If you’ve ever taken a KLM plane you might well have noticed that they have names of planes on the nose of the aircraft. Typically the name is written in Dutch on the starboard side and in English on the port side. Yet why do KLM plane names exist and how are they decided?
The history of KLM plane names
Founded in 1919 KLM is one of the oldest airlines in Europe so has a rich history of tradition. This tradition also includes the idea of giving unique aircraft identity through the names of planes.
Whilst the exact reason for all this to start is not quite clear, the first known naming of a KLM aircraft dates back to 1925. The plane in question was the Koolhoven FK-33 Dikke Dirk (also known as Fat Dirk). It is believed that whilst this was a wide aircraft the name was inspired by the aircraft registration number which included “DD”. The idea stuck and aircraft have been named by KLM ever since.
The KLM naming of planes tradition has really developed from then into quite an art. Should you see any large, long haul KLM logo covered aircraft be sure to look at the nose of the aircraft for the name.
From time to time I see familiar names whilst I sit in Schiphol airport. Well let’s face it, if like me you are not a plane spotter then names are much easier to remember than numbers.
The plane names are decided by a KLM board and have to be agreed upon many months in advance. Due to the manufacturing process the aircraft name has to be given to the plane builder roughly 8-12 months prior to delivery of the aircraft.
The names also have themes running through them such as:
Airbus A330s – names of famous city squares
Boeing 737s – names of species of birds
Boeing 747s – names of cities (typically cities which KLM fly to)
Boeing 747 freight liners – names of ships of the Dutch East India Company
Boeing 777s – names of UNESCO World Heritage sites
Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners – flowers
Some of the older aircraft have been named after rivers and famous aviators too as well as celebrities.
Of course the name has to be readable from a reasonable distance so the Board choosing the name need to be careful on their selection. So much so that the longest plane name in the KLM fleet is “De Hoge Veluwe National Park”
KLM Names of Planes
Here are some of aircraft and names that have been used or you might still stumble upon (the first 3 letters are the plane registration details):
BUE Rio De La Plata
BUH Dr. Albert Plesman
BUI Wilbur Wright
BUK Louis Bleriot
BUL Charles Lindbergh
BUM Charles Kingsford Smith
BUN Anthony H G Fokker
BUT Adm. Richard E Byrd
DC10s are named after famous musicians:
DTA Johann Sebastian Bach
DTB Ludwig von Beethoven
DTC Frederik Chopin
DTD Maurice Ravel
DTE Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
KCA Amy Johnson
KCB Maria Montessori
KCC Marie Curie
KCD Florence Nightingale
KCE Audrey Hepburn
KCF Annie Romein
KCG Maria Callas
KCH Anna Pavlova
KCI Mother Theresa
KCK Ingrid Bergman
So next time you are taking any flights with KLM or just passing through an international airport, keep your eyes peeled for you never know which plane name you might see.