KLM Boeing 747-406M City Of Seoul PH-BFS at Los Angeles Tom Bradley Intl' Airport (LAX). Photo: Andrea Ongaro @alphaoscaraviation

Today in Aviation, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands give the yet-to-fly Dutch flag-carrier KLM its ‘Royal’ designation in 1919.

Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij NV or KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, was the brainchild of aviator Albert Plesman. Plesman had attended an aviation exhibition in Amsterdam in 1918 and started to look at ways to establish a national airline. Together with eight other businessmen, the group approached the newly formed Royal Dutch Aviation Commission with their business plan.

Albert Plesman (far left) greets passengers off the first KLM flight from London on May 17, 1920. (Photo: Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Royal Blessing

Permission was granted and giving her official blessing, Queen Wilhelmina entrusted the Koninklijke or ‘Royal’ title to KLM in September 1919. This was a significant step and the carrier was formally established on October 7, 1919.

The airline then made its first flight between London and Amsterdam on May 17, 1920. Operated by a de Havilland DH-16 (G-EALU), the aircraft had been leased from a British company Aircraft Transport and Travel Limited. Piloted by Jerry Shaw, the flight carried two journalists, newspapers and a letter from the Mayor of London.

Industry Firsts

Over the years, KLM has made a number of firsts in the aviation industry. On May 21, 1946 they became the first airline to fly from Europe to New York. The carrier has also had a long and proud association with the Dutch aircraft manufacturer Fokker. In 1920 they became the first airline in the world to operate the F.II and many of the first Fokker models from then on.

KLM retired its last Fokker aircraft on October 28, 2017 after a 97 year partnership. (Photo: Arnoud Raeven)

In September 2004 KLM was formally merged with Air France (AF), creating the world’s largest airline group. KLM is also the oldest carrier in the world still operating under its own name.