Goodbye to the PH-KBX!

Very few countries in the world have their own government plane. These countries are France, Russia, Great Britain, the USA … and the Netherlands.

After 21 years of faithful service the Dutch royal family and government have said goodby to the government plane. The Fokker F70 Executive Jet, registered as the PH-KBX, was on display at the airbase Woensdrecht, The Netherlands, on Saturday 3 June 2017. About 4000 people came to see the airplane from nearby. Unfortunately you couldn’t have a look inside.

To be honest, I didn’t travel to Woensdrecht. I couldn’t get a ticket, it was quite far and I had already seen the outside once. However there was a special exhibition with photos of the interior and some souvenirs. The photo above was taken by me at Groningen Airport in April 2009 at the end of the state visit of the King and Queen of Sweden. Quite a special feeling to be standing at the airstrip while the Swedish royal couple and their entourage said goodbye to Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands and her entourage. Of course the press pack didn’t travel with them.

Does the royal family always use the government airplane? In 2014 it was decided that the King has the priority when using the plane, then the Dutch Prime Minister, the ministers, Princess Beatrix and eventually other members of the family, but only when they represent the royal house in name of the king. There are no limits in use for the royal couple. King Willem-Alexander as a pilot can even fly the plane himself. All their travels are important for the country. Princess Beatrix can only use the plane in case it is more convenient or safer.

Figures from 2015 show that 88 percent (86 percent in 2014) of the flying hours with the government plane were made by members of the cabinet and their delegations. The other 12 percent (14 percent in 2014) of the hours were used by King Willem-Alexander, Queen Máxima and Princess Beatrix. In 2015 the King and Queen used the PH-KBX for 35 percent of their flights (28 percent in 2014), for 14 percent (16 percent in 2014) they hired a plane or used one of the army. For 51 percent of their flights (56 percent in 2014) they used regular flights.

The first royal plane was bought in 1946 by Prince Bernhard from the Americans, a Douglas DC-3 Dakota, registered as PH-PBA (Prince Bernhard Alpha). It costed him 50.000 US Dollars. A very special plane, as it was used around D-Day and Operation Market Garden in World War II. You can still see it in the Aviodrome in Amsterdam. On request of Prince Bernhard himself it now has the name of his great-granddaughter Princess Amalia.

In 1961 it was replaced by a Fokker F-27 Friendship, registered as PH-PBF (Prince Bernhard Friendship). The costs this time were 2 million guilders. There was a cabin with space for six passengers, a lounge for eight passengers with a bar, and even a state room with four seats. At the time the wishes of Prince Bernhard, Queen Juliana and Princess Beatrix were fulfilled. The plane was sold to Indonesia and crashed in 1976 at Kalimantan. 29 of the 38 passengers died.

In 1972 a Fokker F-28 Fellowship was bought for 16,5 million guilders, registered as PH-PBX (Princess Beatrix). A renovation for 2,5 million guilders took place in 1985. In March 1996 the PH-KBX (Koningin Beatrix, Koningin=Queen) was bought for 75 million guilders. The plane has 24 seats and was modernised in 2010 for 4,3 million Euros. It also had a VIP-room, a room for staff and a service room. Since 2010 even using the internet on board became a possibility. The KLM, that maintains the present planes says goodbye to the Cityhoppers late 2017 and soon the expertise to maintain the planes, including the PH-KBX, will disappear. That was the main reason to buy a new one. Until a short while ago the plane had its home in Hangar 73 at Schiphol-Oost.

The Dutch government now has bought a Boeing 737 Business Jet, which won’t be in use until 2019. The costs were 89 million Euros. The new plane will be registered as PH-GOV (for government). An advantage is that this plane, unlike the old one, can fly all the way to for example Aruba without having to fill up. Again there are seats for 24 people.

The old airplane has been sold to the Alliance Airlines in Australia for 3,7 million Euros. For King Willem-Alexander it means that he has to take exams to be allowed to fly the new government plane also.

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