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News & Insight

Fighter Pilots Of Instagram | Cameras In Cockpits

By Kishore Sawh on October 12th 2017

Being in the presence of fighter aircraft is an experience; standing on the flight line, whiffs of JP-5 filling your nostrils as the tyrannosaur roar of some GE-F110 engine spooling up crescendos into a scream that’s a white noise you can feel as much as hear. The smells and sounds marry the visual frenzy for an overall assault on the senses. Together it’s not so much something you witness as something that envelops you. It’s like gravity; cerebral for sure, but by God, it’s something you feel. There’s nothing quite like it.

Likewise, there’s nothing quite like the fighter community culture, and by extension, nothing quite like the vocation of being a fighter pilot.

Some say the only people impressed with fighter pilots are other pilots and 10-year-old boys. Well, that’s what a nice lady at NAS Oceana told me as I was about to jump in the Tomcat simulator in the mid-90s, but she was married to one, so make of that as you like… Either way, it’s bull. Once you understand what’s involved you can’t help but be impressed.

Top Gun may have brought the realm of the fighter pilot into the contemporary purview and some jargon into the lexicon, but it was just a shiny glimmer. The reality is even more intense, more impressive, and more demanding; much like the women and men who live it. And unless you are one, or you’re really embedded in the culture, you don’t get to see even 1% of that, which is a shame really. Partially because you don’t get to be around the flyers–who are a different breed of human–and partially because you miss out on the views. Looking out of a bubble canopy either up in the angels or down in the cherubs can make old seem new, familiar seem alien, and, with vertigo lurking around every corner, mess with your perception.

[REWIND: Leica TL2 Review | Less A Random Tool & More A Personal Statement]

Luckily for us, camera tech has proliferated so much that aircrew are now able to bring high quality and diminutive cameras into the cockpit, and Instagram has provided the platform for them to share what they capture with the world. And boy do they ever – which makes sense since a requirement of being a fighter pilot is ensuring everyone knows you are one.

Prior to the marriage of tech and platform imagery like this had to be found in books by people like George Hall, Katsuhiko Tokunaga, CJ Heatley, and Dave Baranek, or through online sites like, or FenceCheck forums. But none had the intimacy or were as current as on IG, on which a number of pilots and GIBs deliver the goods on the fly to give us a look not only into the cockpit, but fighter pilot life in general.

It also has global scope, so you can follow pilots the world over, including students matriculating through the fighter syllabus, and demonstration teams like the F-16 Viper Demo Team, the USAF Thunderbirds, Gripen Display, the RCAF National Hornet Demo Pilot, and Solo Türk of the Turkish Airforce.  If only Instagram was around during the Tomcat’s tenure…

So in the photos should you expect lots of enormous mustaches? Guys in sunglasses? Bikes, beer, hero selfies (yours don’t compare), vaping tail shots, and of course their “sh*t hot” rides in all their firewalled beauty? Sure, and then some. It’s fighterdom on the half shell, easily digestible, and a recipe for envy.

I’ve included a number of those who you should all follow and show some love to.

And to you GoPro, and other camera companies out there who I’ll get to read this, maybe these guys could do with some new cameras? Just a thought…

*Be sure to hover over the images as many are videos.

Nothing like the sound of freedom! #demo #viperdemoteam #airmanup #aviators #aviation #ACC #f16 #airforce

A post shared by F-16 Viper Demo Team (@viperdemoteam) on

Into #London ?? as a pilot. Out as a passenger! I’ll be “deadheading” on the way to #washingtondc ✈️??‍✈️. This is the term that describes when #crew travels for the company, but isn’t working. I get paid the same as I am if I was actually piloting the airplane….but I’ll be snoozing in Business Class because I didn’t get much sleep ?. This time I’ll be riding on one of our 777 aircraft, so you #DC #planespotters will have to wait to catch me Tuesday night when I fly out again in the #787 ! (Watch by @depolwatchco ) #comeflywithme #catchmeifyoucan ▪️▪️▪️▪️▪️▪️▪️▪️▪️▪️▪️▪️▪️▪️▪️▪️▪️ THIS PICTURE TAKEN BY AN OBSERVER NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR PILOTING DUTIES DURING A NON-CRITICAL PHASE OF FLIGHT WITH TWO OTHER PILOTS IN THE PILOT SEATS . IT IS FULLY COMPLIANT WITH FAA AND ICAO REGULATIONS. IT WAS NOT TRANSMITTED OR POSTED DURING FLIGHT. ▪️▪️▪️▪️▪️▪️▪️▪️▪️▪️

A post shared by Troybflying (@troybflying) on

Cat shot from the Southern Seas #aviation #F18 #boat #adrenaline #military

A post shared by Roderick O’Hearn (@roderick_oh) on

Squadron wine tour! They told us to dress nice @saucydegrassi #winetasting #champagne #classy #tuxedo

A post shared by Roderick O’Hearn (@roderick_oh) on

“We sometimes need to take one step back, in order to take two steps foward.”

A post shared by NOT ON MY WATCH! (@juanbengo) on

Mission accomplished #Vilkas #142 #Typhoon

A post shared by NOT ON MY WATCH! (@juanbengo) on

McD and I take a trap @krstffr_abnl thanks for the grammar help #vfa154 #flynavy #blackknights #avgeek

A post shared by ninjafritz (@ninjafritz) on

Just a little casual snake charming @aubsbennett

A post shared by ninjafritz (@ninjafritz) on

MiG-28’s! Great flight in the F-5 today. #FlyNavy #aggressor #F5 #TigerII #detlife

A post shared by Mike Scott (@hansel.scott) on

Last night at #oktoberfest15 in the Hofbräu tent. #einprositdergemütlichkeit #traveltheworld

A post shared by Mike Scott (@hansel.scott) on

A post shared by SOLOTÜRK (@100soloturk) on

A post shared by Erhan GÜNAR (@egunar) on

Display for employees & their relatives at Såtenäs Wing. 9G pick-up and trying out a new flare/roll sequence. What do you think?

A post shared by Gripen Solo Display Sweden (@gripensolodisplay) on

Smoke on!

A post shared by U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds (@afthunderbirds) on

Back in the USA, hide yo kids, hide yo wife! #america #readyforrrealfood

A post shared by David de Grassi (@saucydegrassi) on

Laying the smack down on girls in #venicebeach @aleruss11 #playingwithballs #finishhim #fatality #lookingforarnold

A post shared by David de Grassi (@saucydegrassi) on

More jet spam, here’s a clip from our 2015 deployment video. Also a major #bjam #gopro #damndaniel #avgeek #usa

A post shared by David de Grassi (@saucydegrassi) on


A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Matthew Saville

    …you had me at JP-5 and the Tomcat porn.

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