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Sky Pirate

Take the sky by thunder! (Thu-under!)
It is so wonderful to plunder! (Plu-under!)
When a village needs a pillage. (Ooh-aaah)
Or my pockets need a fillage. (You know what I'm saying?)

As You Know, The Sky Is an Ocean, so it's only logical that it must have pirates as well.

Following all of the tropes applicable to pirates except for using aeroplanes (or better yet, airships, especially cool ones, or even better: flying boats!) instead of boats, Sky Pirates (sometimes referred to as "Air Pirates") were fairly popular in the early days of aviation, though they were soon eclipsed by Space Pirates once aeroplanes became less novel. Nowadays, Sky Pirates are mostly found in the yellowing pages of 1920s and 1930s comics and pulp magazines, in modern media intended to evoke that era, and in Steampunk settings. No Sky Pirate story is truly complete without at least one Airborne Aircraft Carrier. Huge zeppelins and giant flying boats are par for the course as well, as are other Magnificent Flying Machines. The punishment of walking the plank is especially deadly when it's administered by a sky pirate after a High-Altitude Battle.

See also Space Pirate, Pirate.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • In The DCU, the Golden Age Green Lantern had a recurring foe called Sky Pirate who embodied this trope.
    • The second Black Condor also fought a foe called Sky Pirate, who was essentially an updated version of the Green Lantern villain.
    • The Golden Age Superman also tangled with sky pirates at least once, who used the surprisingly low key method of using fast armed airplanes to force lumbering airliners into landing in a convient field before robbing them on the ground.
  • Captain Fate in the Marvel Universe is a Flying Dutchman Space Pirate. He occasionally visits Earth and acts as a Sky Pirate.
  • Captain Plunder and his Sky Pirates in Sonic the Comic including the first mate Filch and the cook Simpson the Cat.
  • Alexandre LeRoi appears as the main villain of the DC graphic novel Batman: Master of the Future, the sequel to Gotham By Gaslight, as an air pirate who intends to stop Gotham City's 20th Century celebrations, and to keep the looming century's polluting technology from becoming a reality. He keeps a mobile base in a zeppelin-esque airship powered by gas, and controlled by a robot LeRoi calls Antonio.
  • The Blackhawks sometimes faced Sky Pirates, and were treated as such themselves, at least early on. In their second story, an English pilot lashes out at Blackhawk: "Why, you're nothing but air pirates and assassins!"
  • The villains in the 1984 Marvel/Epic miniseries Crash Ryan.
  • Captain Bloodhawke and her crew from The Warlord.
  • In Requiem Chevalier Vampire, there's a sky pirate league primarily composed of ghouls.
  • A minor Green Arrow foe was Skylark, a sky pirate who operated out of a blimp.
  • Seems to be the direction Alex Ross and Dynamite Entertainment are taking the Black Terror within the Project Superpowers universe, complete with a parrot-themed sidekick. Must be that Jolly Roger on his chest...
  • In All Star Western #17, Jenny Freedom of the 19th Century Stormwatch clashes with Smokestack Jack; Steam Punk anarchist Mad Scientist based on a Cool Airship.
  • In Atomic Robo: The Flying She-Devils of the Pacific, the She-Devils spend much of their time battling sky pirates (and are considered sky pirates themselves by some of their foes).

    Films — Animation 
  • Treasure Planet falls between this and Space Pirates (the look and tropes of the former, the actual technology and planet-to-planet flying of the latter).
  • Charles Muntz and his dogs from Up could qualify as this.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Early serials, Buck Rogers in particular.
  • Captain Shakespeare of Stardust is a more literal example, captaining a flying boat which is powered by lightning. (However, although they dress and act like pirates, they're never seen attacking other boats — if there are any other flying boats — and seem instead to be smugglers.)
  • The Sky Pirates from the Australian movie of the same name.
  • The Phantom has Sala and her all-female air pirates.
  • The Grimnoir Chronicles has the last piece of a super-weapon protected by Southunder, who preys on Imperium ships in the Pacific ocean from his zeppelin.

