Meet the female pilot Instagrammer who’s shredded the ‘dumb blonde’ stereotype – she was flying Boeing 737s at just 21 and now, six years later, is at the controls of jumbo jets
- Kim De Klop flies Boeing 747 cargo planes, having begun her career with Romanian low-cost airline Blue Air
- Kim says that people often don’t expect somebody who looks like her to be flying planes
- She reveals: ‘Often, “are you cabin crew?” is the first question. I am proud to be a woman in this industry’
Kim De Klop created an Instagram page for her friends and family, but it quickly took off. She now has 111,000 followers.
But then, she’s no ordinary Instagrammer – she’s a pilot. And the pictures she posts give her followers a glimpse into her amazing high-flying, globe-trotting life.
Belgian Kim is only 27 and, shredding the ‘dumb blonde’ stereotype, flies Boeing 747 cargo planes to the likes of the USA and China, having begun her commercial career with Romanian low-cost airline Blue Air at just 21 flying Boeing 737s, the aircraft type she uses in her Instagram handle, @737pilotgirl.
Kim De Klop, 27, flies Boeing 747 cargo planes for Challenge Aircargo. She posted this picture of herself in the cargo hold of one of the 747s she was about to pilot with the caption ‘time to load this beauty – how much do you think we can carry?’
Kim’s Instagram caption for the picture on the left reads: ‘Do you actually listen to the pilot speech? To be honest, I still feel uncomfortable doing it!’ In the Instagram caption for the picture on the right, taken when she was 22, she says: ‘Every time I open my IG account I’m so thankful for what happened to me! First officer on a 737 and more than 80,000 people following my trips across Europe! Thanks to all the people that give me good vibes like this!’
She is now sponsored by luxury watch company Breitling and given her choice of watch – worth up to an eye-watering £8,000 – in return for monthly Instagram posts showing off the timepiece.
Despite her years of experience in the job, Kim says people often don’t expect somebody who looks like her to be flying planes.
She says: ‘Often, “are you cabin crew?” is the first question people ask me.
‘And when I say I am a pilot they ask if I really fly the aircraft.
‘I am proud to be a woman in this industry. Proud to be part of the five per cent of women flying around the globe.’
Kim decided she wanted to be a pilot aged 19 and got started immediately.
She spent two years training in Romania, posting her first 737 Blue Air flight-deck selfie in September 2015.
Despite her years of experience in the job, Kim says people often don’t expect somebody who looks like her to be flying planes. She says: ‘Often, “are you cabin crew?” is the first question people ask me’. This image was taken in the U.S on the flight deck of a 747
Kim reveals that this shot was the first picture of her as a 737 pilot, taken while flying for Romanian low-cost airline Blue Air
Kim began pilot training when she was just 19
In 2017 she left Blue Air, publicly thanking the carrier ‘for being the one that offered me the chance to fly the 737 at 21 years old’. She added: ‘I’m leaving with my head full of amazing memories.’
Next, she bagged a job at Norwegian, announcing the move on Instagram with a selfie in her new uniform and a caption that read ‘new life, new style’.
The image has been liked over 10,000 times.
After joining Norwegian, Kim was posted to Alicante, where she would be based. With properties cheaper than in her native Belgium, Kim immediately invested in a house of her own near to the airport.
As if things could not get more perfect, as soon as she arrived at base Kim met William, a handsome Norwegian airlines pilot-in-training.
The pair started dating, and William soon moved in. ‘It came naturally as we were friends initially,’ says Kim.
Kim is a first officer, also known as the co-pilot of an aircraft, so she flies with a captain and their cabin crew.
