(CNN) — As a child, Lindy Kats was fascinated by the world of aviation. As a 24-year-old adult now working as a pilot with an incredibly popular Instagram account, the world of aviation is now fascinated by her.
“Whenever we would get close to the airport or driving by, I would just get this sensation seeing all the aircraft taking off,” she recalls. “I couldn’t sleep on the plane because I was so interested by everything and looking outside.”
Kats says her young self would be in awe at the fact she now flies planes as a career.
“The fact that I’ve been able to make it a profession, to make it my job, I’m so grateful for that and so happy.”
The Dutch first officer is now a successful Boeing 717 pilot who regularly soars through the skies — and has attracted international attention thanks to her popular Instagram account @pilot_lindy.
Fulfilling a dream
Lindy Kats grew up feeling an affinity to airplanes and airports.
“I’ve always loved flying, it was just that I always thought it was quite impossible to be a pilot because it was so difficult and it was so expensive,” explains Kats.
Aged 15, at a high school careers event, she got talking to representatives from a flight school. She realized her dream might be more in reach than she’d anticipated.
“Whilst talking with them I kind of noticed that it was not that impossible after all,” she says.
Hard work and perseverance got her into flight school and through the training.
Kats says she’ll never forget her first moment flying a plane.
Kats says her first experience in the air was “the best moment” of her aviation career so far.
“It was really amazing,” she says. “If I think about it now, I didn’t learn so much in the first lesson, probably I was not really the one flying the first time. But I was there, I did feel as though I was flying the plane myself.”
“It was more than I ever expected it to be, it was such an amazing experience. Barely 20 hours later […] I did my first solo, which is basically three landings and three take-offs, without the instructor next to you.”
The experience cemented Kats’ certainty that she’d embarked on the perfect career.
Kats hopes her social media presence will inspire others to enter the aviation industry.
When Kats decided to become a pilot, social media was still new. Now she’s is one of several successful female aviators taking over social media with aspirational shots of their high-flying careers.
Kats says she never intended her profile to take on this life of its own.
“It was just a way to stay in touch with my friends and family at home, because I was studying in Madrid and I’m from Holland,” she says. “But at some point it started growing. People liked my pictures and more people started to follow me.”
At time of writing, Kats has 87.6k followers and growing.
Kats posts photos on Instagram of her glamorous, globe-trotting lifestyle.
Her photographs document her globe-spanning travels, from spectacular, sun-bleached shots of her current home of Sicily to aerial views of New York’s Central Park.
But it’s her behind-scenes look at the life of a pilot that’s the real draw for her followers.
“They’re very interested in this profession,” she says. “Being a pilot […] it’s really a job that many people have wanted to become from a young age — and not all of them have been able to succeed.”
Her profile’s influence might be a happy accident — but Kats is delighted if her posts inspire young fans to follow in her footsteps.
“If people tell me they are inspired, this is one of the best compliments that I could get,” she reflects.
“I know how difficult it is if you don’t have any mentors, if you don’t have anyone to ask questions to […] I always try to reply and if I could inspire anyone that would be great.”
Flying in the face of adversity
Kats says she is very close to her colleagues.
Aviation is still a male-dominated industry, but Kats says her male colleagues have always been very welcoming. She regards her co-workers as family.
“We all live in the same village […] and we love to just hang out together, we go for dinner, we go for a drink after flying, or for breakfast even,” she says. “That’s amazing, they’re really part of my social life as well.”
However she occasionally encounters misogyny from passengers.
“Because of the position of my seat and the captain’s seat — usually they see me first when they get into the plane, as they look towards the cockpit,” she explains. “And then, occasionally I’ve have someone to look a bit further into the cockpit, to check if there is a male pilot as well around.”
Kats tries to handle such situations diplomatically.
“The thing is we have to stay professional — and I like to be professional — so even if somebody is not so happy with me flying, I will always try to be polite and to understand his point of view,” she says.
“It’s usually the older generation, I could even understand a little bit, if they’re quite old, when they were younger the world was different — and the attitude towards women was different as well.”
Ultimately, Kats hopes she is judged on her ability to do her job well — not her gender.
“I’ll always, always do my best,” she says. “I don’t feel different than any of my male colleagues and I hope that my passengers will think the same, that’s basically all I can do.”
Kats has branched out in YouTube.
Kats’ newest venture is a blossoming YouTube channel — where she posts lively vlogs providing a glimpse of life behind the cabin curtain.
“I got so many questions about my life as a pilot,” she says. “On Instagram it’s usually pictures and short videos, it doesn’t really demonstrate the typical life of a pilot — and on YouTube I could do whatever I wanted.”
Her videos chart her busy days, often from dawn to dusk.
“I won’t ever show pictures or videos inside the cockpit because I cannot,” she clarifies. “I have to focus on my job and cannot start taking videos.”
Kats’ posts pictures of her working and relaxing.
But Kats enjoys sharing other aspects of her profession, such as how she spends her downtime or prepares for a flight or training in a simulator.
Kats is taking YouTube one step at a time — like Instagram, she says the platform is ultimately for her enjoyment — and whether it takes off or not, she enjoys the vlogs.
“It was not the intention to make it super, super big,” she says. “If it happens, that will be great, but otherwise it will just be nice for me as well.”
Words of wisdom
Kats wants to encourage others to embark on an aviation career.
“I always like to say that even if it seems very, very difficult, just go for it and do your research,” she says. “Don’t think it’s impossible until you’ve actually experienced it’s impossible.
“If it’s really your dream, then do anything you can in order to make it happen,” she says.
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