With a shiny and exclusive invitation to hand, I walked up to my local Humberside Airport ready to fly a class that few people had flown before. Royal Class. It was two words I thought I wouldn’t utter to myself. Heck, I haven’t even gone on Business or First Class let alone the slightly ambiguous Economy Plus. For this Budget Traveller, I would be propelled to the most exclusive class on Earth thanks to KLM Royal Dutch Airlines for their 90th Birthday.
Decked out in my suit and a snazzy retro jacket even to make the girls swoon with love, I was greeted by rather attractive (okay, extremely beautiful) representatives of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines in their stewardess outfits at the entrance and swiftly escorted into the Humberside Airport lounge to be served delicious canapes and fizzy champagne.
So what exactly am I doing here for KLM’s birthday? Well, it’s time to go retro style and take a flight over the East Yorkshire region in their very own special Dakota DC3 plane that’s 70 years old and was the flagship plane for the Dutch Royal Family.
‘Princess Amalia’, as the plane is called, waited for us on the tarmac runway as we came to admire me near. It was small, twin propellered and actually rather endearing. I confess I was ready to jump in the cockpit and fly the plane myself. Unfortunately, I have no idea how to get it into the air.
As we met the cowboy looking pilot and the extremely glamorous air stewardess, both who have voluntarily used their spare time to fly this around Britain, got us, an eleven strong crowd full of competition winners and press, seated, we were in for a treat. It was time for a history lesson of the royal plane.
The Royal KLM Dakota DC-3 plane was built in 1944 by the Americans in the throes of the Second World War. She saw action in Operation Market Garden where she suffered bullet holes in the carriage that still can be seen underneath today. After the war, she was acquired by His Royal Highness Prince Bernhard, Prince of the Netherlands and became the first official aircraft for the Dutch Government and the Dutch Royal Family. She retired in 1975 and became part of the Aviodrome museum but in 1998, it was put back in service in the skies to commemorate its history. In 2010, KLM painted her in its official colours as yopu see today and christened ‘Princes Amalia,’ after Prince Berhard’s great grandchild who is second in the line of succession to the Dutch throne. Therein tells you why we would be flying Royal Class today.
As the propellers started up, I took stock of my surroundings. I had a single wide seat to myself. The other 17 seats were filled with excited passengers who looked thrilled to undertake such an epic journey. The ceiling was low and the windows small. But my eyes were riveted at the cockpit in front of me. The pilots were doing their intricate checks and off we went bouncing along the runaway to get up into the air. My seatbelt was fastened and I looked forward to be cruising at an altitude between 1500 – 10,000ft, far lower than the skydives I did in New Zealand. We would be under the clouds therefore we would see a clear view of Humberside and the River Humber below.
Once we were level in the air, we were invited to check out the cockpit and the views below. It was a very strange sensation for me compared with the commercial high powered jets of today. The plane continued bouncing and my feet felt welded to the floor thanks to the pressure. I absolutely loved it. This is what air travel is really about. I could now imagine the thrilling sensation of those who boarded the aircraft for the first time in their lives 70 years ago. The sensation was new, unique and truly a wonder.
I couldn’t stop my bubbling enthusiasm being in check and I could be found exclaiming with joy at the views I could see out of the windows.
Even the cockpit was brilliant! Sticking my head in the very tight compartment, I watched the pilots effortlessly fly the plane at this altitude, pointing the plane in the direction of the Humber Bridge which grew larger in our view.
Flying by my home town of Kingston Upon Hull at this altitude was truly a special experience for me as I began to identify the city’s landmarks from another perspective. However, I couldn’t stop my house from the River Humber, where we flew above. Soon, the docks came into view and we made an attempt to reach Spurn Head. However, a blanket of thick fog rolled towards us like a huge dust storm so in the end we had to turn back into the direction of Lincolnshire.
The plane journey took overall 45 mins but it felt so much longer as I appreciated each individual aspect of the plane and of its views. As the plane landed, I tried to get myself on another flight trip but the stewardess was having none of it. Perhaps if I stayed, the other 17 overawed passengers might have done the same. We couldn’t help but grin at each other with infectious smiles, knowing for the fact that our tushies may have sat at the same seats as the Dutch Royal Family.
I left Humberside Airport gripping my goodie bag of waffles, chocolates and certificates, not quite believing that I had just done a tour of Humberside from the air.
I actually flew Royal Class. Now that’s something you wouldn’t hear every day…
If you’re thinking of flying from Humberside Airport with KLM, how about checking out their flights to Amsterdam? From Amsterdam, you can go anywhere you want in the world. I know, I’ve went to Buenos Aires with them!