king willem alexander arrives in india

King Willem-Alexander pilots own plane to India for state visit with wife Queen Maxima

The Dutch king has been flying KLM planes for decades

Ainhoa Barcelona

King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands surprised royal watchers and his hosts when he arrived in India for a state visit, co-piloting his own plane. The Dutch king, who has a part-time flying job, was spotted in the cockpit as he landed at Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi on Sunday. The father-of-three was accompanied by his wife Queen Maxima, who rocked a bold red power suit.

The royals were treated to a very colourful welcome at the airport, where a red carpet was rolled out and musicians and dancers put on a performance. The king and queen were also presented with large bouquets of flowers before being whisked away to their accommodation.

King Willem-Alexander co-piloted his plane

The following morning, Willem-Alexander and Maxima were greeted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a ceremonial reception at the Presidential Residence. The royals are on a five-day state visit to India to strengthen political and business ties between the two countries. On day one of their visit, the couple paid tribute at Mahatma Gandhi's memorial in Rajghat.

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In 2017, Willem-Alexander shocked fans when he revealed that he has been working as a co-pilot for Dutch national airline KLM for 21 years. The Dutch monarch holds down the part-time job alongside his royal duties and does short-haul flights for KLM Cityhopper, the airline's regional subsidiary. Prior to that he piloted planes for Dutch airline Martinair.

The Dutch royals were welcomed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Speaking to Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, he said: "For me, the most important thing is that I have a hobby for which I need to concentrate on completely. You have an aircraft, passengers and crew. You have responsibility for them. You can't take your problems from the ground into the skies. You can completely disengage and concentrate on something else. That, for me, is the most relaxing part of flying."

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He added that when he's in his pilot uniform and cap, walking through Amsterdam Schiphol airport, members of the public rarely recognise him. "Before September 11, the cockpit door was open. People regularly came to have a look and thought it was nice or surprising that I was sitting there," he said. As a co-pilot, he is also not required to give his name when speaking. "The advantage is that I can always say that I wish everyone a heartfelt welcome in the name of the captain and the crew. So I don't have to say my own name," said the royal. "But most of the (passengers) don't listen anyway."

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