Kim posted this image to Instagram shortly after she joined Norwegian from Blue Air. She captioned it ‘new life, new style’
The picture on the left was taken during a flight to Barcelona, when Kim’s Instagram following was a mere 11,000. During her three years with Norwegian airlines, Kim would fly ten days a month between Alicante, where she set up home, and Scandinavia
Kim took this amazing image while flying for the first time over Bergen in Norway, at the age of 23. In an accompanying caption she explained how the pilot stripes system works, writing: ‘When I was flying for Blue Air I had my three stripes from the start, which means you are a co-pilot. Here in Norwegian, it is different. You gain your stripes by increasing your flight hours on the rating you are flying. So in Norwegian you can have a co-pilot with one, two or three stripes. They all have the same responsibilities in the cockpit as co-pilot. One stripe means you have less than 500 hours on the 737, two stripes means you have less then 2,000 hours on the 737, three stripes means you have more than 2,000 hours on the 737 and finally as most people know, four stripes means you are a captain’
A stunning shot Kim posted to Instagram of Amsterdam Airport Schiphol
During her three years with Norwegian airlines, Kim would fly ten days a month between Alicante and Scandinavia. She was a short-haul pilot which, for Kim, was ‘almost like a normal job’ as she would be back home in Alicante in the evening to spend time with William.
During her 20 days of off-time per month, Kim spent time swimming, socialising with friends and going to the gym.
But Covid hit in 2019, and commercial flying ground to a halt. Kim and William were both put on furlough and after months of being grounded they decided to make a change.
Kim, pictured here in Sicily, made the decision to switch to cargo planes after being furloughed
The 747s that Kim flies now weigh 400 tons – much more than the 80-ton 737s she piloted previously. She’s pictured right ‘taking her unicorn for a test flight’
Kim is sponsored by luxury watch company Breitling and given her choice of watch – worth up to an eye-watering £8,000 – in return for monthly Instagram posts showing off the timepiece. This picture was taken in Gran Alacant, Spain
They both became cargo pilots for Challenge Aircargo, which involved long-haul flying – and Kim getting to grips with a brand-new aircraft.
She now flies massive Boeing 747-400s – known in the aviation industry as the Queen of the Sky.
They weigh around 400 tons compared to the 80 ton 737s that Kim was used to.
‘It was so scary at the beginning,’ Kim said. But she soon got used to the new models and flying cargo has its benefits.
Kim posted this picture of the approach to Antalya Airport, Turkey, to Instagram with the caption ‘Look at this… runway, sea, waterfall… And some people do not understand why we are pilots, seriously… ‘
Kim reveals that the picture on the left shows ‘some roll cloud above Bucharest… most frequently observed on the leading edge of a thunderstorm, cold front or squall line [a line of thunderstorms]’. The amazing picture on the right was taken using an ‘auto picture function’ on the approach to Corfu Airport
Kim is pictured here in Spain’s Sierra de Bernia mountain range ‘making the most of my free time’
With Challenge, Kim has visited far-flung cities like New York, Atlanta, Houston and even Wuhan.
When she first lands in a new place, Kim makes sure to have her picture taken because, she says, ‘all I can think about after a flight is getting my uniform off’.
She then explores the city by foot because ‘it’s the best way to discover a city and all of the restaurants you might not find using the internet’.
Kim gets on well with her captains and the crew, and often spends evenings trying out new restaurants and bars with them before heading back to her hotel for the night.
With a generous company allowance for meals out and her hotel, Kim is able to make the most of what the destination has to offer.
Despite all the cities that Kim has seen, New York has been her favourite – and has visited the Big Apple eight times since she first started flying long-haul flights in March.
‘When I get to border control in New York they all recognise me!’ Kim says.
Even though she’s enjoying her adventures in different cities, Kim says she misses the routine of short-haul flying.
If she ever wanted to return to Norwegian – and this time sit in the left-hand-side seat as a captain – she would need to rack up more hours, as pilots’ career progression is based on hours of flying.
She currently has 3,500 hours, but would need 4,000 to be a Norwegian captain.
Her boyfriend has 2,500 meaning she might become a captain before William.
‘We laugh about that,’ Kim says.
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