    Literature 
  • Older Than Radio: Jules Verne's Robur the Conqueror, with his huge mega-helicopter vehicle, is the Ur Example.
  • Armageddon 2419 A.D. the book that introduced Anthony "Buck" Rogers to the world.
  • Many 1930s pulps, Doc Savage and Operator 5 in particular. (Operator 5 was an early example of the James Bond-style super agent, complete with 1930s era high-tech gadgets.) Doc Savage twice faced Submarine Pirates as well.
  • Tom Swift and a whole host of copycat Boy Inventor heroes.
  • Prominently featured in The Edge Chronicles - in six out of the ten books in the series, the protagonist is either a sky pirate, a former sky pirate, or a future sky pirate, and of the four short stories in the series, two of the protagonists are sky pirates.
  • Airborn by Kenneth Oppel
  • The Doctor Who New Adventures novel Sky Pirates! blurred the line between this trope and Space Pirates.
  • The Syndicate of Pirates, who use flying machines (not yet invented at the time of writing) and secret rays to terrorise the adventurers of the Klondike Gold Rush at Alaska in George Griffith's The Great Pirate Syndicate (1899).
  • Captain Mors, the "Air Pirate", from Der Luftpirat und sein Lenkbares Luftschiff (The Air Pirate and His Steerable Airship); a German dime novel with 165 issues from 1908-1911. Captain Mors is mentioned (by never actual appears) in the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comic.
  • Karl Schroeder's Virga novels are focused on justifying this in a relatively Hard Science Fiction setting.
  • The sky pirates in the John Carter of Mars novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs.
  • Sky Pirates of Callisto is the sixth novel of Lin Carter's Callisto series, and a homage to Burroughs.
  • In the Steam Punk novel Boneshaker by Cherie Priest the theft of an airship (itself recently stolen from the Confederate military) leads to a midair battle between two pirate gangs.
  • Stephen Hunt's The Court of the Air features airships as the main fighting force of one nation, the sole power with access to the Unobtainium necessary to keep them afloat. Better yet, the eponymous Court of the Air is a secret, ultra-elite, Badass organization of magic-wielding One-Man Army types. And their base is a floating fortress that is not only higher into the atmosphere than any airships other than their own can reach, but remains anchored there permanently.
  • Inevitably, sky pirates were among the foes fought by Biggles, though lacking the Airborne Aircraft Carriers or Cool Airships. The plots featuring them usually played out more like an armoured car heist, with either mechanical sabotage or some unemployed war veteran in a surplus fighter forcing an aircraft carrying bullion or other valuables to land, with a gang on the ground waiting to loot it. Gangs pulling off an Armed Blag on land and then using aircraft as getaway vehicles might also fall under this trope, however.
  • The Alistair Maclean novel Fear Is The Key begins with an aircraft being shot down by a war-surplus fighter plane, in order for The Mafia to get their hands on the precious cargo inside. Unfortunately the plane crashes in an unusually deep marine trench, setting off the events of the main story.
  • Mack Maloney's Wingman series, being a modern take on pulp fiction, features sky pirates in the Divided States of America. Since this setting doesn't involve the common conventions of Cool Airships or similar "flying towns" to attack, their activities mainly consist of forcing planes to land for robbery or engaging in air strikes on settlements.

    Music 
  • Abney Park's "Airship Pirates" pretty much embodies this trope.
    • The entire band embodies this trope, as their main theme involves them being a band of drunken rogue pirates operating off the airship Ophelia. Although, if the lyrics of Airship Pirates and Post-Apocalypse Punk are anything to go by, they're not particularly good at it.
      • This image is further reinforced by the title track from their 2009 album AEther Shanties, which describes the ship as being about one good breeze from collapsing under its own weight, with a crew that's planning mutinies when they're not fighting each other.
  • Alestorm are generally Nautical pirate themed, but a few of their songs have an element of Sky Pirates.
    "We are Heavy Metal Pirates
    We sail across the sky!
    In our battleships of Cosmic Steal
    With a terror up on high!"

