For a new generation of engaged and passionate pilots, the social media photo- and video-sharing site offers a way to connect with other pilots that hanging out at the airport can’t match. Here they share their own photos, their friends’ photos, and photos from people they don’t even know. With myriad filters and carefully framed versions of reality, it may be easy to dismiss the platform as a place to show off. But amid the onslaught of ego-tickling selfies and posts intended to induce jealousy are photos documenting something important that almost gets lost: It happened. These people are flying—a lot. And based on followers that number in the thousands, their passion for aviation is infectious. Here are six Instagram pages we think you should follow.
You’re looking at the future of the airshow circuit. Anthony Oshinuga has the airplane, drive, and—most importantly—the great personality to make it big entertaining audiences in his classic red Pitts. Many of his page’s photos show the airplane, whether staging it in anticipation of Oshinuga’s competition at the National Championship Air Races in Reno, or working on his inverted spins. The California native is starting to branch out of regional shows to events as far as Alaska, where he said this summer he will become the first black pilot to perform in the Arctic. He loves to reach people on Instagram who don’t know anything about aviation. And he speaks often about opportunities in aviation to youth groups, such as this crew from a YMCA in San Diego (top left). “I just try to be unique,” he said. @anthonyoshinuga
If you recognize Allison’s last name it’s because her family is synonymous with flying, especially in central Florida. Allison’s family started Leeward Air Ranch, a dynamic fly-in community near Ocala. Today Leeward is a marketer who lives in Jacksonville, but she gets back to the Air Ranch often, where at her childhood home “the front yard is literally the runway.” She is a private pilot with high-performance and tailwheel endorsements, the latter of which is her real muse. Leeward says most of her aviation friends came from Instagram, and seeing them when she travels and at airshows helps to fuel her connection to aviation. @allisonleeward (Photography left @bobbyregan; right @sharkomarco.)
In the selfie-dominated world of Instagram, Deon Mitton is an exception. The professional pilot and amateur photographer captures the essence of flight, from beautiful landscapes to desirable airplanes, and pretty much everything else that makes us love to fly. “I appreciate the beauty of things from above,” said the former Silicon Valley executive who made the switch to professional seaplane pilot earlier this year. Although many of his posts are of seaplanes, he also flies helicopters and has an affinity for bushplanes, such as this de Havilland Beaver in the High Sierra STOL Drag Annual Fly-in (above). Mitton said most of his international flying has come as a direct result of meeting people on Instagram. That includes this flight in a Pipistrel Virus around Oslo (right). @deonmitton
Born in Alaska and now a flight school owner in Homer, Chris Palmer’s page is a mix of fun, adventure, and instruction. The forty-ninth state provides a series of stunning vistas, including the Aurora Borealis in Homer, and nature and aviation coming together in Anchorage. Although his cute toddler, Apollo, pops up occasionally (right), the star of the page is his 1963 Cessna 172 on 850x6 tires, a strange mix of reliable training airplane and respectable backcountry adventurer. Palmer said his page “starts with passion.” It’s also not a bad marketing vehicle. Clients have come from as far away as Florida to fly with Palmer after seeing him on Instagram. @angleofattack (Photography bottom left @deonmitton.)
Katie Marsh knew from a young age that she wanted to be a pilot, although flying for a career was never part of the dream. Her dad and a sister are pilots, and her grandmother was a Women’s Airforce Service Pilot in World War II. It wasn’t until after college that she started to get really hooked, and today she has the enviable job of flying Cessna Caravans on floats in New York City in the summer and Florida in the winter. In between she pushes to get as much tailwheel time as she can in her new Piper Cub, and generally just get the most she can out of flying. Based on her smile in the back of a friend’s L–39 during her first jet acro, and splashing down in a Sea Rey near the Bahamas’ famous swimming pigs, it seems like she’s getting quite a lot out of it. @katie.marsh (Photography right @deonmitton.)
Most major aviation companies are on Instagram, each with a varying level of success. One of the best pages is Kenmore Air, the floatplane operator from Seattle. It may be an unfair advantage, but Kenmore has taken a site that’s meant to appeal to customers and has turned it in to a place for floatplane lovers. While Kenmore will announce sales and do other direct promotion on Instagram, the company’s primary objective is to simply, “embody who we are as a company,” according to Mikaela Cowles, a marketing professional who runs the page. She also likes to feature employees, such as Jenn McBeth, a maintenance technician (bottom left). @kenmoreair