Kim De Klop created an Instagram page for her friends and family, but it took off quickly. She now has 111,000 followers.
But then she’s no ordinary Instagrammer – she’s a pilot. And the photos she posts give her followers a glimpse into her amazing, high-flying, world-reaching life.
Belgian Kim is only 27 and, breaking the stereotype of the ‘dumb blonde’, she flies Boeing 747 cargo planes to the US and China, after starting her commercial career with the Romanian low-cost airline Blue Air on just 21 flying Boeing 737s, the aircraft type she uses in her Instagram handle, @737pilotgirl.
Kim De Klop, 27, flies Boeing 747 freighters for Challenge Aircargo. She posted this photo of herself in the cargo hold of one of the 747s she was going to pilot with the caption ‘time to load this beauty – how much do you think we can carry?’
Kim’s Instagram caption to the photo on the left reads: ‘Are you really listening to the pilot speech? To be honest, it still makes me feel uncomfortable!’ In the Instagram caption to the photo on the right, taken when she was 22, she says: ‘Every time I open my IG account I am so grateful for what happened to me! First Officer on a 737 and over 80,000 people follow my travels across Europe! Thanks to all the people who give me such a good vibe!’
Now sponsored by luxury watch company Breitling, she’s getting her choice of watch — valued at a staggering £8,000 — in exchange for monthly Instagram posts showing off the timepiece.
Despite her years of experience in the business, Kim says people often don’t expect someone who looks like her to fly on airplanes.
She says, “Often, “are you cabin crew?” is the first question people ask me.
“And when I say I’m a pilot, they ask if I’m really flying the plane.
“I am proud to be a woman in this industry. Proud to be part of the 5% women who fly around the world.’
Kim decided to become a pilot at the age of 19 and went straight to work.
She trained in Romania for two years and posted her first 737 Blue Air selfie on the plane deck in September 2015.
Despite her years of experience in the business, Kim says people often don’t expect someone who looks like her to fly on airplanes. She says, “Often, “are you cabin crew?” is the first question people ask me’. This photo was taken in the USA in the cockpit of a 747
Kim reveals that this photo was the first photo of her as a 737 pilot, taken while flying for Romanian low-cost airline Blue Air
Kim started pilot training when she was just 19
In 2017, she left Blue Air, publicly thanking the airline “for giving me the chance to fly the 737 at the age of 21.” She added, “I’m leaving with my head full of great memories.”
She then took a job at Norwegian and announced 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 more than 10,000 times.
After joining Norwegian, Kim was posted to Alicante where she would be based. With properties that are cheaper than in her native Belgium, Kim immediately invested in a house of her own near the airport.
As if things couldn’t get any more perfect, as soon as she arrived at base, Kim met William, a handsome Norwegian pilot in training.
The couple started dating and William soon moved in. “It came naturally because we were friends initially,” Kim says.
Kim is a first officer, also known as a co-pilot of a plane, so she flies with a captain and their cabin crew.
Kim posted this image to Instagram shortly after joining Norwegian from Blue Air. She captioned it ‘new life, new style’
The photo on the left was taken during a flight to Barcelona, when Kim only had 11,000 followers on Instagram. During her three years with Norwegian airlines, Kim would fly ten days a month between Alicante, where she settled, and Scandinavia
Kim took this amazing photo while flying over Bergen in Norway for the first time, aged 23. In an accompanying caption, she explained how the pilot stripes system works: “When I flew for Blue Air, I had my three stripes from the start, meaning you’re a co-pilot. Here in Norwegian it is different. You get your stripes by increasing your flight hours on the rating you fly. So in Norwegian you can have a copilot with one, two or three stripes. They all have the same responsibilities in the cockpit as a co-pilot. One line means you have less than 500 hours on the 737, two lines means you have less than 2,000 hours on the 737, three lines means you have more than 2,000 hours on the 737 and finally, as most people know , four stripes means you’re a captain’
A beautiful photo that Kim posted on 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 was “almost a normal job” for Kim, as she would be back home in Alicante in the evening to spend time with William.
During her 20 days off a month, Kim spent time swimming, socializing with friends and going to the gym.
But Covid struck in 2019 and commercial flying came to a halt. Kim and William were both on leave and after months of house arrest they decided to make a change.
Kim, pictured here in Sicily, made the decision to switch to cargo planes after going on leave
The 747s Kim flies now weigh 400 tons—far more than the 80-ton 737s she previously piloted. She is pictured right ‘with her unicorn for a test flight’
Sponsored by luxury watch company Breitling, Kim gets her choice of watch — valued at a whopping £8,000 — in exchange for monthly Instagram posts showing off the timepiece. This photo was taken in Gran Alacant, Spain
They both became cargo pilots for Challenge Aircargo, which involved long-haul flying, and Kim learned to master a brand new aircraft.
She now flies huge Boeing 747-400s – known in the aviation industry as the Queen of the Sky.
They weigh about 400 tons compared to the 80-ton 737s Kim was used to.
“It was so scary at first,” Kim said. But she soon got used to the new models and flying cargo has its advantages.
Kim posted this photo of the approach to Antalya Airport, Turkey, on Instagram with the caption “Look here… runway, sea, waterfall… And some people don’t understand why we are pilots, seriously…”
Kim reveals that the image on the left shows “a roll cloud over Bucharest … most often seen at the leading edge of a thunderstorm, cold front or squall line [a line of thunderstorms]’. The amazing photo on the right was taken using an ‘auto picture function’ when approaching 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 distant cities like New York, Atlanta, Houston and even Wuhan.
When she first lands in a new place, Kim makes sure to get a picture of her because, she says, “after a flight all I can do is take off my uniform.”
Then she explores the city on foot because ‘it’s the best way to discover a city and all the restaurants that you might not find on the internet’.
Kim gets along well with her captains and crew, often spending evenings trying out new restaurants and bars with them before returning to her hotel for the night.
With a generous company allowance for dining out and her hotel, Kim can make the most of what the destination has to offer.
Despite all the cities Kim has seen, New York has been her favorite — and has visited the Big Apple eight times since she first started flying long-haul flights in March.
“When I get to the border control in New York, they all recognize me!” says Kim.
Although she enjoys 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 seat as a captain — she would need to accumulate more hours, as pilots’ career development is based on flight hours.
She currently has 3,500 hours, but would need 4,000 to be a Norwegian captain.
Her boyfriend has 2,500, which means she might become a captain before William.
“We laugh about that,” Kim says.