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Buck Rogers, of course. Interesting in that he started out fighting Sky Pirates and ended up fighting Space Pirates, all in the space of about 10 years.
  • Sala and her Amazon Brigade Sky Band in The Phantom.
  • In Little Nemo in Slumberland the Princess' royal airship is attacked by sky pirates in one issue.
  • Barney Baxter In The Air was an aviation strip that ran from 1935 to 1950. Sky pirates were amongst the foes battled by the youthful hero.

    Tabletop RPG 
  • Troll pirates from Earthdawn.
  • Crimson Skies, later made into several video games. In an Alternate History setting where the United States of America broke up early in the 30's, and no interstate road or rail network, freight is instead delivered by air cargo services operating massive cargo zeppelins; these are in turn preyed upon by air pirates.
  • Indie game Swashbucklers Of The 7 Skies.
  • Sky pirates operate out of the Rocky Mountains in Deadlands: Hell on Earth.
  • Abney Park recently came out with a Tabletop RPG called Airship Pirates.
  • Captain Gyrfalcon from Exalted, who — mainly out of greed and an old grudge — harasses the airships of the Haslanti League, who are the only significant power with a meaningful air force in the entire North. He dresses like a classic pirate, and sports a sidearm (which is actually a small flamethrower, not a gun, but whatever).

    Video Games 
  • Skies of Arcadia. Strangely, they are still called Air Pirates despite the lack of any other kind of pirates or sea as such in a world with no oceans and floating continents. It also draws a distinct line between idealized pirates and real ones: Real pirates are called, appropriately, Black Pirates. Blue Rogues, on the other hand, are generally adventurers and explorers who only attack The Empire's ships and Black Pirates.
  • Several examples from the Final Fantasy series:
    • Setzer in Final Fantasy VI. It's never explicitly stated, but he's a law-evading free spirit in an airship with a penchant for kidnapping beautiful women, whose "business" has taken a hit since the Empire started capturing more and more cities. All the trappings are there, anyway. He also happens to be the only man with an airship.
    • Final Fantasy XII, especially Revenant Wings, features them. Balthier and Fran start as them, and it's Vaan's dream to become one in the original game. It's also Balthier's class when he cameos in the rerelease of Final Fantasy Tactics, but Ramza laughs at him when he identifies himself as one, since airships are a thing of the past by that point.
  • Crimson Skies, as noted above.
  • Rise of Legends, the Vinci sub-faction called the Pirata are the source of all fliers for that side.
  • The Sky Raiders of City of Heroes.
    Captain Castillo: The breaking of into the base was of no great difficulty for one such as I am. You may all count yourselves as blessed for to be seeing my skills in such operation.
  • Klonoa 2: Lunatea's Veil features a former trainee priestess turned sky pirate as the main antagonist. At one point, she turns into a giant robotic chicken, and you have to fight her. She comes with a Non-Human Sidekick in the form of Tat, a sort of cat creature with the skin tone of Lokai and Bele. (For non-Trekkies, that's black on one side and white on the other. Turns out Tat can split into black and white forms.)
  • The Jellyfish Air Pirates of Guilty Gear.
  • Captain Homard and his crew of incredibly annoying cats fly the Escargot in Nippon Ichi's La Pucelle.
  • Lance Banson from Henry Hatsworth In The Puzzling Adventure.
  • The basic premise of at least one of the classes in the semi-Steampunk flash game Battle Stations.
  • The Flash MMOG Skyrates is set in a world recovering from an apocalyptic war which reduced the remaining viable landmass to a collection of scattered islands. Ripped from the ground and cast adrift in the sky through the use of Unobtainium, these Skylands carried with them the last remnants of civilization. Now split into several color-coded factions, the descendants of these survivors travel and trade between the Skylands and are preyed upon en route by air pirates operating from smaller, unmapped 'skylets'.
  • Captain Phoenix and his band in Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier.
  • The Bonne family from Mega Man Legends and The Misadventures of Tron Bonne.
  • Freedom Wings takes place on an alternate Earth in an era resembling the 1940ís. Air Pirates have taken to the skies and have placed fear into the hearts of others world wide. The player assumes the role of a nameless, faceless pilot whose parents were murdered by air pirates, motivating the character to join the Air Patrol Association (APA), a squadron of mercenary pilots hired to clear the skies of Air Pirate activity.
  • In Septerra Core, travelers between the World Shells are often preyed on by pirates from Shell 6.
  • The Captain in Cargo! The Quest for Gravity pilots an airship and at least looks and talks like a pirate, though he doesn't actually seem to engage in piracy.
  • Because Academagia takes place on a World in the Sky where the surface (and its oceans) are present but unreachable, they are usually referred to as simply "pirates". Like the legitimate sailors of Elumia, the pirates mostly use wind-powered flying ships that are either specifically enchanted or made with of a rare wood that "naturally" floats in the air. Although there are some mundane lighter-than-aircraft. Pirates are practically the default villain in this game, since they are the most prevalent antagonists in events and adventures, even eclipsing the local Thieves' Guild.
  • The main enemies in Tail Concerto, the somewhat Darker and Edgier sequel Solatorobo: Red the Hunter treats them as a joke, mostly appearing in side quests.
  • Guns of Icarus is all about defending your own airship from Sky Pirates.
  • The setting of the Air Buccaneers mod for Unreal Tournament 2003 is heavily pirate-influenced. The weapons are blunderbusses and old-style-fuse cannons, the clothing is straight out of a pirate film and although the gameplay does not involve actual piracy in the strict sense of the word, the taking of enemy airships to be used against your foe is a common occurrence.
  • Pirate101 has this since it takes place in the Spiral, a Shattered World with few large bodies of water. (Yes, that's the same Spiral as in Wizard101.) It's currently assumed that the ships fly due to the magic from a wizard.
  • The Capua Family from Legend Of Heroes VI
  • Sophia has an unfortunate run-in with a band of these, led by a giant talking minotaur, in the playable epilogue of Awakening: The Skyward Castle.
  • The Aetherblade of Guild Wars 2 are a massive faction of these, using airships stolen from the Pact and technical support from the Inquest. They were created by Scarlet Briar as part of her lengthy preparation to awaken an Elder Dragon.
  • Sky Nations has this as it's whole shtick. Well, that and a potentially deity in disguise dimension hopping cat.

