'Maria the Pilot,' women in aviation redefine what 'social influencer' means

 A group of young women from all around the world is taking to Instagram to redefine what it means to be a social influencer.


They aren't giving makeup tips or fashion advice. Instead, they have found a place in the international world of aviation and now seek to inspire others.

It's been a turbulent year in the skies, but these women of aviation have kept on posting while so many of us have had to stay home.

I've had such fun following their adventures, I wanted you to meet one of them.

Maria Fagerstrom has more than 519,000 followers, but she isn't an actress or model. She's a commercial airline pilot with more than 3,000 hours in the air as First Officer on Boeing 737s.

"Sometimes people are surprised when I tell them I'm a pilot," she said.

She gets mistaken for a flight attendant all the time, but she takes that in stride in an industry where just 5% of pilots are women.

"So I think I am trying to represent that female part," she said. "Spreading awareness that we girls can do it too."

Maria is the daughter of a pilot, and she remembers going on flights with her dad as a child, riding on the jump seat, and watching him flip switches.

"I thought to myself if my dad can do it, so can I," she said.

By the age of 18, she was making her dream a reality in her native Sweden.

She met her boyfriend, Viktor, in flight school, and he also flies for an airline. The two of them have their own series on YouTube.

"The flight deck is a secretive and mysterious little room there in the front," she said. "We kind of just want to open the door and say, 'This is what's going on.'"


So what's her favorite part of flying?

"The best thing about the job is the views from the flight deck," she said. "You're cruising at 38,000 feet, and you can see the moonrise on one side, and then you turn your head, and you can see the sunset on the other. It doesn't get better than that."

Her Instagram account has numerous comments from grateful parents, and the best words, she says, come from mothers who show her posts to their daughters and tell them, "Whatever you dream of, you can do."