On the occasion of the centenary celebrations of Dutch aviation, KLM – National airline of the Netherlands, NLR – Dutch Aerospace Center – and GKN Fokker Technologies, the successors of the civil aviation manufacturers founded originally in 1919 hosted an event on Thursday, 14th March to mark this important anniversary. The event was hosted at the EYE Museum in Amsterdam and as a special guest of honour, HM King Willem Alexander of the Netherlands – a keen aviation aficionado and a licensed commercial pilot himself was in attendance to celebrate the day.
After a tour of the displays by various Dutch companies who are prominent in both civil and military aerospace technology, the King briefly took part in a virtual-reality flight presentation. With the presentation concluded, Willem Alexander was invited by the Royal Dutch Mint to strike the gold coin which would be produced on a vintage minting press which is part of the Mint’s own collection and was brought to the EYE Museum the night before for this special event. The coin designs are the work of artist Marijke van Warmerdam and according to her and the clever design she submitted, the reverse designs are slightly different. The diameters of the coins vary according to their denomination and specifications. As such, the positions of the new model aeroplane depicted flying overhead as well as the shadow the historic model aeroplane cast on the ground change position slightly. The obverse side includes an abstract-designed front-facing portrait of the King along with his name and title encircling the effigy.
The King was accompanied by Mr Vincent Van Hecke, CEO of the Royal Dutch Mint, Mr Menno Snel, State Secretary of Finance and the Royal Dutch Mint’s Mintmaster Stephan Satijn. His Majesty was briefly instructed on how to swing the arm of the minting press which would result in the coin’s production. With a forceful push of the apparatus, the coin was struck and then handed to the King for his inspection. The King seemed quite satisfied with his efforts and held up the result of his minting efforts to the media in attendance.
Another treat for invited guests was a scheduled sensational and top-secret fly-past including historic Royal Dutch air force models, a KLM 777 passenger aeroplane and four F-16 escort Royal Air Force jet fighters flew past Central Station at just 1,500 feet (457 meters) overhead. Despite the very blustery weather on the day with heavy & strong wind gusts and rain, the King and guests braved the elements and viewed the fly-past on the balcony of the EYE Museum overlooking the waterway which separates the Museum and the Central Rail station in Amsterdam.
The King is well known to be especially interested in aviation. In 1985 at the age of 21 and as Prince of Orange, Willem Alexander studied for and obtained his Private Pilot’s license, Second Class. He further went on to obtain a Commercial Pilot’s license in 1987. Two years later, the Prince of Orange obtained a supplementary licence to fly multi-engine jet aircraft. Aside from these qualifications, he also has his Military Pilot’s Licence, which was presented to him by his grandfather Prince Bernhard in 1994.
Along with his duties in support to his mother, former Queen – now Princess Beatrix, he earned his Airline Transport Pilot Licence in 2001. What is not readily known by the flying public in the Netherlands is that if you’re a passenger of one of KLM’s flights, your aeroplane might, in fact, be piloted by the King. He revealed in 2017 his “double-life” as a commercial pilot since he occasionally flies as a guest pilot for KLM Cityhopper in order to keep in practice. Willem-Alexander once commented in an interview that had he not been born a Prince of the Netherlands, his dream would have been to fly big passenger planes such as a Boeing 747.
On the 30th April 2013, the Prince of Orange succeeded his Mother as the country’s King after her abdication, becoming the country’s seventh monarch of the modern Kingdom of the Netherlands. He is the country’s first King in 123 years, The Netherlands is the only country in the world to have had three successive Queens Regnant since 1890.
The commemorative coins are available directly from the Royal Dutch Mint by visiting their website at https://www.knm.nl/luchtvaart-vijfje/nl/page/2872/