For decades, the stereotype has been that men fly the aircraft and women serve the beverages. Times and beliefs are steadily changing, but the gender gap between men and women in the cockpit is still very wide.
While it’s true that the female pilot is still much rarer than her male counterpart, the female aviators that make up 4-6% of the pilot population are an impressive group and they hope to see more women join them.
There’s good news: The Institute for Women of Aviation Worldwide says that recent female student pilot statistics are encouraging and that more women will soon be taking to the skies in the cockpit not the cabin.
If you are looking for some inspirational female pilot role models and mentors for yourself or a young aspiring female aviator, go follow the Instagram accounts of these fantastic women.
1. Maria Pettersson @pilotmaria
Maria Pettersson is a Swedish-born pilot who is currently based out of England. Her first commercial airline flight was a Boeing 737 in 2014.
When she was in her early-20s, Maria was fueling her love of travel by working long hours at a restaurant and saving up money to take vacations. She knew that something needed to change and, in that moment, she remembered how when she was 7 years old, she had gotten her first taste of flight during a free 15-minute flight from a local airport. The pilot happened to be a woman, and that was what Maria remembered years later when at age 24 she decided to embark on the journey of becoming a pilot herself.
Maria started sharing her experiences on Instagram in 2015 and has since expanded to her own personal website/blog and YouTube channel as well. She answers questions, shares experiences, and showcases what her adventure-filled life is like. With over 39K followers, it’s clear that she is inspiring women everywhere. In 2018, Maria even delivered a TEDx talk in Italy entitled My Point of View from 38,000 feet.
2. Tamina Moradi @pilotmoradi
Tamina Moradi flies CRJ900s mainly in Europe. Tamina uses her Instagram account to share the realities of the path to the cockpit with her 9,000+ followers. While her life now looks pretty amazing, Tamina tells her followers, “Nobody wants to show you the hours and hours of becoming. Everybody would rather show the highlight of what they have become.
One can’t imagine how many hours, weeks and years of hard work and practice it takes to achieve a lifetime goal. But to achieve a goal you have set for your self you need: - Clearly defined stretch goal - Full concentration and effort - Immediate and informative feedback - Repetition with reflection and refinement.”
She says that her favorite thing about being a pilot is, “Flying the machine. It is not the overlays, it is not the destination nor is it anything else that fascinates me as much as flying the plane.
Challenging? Yes, it is. It is not all just smooth air and kiss-landings. It is hard, weather challenges you most, aircraft weight changes your handling techniques, traffic flow etc etc
If you go into the industry- you can’t allow your self to be lazy. You have to put your heart in it.”
3. Christin Sanders @your_pilot_girl
Christin may have only been on Instagram for just over a year, but she’s already built up quite a following This Oregon-based adventure pilot decided to take up flying in October of 2018 saying, “I get asked all the time why I decided to get my pilot’s license. I’m just a regular person with a regular life. No one in my family has ever been a pilot. I’ve seriously been so blessed with an amazing, supportive husband of 15 years and our two beautiful daughters. I have all that I need.
I’ve always wanted to learn to fly. Not just any flying though! I wanted to fly to those beautiful, untouched places and explore the most spectacular areas and views accessible only by airplane. I wanted that back country flying life!!”
Now, a year later, Christin is living that life and she takes to Instagram and YouTube to document her adventures flying her new Carbon Cub EX-2. She shares what it looks like to go for your dreams and invest in yourself. Follow Christin to see how becoming a private pilot can be a rewarding hobby for you and your family.
4. Eva Claire Marseille @flywitheva
Eva Claire Marseille is a Dutch Boeing 747 cargo pilot currently based out of Hong Kong. She formerly flew passenger 737s before becoming a first officer with a cargo carrier. She is enjoying the new adventure although when asked about the differences compared to her previous job, she notes, “Most cargo flights are scheduled at night, the passenger flights take those sweet day slots! I would estimate about 20% of my flights are during the day. When we have a day flight we joke about how nice it is to be flying during the day.”
Eva’s digital focus, both on social media and her own website, is on sharing a realistic job preview of life as a pilot, sharing her stories and experiences, and adding to the visibility of female pilots.
She says, “We grow up in a society where we think of certain professions as ‘male’ or ‘female’. When young girls are never exposed to women in the flight deck, they pick different role models, in other professions. The idea to choose for a career as an airline pilot simply does not occur to a lot of girls. It is in our nature to be inspired by someone of our own gender. Female pilots of my generation are by no means pioneers in this profession, but because we are really out there as female pilots (on social medial and featured in articles), we become more visible to the new generation; I hope it leads to more girls choosing for this profession!”
Eva originally went to college for journalism and received a Bachelor of Arts degree before she realized that perhaps there was another way to attain her dreams of “living abroad, traveling, and a career that would always challenge” her. Her family reminded her that she had consistently expressed a fascination with the life of an airline pilot, and she realized that she had pushed that fantasy back because, “a voice inside my head told me this would be absolutely unattainable.” Eva challenged that voice and pushed through to become the pilot of her dreams. Now she doesn’t just write about someone else’s amazing life – she lives it too.
5. Marissa Guilford @barefoot_flying_mom
Have you ever wondered how you could possibly juggle being an airline pilot and a dedicated mother? Here is your own personal inspiration. Marissa Guilford is a single mother of 3. She is also a successful Envoy American Airlines Group pilot.
Marissa was inspired to fly by her flight instructor father who later died in a plane crash, and she grew up taking to the skies in many of the flight school’s aircraft. When she became a single mother, Marissa says she, “stopped flying for years and worked as an airline dispatcher, thinking it was the safe choice as a single parent.”
