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The high-flying career of DHL pilot Maria Friedrich

Maria Friedrich is a DHL pilot flying freight to destinations across Europe. She explains why she’s happiest in the air, and how she kick-started an eye-catching way for the company to support Breast Cancer Awareness.

Becoming a pilot was always my plan. I remember when I was three: We flew to Florida and the crew invited me on to the flight deck. I thought: “This is what I want to do.” My first job was working as a Lufthansa flight attendant for six years. That was cool, and I enjoyed seeing the world for free. But after two years, I thought: “I need to start my pilot training.” I worked hard and, in 2011, managed to finish my qualifications within 20 months.

I love flying. The first time I took the controls it felt … right. Personally, I can’t imagine sitting in an office. When you fly, every day is different, and the feeling you get when you take off and land is just unbelievable. You do have to be able to handle all kinds of situations, though. Once, I remember, one lady even gave birth on board! But I don’t get stressed. I’m a laid-back person.


Captains of commercial aircraft need to have flown at least 1,500 hours. Maria believes it will take her between three and eight years to reach this position

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Now I’m a first officer based in Leipzig, Germany, working for DHL Air to fly freight across Europe on Boeing 757 aircraft. It’s just me and the captain, and we fly to some of my favorite destinations, such as Casablanca and Riga. My next career wish would be to fly a Boeing 767 and gain long-haul experience. And, of course, every pilot’s dream is to become a captain.

In 2019, I was talking to a DHL friend and colleague, Jennifer Platt, about what the company could do to promote Breast Cancer Awareness. The next thing we knew, we had management support to have five of our 757s specially liveried with a giant pink ribbon – the campaign’s symbol – for October Breast Cancer Awareness Month. We flew these planes to destinations across Europe. Our colleagues at DHL Air loved the idea. Next year, it would be great to get support from DHL teams right across the world.

I love this job. Sometimes I can’t believe I’m doing it. Maybe I don’t fit the pilot stereotype – I’m small and blonde – but I hope I can motivate other girls and young women to aim high and follow their career dreams. —  As told to Tony Greenway

Published: March 2021


The number of aircraft in the DHL fleet


The number of airports served by DHL Express worldwide

Images: DHL

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