.
In fact, that is not an entirely whimsical question. As we have noted before, there is a shortage of commercial pilots, most notably in America. There, the cost of pilot training is so high, and the wages so low—particularly on regional carriers, which are the usual stepping stones to flying for one of the big international airlines—that the pipeline is running dry. Commercial pilots in America must have completed 1,500 hours in the sky before being considered by an airline. That is a big expense. Once paying back training costs is taken into account, according to the Financial Times, some newly qualified pilots can earn below minimum wage. In the past many commercial pilots came from the air force. Now, airlines rely on civilians. Last year, Boeing said that the airline industry will probably need 617,000 new pilots between 2016 and 2035. No one seems optimistic that figure will be reached. So perhaps the answer is to hire more people with independent means—like kings.
There are more sensible suggestions. For a start, if the supply of pilots dries up then airlines will have to start paying them more, which should make it a more attractive career in the long run. And airlines may also have to be less picky about whom they trust to fly their jets. One answer will be to recruit more pilots from abroad, although they will not necessarily come cheap (captains qualified to fly A380 superjumbos are being offered a salary of more than $300,000 to move to China). Some countries do not demand previous flying experience. Instead, recruits join airlines’ training programmes, and are taught to fly a jetliner from scratch. Emirates’s training facility enrols up to 200 students every year on its three-year course. That might be another model for America.
King Willem-Alexander will not be among Emirates’s cadets. KLM is phasing the Fokker plane out, meaning that, according to De Telegraaf, the monarch will have to retrain as a Boeing 737 co-pilot. He will not, though, make the step up to flying long-haul. That would require a layover, he says, and he might not get back to the Netherlands in time if there were an emergency.
2017.05.24 / 20:59