Marissa eventually made her way back into the cockpit and now when she is asked about work-life balance, she says, “I actually see my kids more than if I had a 9 to 5 job. I can volunteer at their schools or go on field trips, be there for all the sports and running around. I feel like flying gave them their mom back.”
Follow Marissa for a real-world example of how to successfully merge having an adventurous life with being a parent.
6. Jodi Rueger @quotafiller
Jodi Rueger, a Canadian pilot, says that she uses her “flying habit” to afford her flying habit. She may fly passenger jets for Swoop – a budget Canadian airline, but that is her day job. Her true passion is for aerobatic competitions. Jodi loves competing in International Council of Air Shows (ICAS) events and teaching aerobatic flying to other pilots.
Follow Jodi to see how her straight and level flights free her up to spend time perfecting complex aerial maneuvers for air shows. Jodi also maintains a YouTube channel where she shares more detail of the work that goes into preparing for a show. There she will talk you through some of the moves and give you a behind the scenes look at what it takes to become an aerobatic pilot.
7. Mindy Lindheim @schmiiindy
Mindy Lindheim is a private pilot and certified flight instructor with a Bachelor’s degree in Aeronautics from Embry-Riddle. She was originally studying pre-med, but is glad she changed her mind. Although she is a certified flight instructor, that is just part of her resumé.
Mindy is actually the regional sales director for Textron Aviation where her day job is selling new Beechcraft and Cessna Piston aircraft in Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. Having her pilot’s license allows Mindy to not only sell aircraft, but also to do demonstration flights and take the planes to air shows and expos.
When her followers ask her how she got such a cool job, her answer is simple, “Networking, networking, networking. Did I mention networking?” Speaking of questions, Mindy loves to answer questions including such specific things as what her favorite flying shoes are (Duchess boots by Thursday Boots, in case you were wondering.) She also shares great insights. For example, when asked about paying for tuition, Mindy says, “Not a lot of people put in the effort to apply for scholarships, so your chances are so good! My last bit of time at ERAU, I even got PAID to go to college! My scholarships outweighed my tuition.”
8. Helen van Dam @pilotvandam
Pilots often tend to be the adventurous types, and Helen van Dam is a prime example. This young pilot from the Netherlands may have just wrapped up a gig as first officer for Norwegian Airlines 737 flights, but that is just the beginning of her thirst for adventure. When Helen isn’t in the cockpit, she is out exploring the countries she flies to. Look for exotic destinations like Ibiza and Giza.
Besides flying, Helen also enjoys swimming, biking, hiking, dancing and snowboarding, so her Instagram feed is always filled with plenty of action and her 176k followers get a taste of all sorts of adventure. Follow Helen for a well-curated blend of aviation, foodie, travel, sports and lifestyle inspiration that will make you want to jump into the pilot life yourself.
9. Maria Fagerstrӧm @mariathepilot
Maria Fagerstrӧm is a very well-known female 737 pilot from Sweden who has racked up over 500k followers on Instagram. Of her reasons for being on Instagram, she says, “I’m here to give you a bit of insight into the aviation world with a purpose to inspire & empower others.”
To would-be pilots who are on the fence about whether they should make the jump into an aviation career, Maria says, “I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy. I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.
Here’s the truth. Flight training is REALLY intense. You will most probably have to say goodbye to your social life for a year or two, but I can assure you... it’s totally WORTH IT the day you get your wings 👊🏼 ⠀ ⠀
The thing is, you CAN become skilled at ANYTHING. As long as you’re willing to put your mind, time and effort into it, it’s that simple. If that is becoming a pilot, a teacher, starting your own business or any other goals of yours, you can. ⠀ ⠀
Research shows that the more people believe in their own capacity to achieve and improve, the more they will. A positive attitude WILL lead to positive outcomes 🙏🏼 ⠀
Now, read that last part again, and again. As many times as you need it.”
10. Malin Rydqvist @flymalin
If Instagram is any indication, Swedish women aren’t held back by the gender stereotypes. Malin Rydqvist is another Swedish female pilot and like Maria Fagerstrӧm, Malin is currently based out of Spain. Of herself and other female Swedish pilots, Malin says, “We are all very fortunate growing up in a country where you are never limited by gender and with a belief that whatever a man can do a woman can do.”
When Malin was growing up, her mother worked for Scandinavian Airlines, and she introduced Malin to the world of aviation. Malin took her first flight lesson in 2008 as a birthday gift and that solidified her dream to be a pilot.
Follow Malin as she documents her exotic life including on-duty and off-duty travels to all sorts of worldwide destinations.
Honorable Mention: Katie Higgins Cook @gearupflapsup
The content of her Instagram feed has been shifting over the past six months since Major Katie Higgins Cook transitioned from active duty Marine to the reserves and pursued a civilian job with Shell Oil.
Scroll back a bit in her feed though, and you will soon be awed by this incredible female pilot’s legacy and her exemplary, historic military career.
Katie was the first female pilot to earn a spot on the legendary Blue Angels squadron. Katie flew the C-30 nicknamed “Fat Albert” in many shows during her career. She is the recipient of the American Veterans Center Wings of Valor Award and has been recognized as an influential role model for girls and women everywhere. Katie now conducts motivational speaking engagements to help guide organizations in their strides towards diversity and inclusion.
The percentage of female pilots may be small, but it is steadily growing thanks in part to the increased visibility of current female pilots. When young girls are deciding what career they are going to pursue, they now have easy access to inspirational women excelling and loving life in a wide range of fields including aviation.These female pilots come from all types of backgrounds. Their piloting journeys are unique, yet their common ground is in their shared passion for aviation and for inspiring and mentoring the next generation of female pilots. Go follow them and add a little excitement to your Instagra