    Webcomics 

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • In April 1917, in the midst of World War One, the Imperial German Zeppelin L23 that was on sea patrol came across an honest-to-goodness wooden sailing ship that was transporting a non-war related cargo. It was the Norwegian schooner Royal, and was a holdover from a different era of shipping. The Captain of the Zeppelin then gave an order said to be unique in aircraft history: "Gentlemen, prepare to board our prize!" Unfortunately, as the boat from the Zeppelin was being lowered, the rough seas caused them to lose their machine gun overboard. So instead, the Zeppelin crew bluffed the schooner into submission with a flare gun. They sailed the schooner all the way back to Germany! These boardings weren't all that unusual, either: Zeppelins sometimes boarded sea vessels to check their papers and cargo holds, but this was the only time they actually pirated a vessel.
  • Privateer vessels are essentially private vessels given permission by their government to pirate vessels of other nations, or even conduct naval combat and raids on foreign military vessels. Although extremely obscure, the U.S. Constitution provides for the issuing of Letters of Marque — documents permitting piracy — by Congress. Congress exercised this power during the War of 1812, and while it never actually received a Letter of Marque, operating instead like an armed merchant vessel, the last U.S. vessel to operate as a privateer was the Goodyear blimp named Resolute, which engaged in anti-submarine patrols in 1941 and 1942, armed only with a rifle.
  • A group of British RAF veterans and supply workers managed to heist Berlin and various other German cities after the Second World War using Allied Transport planes, including one of the B-29 bombers stationed in Britain with all weapons and bomb-racks removed. Their mode of operation was to fly without any cargo but with counterfeit US army scrips, and buy/rob jewelry and firearms from Germans. Sometimes they would pretend to smuggle Nazi officers out of Germany but hand them over to genuine Allied officers to escape punishment. The whole operation started in 1945 and extended throughout the Berlin airlift.

The Sky Is An OceanIndex in the SkySky Surfing
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alternative title(s): Sky Pirates
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