Maria Petterson’s Instagram stories are the epitome of the jet set life, and her photos are of the caliber that travel bloggers lust after. She probably travels more in a week than most do all year.
In fact, in the time it took to post this article, her Instagram story showed her going from the Estee Lauder headquarters in London and on to Rome, and then not even a full day later hanging out with a friend in Faro, a small town on the Adriatic Sea.
It’s that jealousy-and-awe-inducing amount of wanderlust that is her very allure, but that wasn’t exactly the goal for pilot Maria all along. Her goal was simply to see the world. And so, she chose a career to do so.
Truly living up to her Instagram bio: “chasing dreams at 38,000 feet.” Petterson has amassed a huge following—over 440,000 follow her account and adventures on Instagram—enough to justify her “public figure” title atop her profile.
“I couldn’t see myself having a job where I would stay in one place,” said Petterson.
Originally from Gothenburg, Sweden, she has been working in the commercial airline industry for over three years. “I am based on the Mediterranean’s biggest island, Sicily,” she writes on her blog, “I fly mostly domestic flights within Italy.”
“If you have ever flown from Milan to Palermo, it’s pretty likely that I was your pilot,” Petterson joked.
She took up blogging and vlogging, which have given her opportunities ranging from ambassadorships with top brands on her blog (like GoPro, for one) to touring Miami from a seaplane. But it hasn’t always been like this for Maria, and nor did she expect it to be.
It took her a while to actually break into the aviation industry. She decided on the career when she was 24, though she originally didn’t think she could. “I have always been fascinated by pilots and their profession,” she said, “but I never saw it as a possibility for myself.”
But she did the research regardless. “I found a flight school close to the town where I am from in Sweden. I went on one of their recruitment days and about eight months later I started their flight training program.”
After finishing her flight training, she found it difficult to find a job working as a pilot. In fact, it took her two years to land that first job “I tried to stay within aviation and worked as airport security and scheduling for another airline company in Europe,” she said.
And that time did pay off for her, as she landed her first job and set off. “I started my Instagram account (@pilotmaria) for friends and family back home so they could keep track on what I was doing,” she said, never expecting it to grow as it did.
“I never knew there was such an interest for aviation and I never had the intention to grow to almost half a million followers!” she said. She credits a feature from Instagram’s main page and a strong, growing community of pilots on social media for some of her growth.
The blog she runs was something that came about organically also, giving her a platform to share more stories and inspiration than she could on Instagram. “The caption section wasn’t enough for me to write everything I wanted,” she said, “so I expanded to a blog as well.”
And from there, things have just kept growing for pilot Maria. “It has opened up doors I never knew was possible.” Petterson’s pilot and social media connections have allowed her opportunities ranging “from flying fighter jets with the Baltic Bees to “walking the wing,” –standing on a wing while the airplane is flying–with Breitling.” And then there are those trips around the world, but that’s standard in the pilot life, right?
Though she’s working in an industry where she’s a rarity—only about 5 percent of pilots are female—she feels a sense of community both on and offline. “I can honestly say that I have never felt mistreated for being a female in this industry.” She credits Instagram with connecting her to a huge community of other pilots and aviation enthusiasts.
When she’s not flying, she can usually be found doing yoga or paddle boarding. But she doesn’t stay in one place for too long, though. “When I have longer periods off I like to go travel,” said Petterson. “It is, after all, my love for travelling that gave me the interest for aviation.”
And this love of traveling was the first step on this journey for Petterson. She’s come a long way from being a 24-year-old who didn’t think she could fly. “I am so lucky to be able to do these things I never thought possible.”