Created By: JustDoIt2011 on April 19, 2011 Last Edited By: HeroGal2347 on June 24, 2016
Troped

Always Know A Pilot

A pilot's services become important/necessary in the course of an adventure.

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In times of disaster, when immediate escape is necessary, or the hero is in need of transportation to confront the evil causing the mayhem, it is invaluable that he has, some time over the course of his past adventures, met and befriended a pilot. Sometimes they just find one on the fly, but a regular may also step up to do the job. In these cases, the regular may be with the group partially because he knows how to fly, but it's also possible that it's never come up before.

The pilot's capability level varies, although he's usually not completely incompetent. He may be an ace pilot, or he may have just had a few lessons, but either way his services are called upon and, sometimes reluctantly, he accepts the challenge.

Of course, this is not going to be easy. Any number of things may occur to complicate the aviator's foray into heroism, from mechanical difficulties to running out of gas to enemy fire. In some cases, the pilot will die in the process, going down with his plane. In lighter cases, he may turn out to have ejected or have survived the crash....thus allowing the hero to enlist his services the next time he needs air transport.


Examples

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     Anime/Manga 
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, whenever a airplane is needed, someone "coincidentally" knows/has a way to drive it.(although Joseph has the bad luck of crashing every plane he gets in, whether he's driving or not). In Vento Aureo, Abbacchio flies an airplane with Moody Blues by replaying the actions of the last pilot in that plane.

    Comics 
  • Dude Hennick from Terry and the Pirates. Dude is a frat brother of Pat Ryan's and Pat happens to run into him at the airport in Hong Kong at the exact point when he needs a pilot.

    Film 
  • Gonzo reporter Robert Caulfield hires cropduster Albain to search for astronaut Charles Brubaker from Capricorn One. Albain immediately deduces that Caulfield is working a heist, and demands half the take as payment. Albain flies his biplane well enough to checkmate two helicopter gunships bent on eradicating all witnesses.
  • In the movie version of Clear and Present Danger, Ryan and Clark, in Columbia, need a pilot for their chopper. Clark finds Buck Zimmer, passed out at a bar, and presses him into service.
  • In The Mummy Returns Rick gets his old friend Izzy to fly him and his family in pursuit of Imhotep
  • Twenty Twelve: When John Cussack and his family force the reluctant Gordon to pilot a small plane and later a much bigger plane.
  • Zig-Zagged in The Incredibles, when Helen Parr, aka Elastigirl needed a plane ride to a tropical island in the middle of nowhere, she called her pilot friend who used to fly her around during her days as a superhero. The surprise comes when it turns out it's just to borrow the plane, because she pilots it herself. It was almost played straight though, as the original version in the script had her friend piloting the plane and dying when it crashed, but this was cut for various reasons, including the potential for Moral Guardians to object at killing someone off in a family movie, and the fact that doing so would have been a We Hardly Knew Ye situation. As it turns out, having Helen pilot the plane herself leads a lot of weight and depth to her character, too.
  • Independence Day: The military is so devastated that there is literally a call for anyone with prior piloting experience. Randy Quaid's doofy dad character has experience with.... crop dusting? As a bonus, the President reveals that he too was once a pilot and will be joining the fight.
  • Mars Attacks!. Byron Williams rescues Tom Jones from Martians. He needs a pilot to fly him to Washington D.C., and it turns out that Tom Jones knows how to fly a plane!
  • Seeking a Friend for the End of the World: Dodge's neighbor Penny wants to get home to the UK to see her family before the asteroid wipes out humanity, fortunately Dodge's dad is a pilot. Most of the movie is the trip to try and get to him and his plane.

     Literature 

    Live Action TV 
  • Thomas Magnum, P.I. frequently seeks help from T.C., a helicopter pilot that conducts aerial tours of Hawaii. Though it's often an imposition, T.C. routinely comes through for The Hero.
  • Person of Interest: Finch knows how to fly airplanes. This comes in handy when Reese finds himself on a very troubled jetliner that is suddenly lacking in pilots. Finch being miles away isn't a problem, nor is it much of a problem that he has only ever flown small planes. But Finch is clearly not comfortable with the arrangement.

