Even by the dismal standards of 1950’s TV, Sky King was pretty lame. For those unfamiliar with this show of shows, Schuyler “Sky” King was a rancher (his ranch: The Flying Crown). But he was no ordinary rancher. He flew around in is plane – The Songbird – and solved crimes. Sometimes he was assisted by his niece Penny and nephew Clipper. That’s Clipper to the right, with Sky and Penny. I’m sure you can immediately grasp just why I had a major crush on Clipper. Unfortunately, Clipper wasn’t on as many episodes as Penny, and I was always disappointed when it was just Penny, who while always getting into fake girly trouble, was pretty boring. I recall that she once pissed off Uncle Sky by attempting to dry her hair with the whirling propellers of The Songbird. (Kids, don’t try this at home.)
The very thought of the hours I spent watching Sky King embarrasses me. (In my defense, when I was watching this and other wretched shows, I was generally reading a book at the same time.) Anyway, Sky King made other lame-o shows like Fury and My Friend Flicka look like high art.
Anyway, I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about Sky King, or pining for Clipper. But the show came to mind when I read the other day that the Dutch King, Willem-Alexander, is actually a sky king. He’s at least temporarily giving his wings a rest, but for a good long while there, a couple of times a month, he had been a fly boy:
King Willem-Alexander told national newspaper De Telegraaf in an interview published Wednesday that he has ended his role as a regular "guest pilot" after 21 years on KLM's fleet of Fokker 70 planes and before that on Dutch carrier Martinair. He will now retrain to fly Boeing 737s as the Fokkers are being phased out of service. (Source: AP via Bloomberg)
Given the low-key monarchy in the Netherlands, Willem-Alexander generally went unrecognized, but there he had been all those years, making announcements and sitting there as the co-pilot, ready to take over if something happened to the pilot-pilot.
There’s something quite appealing about “royalty” in countries like Holland and Denmark. Compared to the Brits, they seem low on pomp and circumstances, low on bowing and scraping, and I think you mostly get to see them as royals when they show up in their cutaways (kings) and fascinators (queens) at the wedding of some distant cousin in the British Royal family. Mostly, they’re quasi-normal folks, who do quasi-normal things like flying planes. Which is more normal than someone flying around as a civilian crime-stopper, which was Sky King’s preposterous role. (I was going to write that these types of royals are quasi-normal, except when they get to be moral exemplars, like Denmark’s King Christian’s wearing a yellow star in sympathy with his nation’s Jews during WWII. Alas, although Denmark had a pretty exemplary record during the Holocaust, according to Snopes, the yellow star thing never happened.)
Anyway, I did get a kick out of reading about Willem-Alexander’s gig as a commercial co-pilot. A lot more calming than reading about what our head-guy’s up to…