Stevie Triesenberg, aka Bayflight, on Being a Female Pilot and Her Introduction to Aviation
An aviation influencer in her own right, Triesenberg has Instagram to thank for her transition from a young girl who wouldn’t even board a plane to a woman who is now encouraging others to pursue a pilot’s license.
Stevie Triesenberg didn’t grow up with much exposure to airplanes.
“I actually wouldn’t ride on commercial airliners through the majority of school, because I would get ear pain,” she says.
And yet you may now know her as Bayflight, thanks to her knack for social media where she chronicles her adventures in her 1952 C35 Bonanza — which is, of course, outfitted with Garmin avionics. So how does one go from a young girl who won’t even board a plane to a woman who is making a name for herself in an industry comprised predominantly of men? Pure chance.
“I was on Instagram one day and saw a photo of a friend of a friend of a friend on my explore page flying a Cirrus around Lake Michigan,” says Triesenberg. “I was like, ‘Wait a minute, that’s a small airplane.’ I didn’t know you could just fly for fun. I didn’t know you could just go get a recreational or private license — I didn’t know the terminology at the time. I didn’t know how pilots trained. I didn’t know anything. That photo threw me off. I thought that was really cool, and I’d love to do that just for fun.”
As is the case when most seeds are planted, the idea took some time to come to fruition. Triesenberg was already planning to head to engineering school in pursuit of a career as a software engineer, and she stayed the course. Every summer, though, she’d come back to the idea, browsing the internet for used small airplanes and dreaming of owning and flying one someday. The summer after her sophomore year of college, she had a computer science internship in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and decided it would be the perfect time to get her pilot’s license.
She picked the school with the best website and never looked back. “I completely fell in love with it,” she says. Five years after enrolling, she’s got more than 300,000 followers on her aviation Instagram account and is leading the charge for younger generations to enter the space.
“It was all just because of this Instagram post that I saw, and so it’s come full circle for me, being on social media and having all these young girls especially look up to me, because that’s what I was more than 5 years ago. I was that young girl who saw a picture of an airplane and thought that was cool.”
The social media component of her role in the aviation space is a creative outlet, says Triesenberg, noting that her daytime gig as a software engineer means she spends much of her life typing away code on a keyboard. As she got more interested in flying, she realized Instagram was also home to a huge aviation community.
“It’s almost like high school — everybody knows everybody in some way through aviation Instagram.” It’s also helped her to feel like she’s not the only woman in the room, despite the fact that varying studies still have the percentage of women pilots in the industry sitting somewhere in the neighborhood of 7 percent.
“I feel very fortunate that when I started flying, the assistant chief flying instructor at my club was one of the most accomplished female pilots I’ve met to date,” she says. “So right off the bat, I didn’t even know about the statistics of there being only 7 percent of women who had their pilot’s license in aviation.”
“I never felt like the only woman in the room,” she says, noting that she was also surrounded by many other female college students going through flight school at the same time. “I feel very lucky to be in that position, because I know that’s not a common experience.”
As her flight logs and Instagram followers have grown, so have Triesenberg’s connections in the aviation industry. It’s how she was introduced to the team at Garmin and how she learned exactly what she wanted in dreaming about a panel upgrade for her vintage Bonanza. She’s now fully outfitted with Garmin avionics, but she quotes two products in particular that she can’t live without.
“I love the GI 275 EIS system, because it gives me so much more information and confidence,” she says. “And the GFC™ 500 autopilot makes a world of difference on cross-country flights. I went to Oshkosh last year a week after I got the new panel, and it made flying so much easier. I flew from Michigan to California previously without an autopilot and didn’t know what I was missing out on, but now that I have it, I don’t know how I ever did that before.”
To follow along on Triesenberg’s adventures, view her Instagram @Bayflight or her YouTube account with the same handle.