    Video Games 
  • In 'Deus Ex'', J.C. Denton can befriend a pilot who turns out to be his chopper pilot. He can die, or you can deliver the narmiest line ever.
  • Mass Effect's Joker, who saves you from certain death on half the missions.
  • Mega Man X5: if you opt the launch the Shuttle to stop the Colony Drop, Zero (one of the playable characters) reveals that he can pilot the thing, so he volunteers for it. This ability is never mentioned in prev. games, nor any title after that. It's mostly as a justification (read: plot mandate) for Zero turning bad with the effect of the Colony Drop (that is, if your effort to stop it fails).
  • In Tales of the Abyss you get a pretty useful pilot, Noelle. She may join you after you save her brother, but oddly enough, you can wait out the timer and let him die, and this doesn't effect whether she joins you.

    Western Animation 
  • In Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers, Chip and Dale have a pilot as part of the team, Gadget Hackwrench. As suggested by her name, she doubles as an inventor.
  • Franklin. A downplayed variation of this appears in "Franklin and Snail's Dream," in which Snail's dream is to fly, but many different attempts by Franklin prove futile, that is until Mr. Turtle calls on a pilot friend of his, who just happens to also be a snail, and flies around in her own snail-sized plane, to make Snail's dream come true.
  • This trope was played for laughs in Kim Possible. She would get rides from people who would always say, "Oh, this little favor is nothing compared to..." and list some sort of Noodle Incident that she helped them out with.
  • The Simpsons: Mel Gibson sneaks into town to check on the progress of his Film Preview.
    Hannah (a marketing person): How'd you get here from L. A. so fast?
    Gibson: John Travolta flew me in his jet. Now I have to help him move next weekend. He deliberately waited until we were in the air to ask me.
Later, Gibson presses Travolta into service again, turning the plane around so he can go back & find Homer, the one person who didn't like the film.
Travolta: Ahh, but you promised to help me move!
  • Deputy mayor Calico Briggs can summon the SWAT Kats with a distress beacon in her purse. More than once, T-Bone and Razor have flown to her rescue in the Turbokat.
Community Feedback Replies: 46
  • April 19, 2011
    batgirl1
    • In The Incredibles, Helen Parr borrows a plane from her pilot friend. The original draft(s) of the movie, though, had this trope being played perfectly straight, up to and including the pilot dying as a sort of Wham Line.
  • April 19, 2011
    NoirGrimoir
    Why does the trope name have a question mark. Do you mean Anyone Know A Pilot? or is that a question as to whether that should be the name?
  • April 20, 2011
    foxley
    Dude Hennick from Terry And The Pirates. Dude is a frat brother of Pat Ryan's and Pat happens to run into him at the airport in Hong Kong at the exact point when he needs a pilot.
  • April 20, 2011
    JustDoIt2011
    Yeah, the question mark just means the current title was meant to be a placeholder of sorts.
  • April 20, 2011
    randomsurfer
    • The Simpsons: Mel Gibson sneaks into town to check on the progress of his Film Preview.
      Hannah (a marketing person): How'd you get here from L. A. so fast?
      Gibson: John Travolta flew me in his jet. Now I have to help him move next weekend. He deliberately waited until we were in the air to ask me.
    Later, Gibson presses Travolta into service again, turning the plane around so he can go back & find Homer, the one person who didn't like the film.
    Travolta: Ahh, but you promised to help me move!
  • April 20, 2011
    Rolf
    In Chip and Dale and rescue rangers, Chip and Dale manage to find a pilot, which was also an inventor.
  • April 21, 2011
    Arivne
    Film
    • Mars Attacks. Byron Williams rescues Tom Jones from Martians. He needs a pilot to fly him to Washington D.C., and it turns out that Tom Jones knows how to fly a plane!
  • April 21, 2011
    jaytee
    Launchpad from Duck Tales. Piloting skills occasionally questionable, according to Rule Of Funny, but always a useful guy in a pinch.

