A few weeks ago, Maria Pettersson was “merely” a pilot for Ryanair who loved her job and loved doing yoga. Now? She’s basically an internet sensation. And as soon as you check out her Instagram account, you’ll understand why she is racking up so many new followers.
The 32-year-old blond is originally from Gothenburg, Sweden. But the Swedish pilot has swapped a life in the chilly north for a more sun-drenched existence in Palermo in Sicily, Italy.
Plus, Pettersson has what many may consider to be their dream job. Indeed, as a pilot for low-cost airline firm Ryanair, she spends her working week flying to destinations all around Europe.
Interestingly, Pettersson only became interested in flying when she was in her 20s. Nevertheless, she held a license to fly light aircraft by the time she was 25. And by the age of 30 Pettersson had graduated as a commercial airline pilot and was eventually given the keys to something much bigger.
“But what about her Instagram account?” we hear you say. Well, that started up in the summer of 2015. Back then, she just wanted to share what is was like to be a pilot with her friends and family.
But her epic selfies, often taken from the cockpit of a Boeing 737, quickly developed an enthusiastic following on the social networking site. Perhaps, though, this was because not all of her shots were entirely work related.
Yes, Pettersson also shares images featuring snaps of her paddle boarding on crystal-clear waters and her partying with her gorgeous gal-pals. It’s fair to say, then, that her life looks pretty appealing.
But it’s her yoga shots that have drawn the most online attention. In these pics, Pettersson pulls some pretty wild poses in some equally impressive and exotic settings. Indeed, she certainly doesn’t seem to be your typical pilot.
Arguably, the backdrops to her pics are almost as stunning as her poses, and Pettersson’s Instagram feed is therefore helping make this ancient discipline look more glamorous than it ever has. On a personal level, though, her exotic yoga locations provide an insight into her biggest love – travel.
“I try to travel as much as I can during my off days and this summer I have already seen places like Berlin, London and Stockholm,” Pettersson told the Daily Mail. “When I travel on my own holidays I like to visit places with paradise beaches and adventures.”
Despite all the glamour in her pictures, though, Pettersson’s life can actually be quite mundane. “My lifestyle is actually similar to a nine-to-five job. Our roster is a five-days-on, four-days-off pattern and we operate from our home base,” she explained.
However, it’s not all bad. She said, “Always having four days off after five working days is amazing. It gives me more than enough time to rest and spend time with family and friends.”
And while she’s living the dream now, it hasn’t been easy to get to this point. “For me so far the toughest challenge has been to get that first flying job,” said Pettersson. “Competition was tough and many unemployed pilots [were] fighting for the same job.”
Still, it looks like all that hard work paid off. Because if Pettersson’s Instagram profile is anything to go by, she’s living a jet-setting lifestyle that most of us can only dream of. But how does she see herself?
“My story is about strong females in a male-dominated environment,” she said. “Proving that we are just as good as them. Believing in ourselves and keeping a positive attitude towards life.”
It’s an attitude that shines through her images. And, as of August 2016, Pettersson has more than 250,000 Instagram followers, most of whom seem totally enamored by her. For instance, one user wrote, “You are so beautiful.” It is a sentiment found throughout the pilot’s comments feed.
The wider media are well aware of Pettersson’s growing popularity too. As well as being reported by the British Daily Mail, her story has been picked up by various news outlets and websites all around the world.
Therefore, in April 2016 Pettersson decided to start a blog. PilotMaria.com was founded to give the wider world an insight into her life as a pilot and encourage the next generation of captains.
She hopes her blog will inspire people to follow their dreams of becoming a pilot and not be put off by cost. “Before starting my training I worked and saved for most of the costs,” she said. “In the end, mine cost me around €65,000 [$72,500].”
“I never thought becoming a pilot was an option for me due to the high costs and the fact that most pilots were men,” she said. “Hard work pays off and my dream became reality.” And by sharing pictures of her amazing lifestyle, she might just inspire a few more people to chase their dreams too.