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KLM's first flight, operated on May 17, 1920, was with a leased De Havilland DH-16, from London, United Kingdom to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, Netherlands (AMS). Together with the pilot, two journalists were present on board, carrying a personally written letter from London’s mayor, William Hayes Fisher, 1st Baron Downham addressed to the Mayor of Amsterdam. A stack of newspapers was also present on board the DH-16.

Pictured: A KLM De Havilland DH-16 at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS).

[ Stadsarchief Amsterdam]

In 1921, KLM purchased the airline’s first owned aircraft – a Fokker F-II and a Fokker-III. The year marked a 98-year-old relationship between KLM and Fokker, as the Dutch airline used the Dutch-built aircraft, with some gaps, throughout those 98 years.

Pictured: A Fokker F-II used by KLM, H-NABC.

[ Stadsarchief Amsterdam]

On October 20, 1934, a Douglas DC-2 belonging to KLM, nicknamed Uiver, wins the London – Melbourne race. Carrying three passengers and 421 lb. (191 kg) of cargo, the DC-2 arrived in Melbourne on October 24, 1934. The total time of the journey is recorded as 3 days, 18 hours and 17 minutes.

Together with the win, the DC-2 carried the name Royal Dutch Air Lines on its fuselage, including the three big KLM letters on the nose of the aircraft.

Pictured: KLM Douglas DC-2 Uiver

[ Stahlkocher [CC BY-SA 3.0]]

A Douglas DC-4, nicknamed Rotterdam, started serving KLM’s Amsterdam – New York route on May 21, 1946. KLM was the first European airline to offer scheduled services between Europe and North America at the time.

The Dutch airline also starts painting the tails of the aircraft with the three colors of the Dutch flag – red, white and blue. The slogan "The Flying Dutchman" also appears on the fuselage.

Pictured: KLM Douglas DC-4 at Aviodrome Airplane museum

[ Ivo Antonie de Rooij]

Pictured: KLM DC-4 Skymaster Rotterdam

[ Nationaal Archief, CC0; Photographer: Poll, Willem van de]

Together with the introduction of its first polar route from Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS) to Tokyo via Anchorage, Alaska, United States, KLM introduces a new livery once more – moving and scaling down The Flying Dutchman slogan. KLM – Royal Dutch Airlines now were at the forefront of the fuselage. Diagonal lines, coupled with a new KLM logo that included a crown appear on the tail of the aircraft. First hints of the bright blue fuselage that we currently see flying today make their first appearance.

Pictured: KLM Lockheed Electra

[ Stadsarchief Amsterdam]

However, the funky lines did not last. In 1961, as the logo of KLM changed, striped lines were drawn on the tail. In addition, the KLM letters and the crown were recolored to blue.

Pictured: Lockheed Electra, registered PH-LLD.

[ RuthAS [CC BY 3.0]]

With the Douglas DC-8, KLM entered the Jet Age on March 25, 1960. The DC-8 is deployed on trans-Atlantic routes, connecting The Netherlands with New York.

The DC-8 introduced the final version of white fuselage liveries. The tail was now all-white, with a KLM logo in the middle of it.

Pictured: KLM DC-8 and a Boeing 747 at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport with white fuselages

[ Stadsarchief Amsterdam]

On January 31, 1971, a Boeing 737-200 flies into Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. This is KLM’s first 747, which is also the first aircraft with a bright blue fuselage. But on January 31, the Queen arrived with a white fuselage – it was repainted blue later on in its history.

Pictured: PH-BUA, KLM’s first Boeing 747-200 with a bright blue fuselage in 1988.

[ Pedro Aragão [CC BY-SA 3.0 GFDL]]

The livery was then updated in 2002, when the dark blue stripe was significantly narrowed. The bright blue took up more of the fuselage, familiarizing itself with the identity of KLM.

Pictured: KLM Boeing 737-300, PH-BDN.

[ Aero Icarus from Zürich, Switzerland [CC BY-SA 2.0]]

The newest iteration of KLM's livery was introduced together with the Embraer E190. The bright blue color extended further on the nose of the aircraft.

Obviously, throughout the years, the Dutch carrier sported several special liveries...

Pictured: KLM CityHopper Embraer E190 PH-EXD

 

[ Bjoern Wylezich]

Including a different livery on its subsidiary, KLM CityHopper. The regional carrier had a distinct gray stripe, replacing the main airline's blue stripe. 

Pictured: KLM CityHopper Fokker F70 in 2004

[ Arpingstone [Public domain]]

As contractually obliged, the airline had to paint some of its aircraft in SkyTeam colors.

Pictured: KLM Boeing 777-300ER PH-BVD

[ Soos Jozsef]

To celebrate its partnership with the Dutch planemaker Fokker, the airline operated a special livery on its Fokker aircraft just before retiring their last F70.

Pictured: KLM Fokker F70 with special livery dedicated to Anthony Fokker, the founder of Fokker.

[ Soos Jozsef]

KLM's Boeing 777-300ER Orange Pride carried Dutch Olympians to Rio de Janeiro in 2016 for the Olympic games in the Brazilian city. The aircraft's front and back were fused with orange and blue, respectively.

Pictured: KLM Boeing 777-300, nicknamed Orange Pride.

[ Suparat_C]