    Independence Day: The military is so devastated that there is literally a call for anyone with prior piloting experience. Randy Quaid's doofy dad character has experience with.... crop dusting? As a bonus, the President reveals that he too was once a pilot and will be joining the fight.
  • April 21, 2011
    Rolf
    Launchpad usually is fairly good pilot... its landing that he has issues on.
  • April 21, 2011
    TooBah
    In the original Deus Ex, J.C. Denton (the player character) befriends a helicopter pilot in a bar the opening act, and he ends up flying him all over the world.
  • April 21, 2011
    HG131
    Fixed up the formatting, added one person's example and my own (added the Deus Ex one before I opened the comments).
  • April 22, 2011
    JustDoIt2011
    Great examples, you guys. Also, thanks for the formatting.
  • April 22, 2011
    Sooku
    This trope was played for laughs in Kim Possible. She would get rides from people who would always say, "Oh, this little favor is nothing compared to..." and list some sort of Noodle Incident that she helped them out with.
  • April 24, 2011
    Tulling
    Regarding the Independence Day example: I believe the character claimed to have flown F-105s in Vietnam.
  • May 4, 2011
    AFP
    Rusty from Independence Day was stated to be a decorated F-4 Phantom pilot, actually.
  • May 4, 2011
    jaytee
    ^ are you guys talking about Randy Quaid (cropduster) or Bill Pullman (president)? It's been awhile since I saw the movie, but they both have military pilot experience, right? Anyway, the point was that we had the military asking for anyone with any piloting experience at all and we get some dude who is only ever shown onscreen as a drunk, absentminded crop-duster who may or may not have been abducted by aliens in the past. And the president. Always Know A Pilot.
  • July 24, 2011
    JustDoIt2011
    Forgot that this also appears in the first The Mummy.
  • July 27, 2011
    BraveHoratio
    The hero in Siberian Light knows a pilot, which turns out to be very useful. (This may be because the author is obsessed with Russian Airplanes)
  • July 27, 2011
    Nora
    In Tales Of The Abyss you get a pretty useful pilot, Noelle. You get to make the choice of whether or not to rescue her brother (you can wait out the timer and let him die), but this doesn't effect whether she joins you. (It's pretty silly when he dies, though.) Someone else might be able to explain this better; I'm not quite sure where you're going with the trope so this may or may not fit.

    Also maybe Mass Effect's Joker, who pretty much saves you from certain death on like, half the missions.
  • November 18, 2015
    henke37
    • Person Of Interest: Finch knows how to fly airplanes. This comes in handy when Reese finds himself on a very troubled jetliner that is suddenly lacking in pilots. Finch being miles away isn't a problem, nor is it much of a problem that he has only ever flown small planes. But Finch is clearly not comfortable with the arrangement.
  • November 18, 2015
    NoirGrimoir
    • Zig Zagged in The Incredibles, when Helen Parr, aka Elastigirl needed a plane ride to a tropical island in the middle of nowhere, she called her pilot friend who used to fly her around during her days as a superhero. The surprise comes when it turns out it's just to borrow the plane, because she pilots it herself. It was almost played straight though, as the original version in the script had her friend piloting the plane and dying when it crashed, but this was cut for various reasons, including the potential for Moral Guardians to object at killing someone off in a family movie, and the fact that doing so would have been a We Hardly Knew Ye situation. As it turns out, having Helen pilot the plane herself leads a lot of weight and depth to her character, too.

    EDIT: Ack, sorry I see it's already up there. mine is a little more descriptive though, so you can add parts up there if you want.
  • November 18, 2015
    DAN004
  • November 18, 2015
    robbulldog
    • In the movie version of ClearAndPresentDanger, Ryan and Clark, in Columbia, need a pilot for their chopper. Clark finds Buck Zimmer, passed out at a bar, and presses him into service.
  • November 18, 2015
    NoirGrimoir
    I like the name how it is.
  • November 18, 2015
    HeroGal2347
    Speaking of Launchpad, this trope also applies to his first appearance in Darkwing Duck. Darkwing meets Launchpad just a few days before he needs a pilot to help him get to Taurus Bulba's flying fortress.
  • November 20, 2015
    oneuglybunny
    Western Animation
    • Deputy mayor Calico Briggs can summon the SWAT Kats with a distress beacon in her purse. More than once, T-Bone and Razor have flown to her rescue in the Turbokat.

    Film
    • Gonzo reporter Robert Caulfield hires cropduster Albain to search for astronaut Charles Brubaker from Capricorn One. Albain immediately deduces that Caulfield is working a heist, and demands half the take as payment. Albain flies his biplane well enough to checkmate two helicopter gunships bent on eradicating all witnesses.
  • November 20, 2015
    Snicka
    Not to be confused with Pilot, which is about the first episode of various series and has nothing to do with people flying planes.
  • November 21, 2015
    Arivne
    • Capitalized the title.
    • Changed "an Ace" to "an ace pilot". On TV Tropes The Ace has a specific meaning beyond flying.
    • Examples section
  • November 26, 2015
    oneuglybunny
    Live Action TV
    • Thomas Magnum PI frequently seeks help from T.C., a helicopter pilot that conducts aerial tours of Hawaii. Though it's often an imposition, T.C. routinely comes through for The Hero.
  • November 28, 2015
    justanotherrandomlurker
    Western Animation
    • Franklin. A downplayed variation of this appears in "Franklin and Snail's Dream," in which Snail's dream is to fly, but many different attempts by Franklin prove futile, that is until Mr. Turtle calls on a pilot friend of his, who just happens to also be a snail, and flies around in her own snail-sized plane, to make Snail's dream come true.
  • November 29, 2015
    1gn1sW1ngs
    • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, whenever a airplane is needed, someone "coincidentally" knows/has a way to drive it.
      • Although Joseph has the bad luck of crashing every plane he gets in (whenever he's driving or not).
      • In Vento Aureo, Abbacchio flies an airplane with Moody Blues by replaying the actions of the last pilot in that plane.
  • November 29, 2015
    CrypticMirror
    Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World Dodge's neighbor Penny wants to get home to the UK to see her family before the asteroid wipes out humanity, fortunately Dodge's dad is a pilot. Most of the movie is the trip to try and get to him and his plane.
  • March 27, 2016
    HeroGal2347
    So, does this mean cases where a previously unheard-of pilot has to be called in for a job, or just that the heroes have to know a pilot, whether or not he happens to be a member of the main group?
  • March 27, 2016
    DAN004
    ^ sometimes an established character may reveal that he has a piloting skills all along.
    • Mega Man X 5: if you opt the launch the Shuttle to stop the Colony Drop, Zero (one of the playable characters) reveals that he can pilot the thing, so he volunteers for it. This ability is never mentioned in prev. games, nor any title after that. It's mostly as a justification (read: plot mandate) for Zero turning bad with the effect of the Colony Drop (that is, if your effort to stop it fails).
  • March 27, 2016
    HeroGal2347
    ^ So essentially, it's either a new character being introduced for his piloting skills or one of the characters revealing that he suddenly always knew how to fly a plane? It does not mean a member of the main cast being kept around partially for the piloting skills that we're told from the beginning that he has?
  • March 28, 2016
    DAN004
    It does not mean a member of the main cast being kept around partially for the piloting skills that we're told from the beginning that he has?

    Maybe it counts too. Maybe.
  • March 28, 2016
    HeroGal2347
    That should probably be dealt with, because it will affect the available examples one way or another.
  • April 7, 2016
    HeroGal2347
    Does anybody know? I suppose keeping a person around because you know they can fly a plane (as with the earlier mentioned Launchpad examples) might count as an invoked version.
  • April 9, 2016
    DAN004
    ^ Would agree.
  • April 9, 2016
    HeroGal2347
    In that case, another invoked example: The A Team : A large part of Howlin' Mad Murdock's usefulness to the team is that he can fly anything that Face can scam. This makes him very useful for transportation (though they have to work around B.A.'s fear of flying).
  • June 18, 2016
    HeroGal2347
    A potential example that overlaps with Contrived Coincidence: In Archies Weird Mysteries, In order to stop a giant pudding monster from growing out of hand, Archie and his friends need to drop a rain formula from the sky by someone who has a plane and can fly it. It just so happens that Reggie's uncle has a plane and Pop Tate has an aviator's license.
  • June 18, 2016
    HeroGal2347
    I think Just Do It 2011 has been out for a while. Anyone want to grab this?
  • June 18, 2016
    DAN004
    ^ maybe you?
  • June 23, 2016
    HeroGal2347
    I guess so.
  • June 23, 2016
    oneuglybunny
    Cool. I'll add a hat and another example.

    Comic Books
    • One issue of GI Joe has Kwinn, Snake Eyes and Doctor Venom escape from zealous mercenaries in Sierra Gordo aboard an old but functional Lancaster bomber. It just so happens that Doc Venom is an accomplished pilot, and he gets the derelict rustbucket airborne.
  • June 24, 2016
    HeroGal2347
    Thanks for the extra hats! Blast off!
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