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Ace Pilot

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"I heard a rumor that Vader had his TIE prototype made to stop this guy from vaping him in simulator battles."

"Rudel flew 2,530 combat missions claiming a total of 2,000 targets destroyed; including 800 vehicles, 519 tanks, 150 artillery pieces, 70 landing craft, nine aircraft, four armored trains, several bridges, a destroyer, a cruiser, and severely damaging the Soviet battleship Marat."
Wikipedia, on Hans-Ulrich Rudel, aka The Eagle of the Eastern Front

In Real Life, an ace is technically a pilot with five or more kills. This is harder than it sounds; even in conflicts like World War II, where aerial combat occurred on a vast scale, the average fighter pilot had zero confirmed kills from the day he got his wings to the day he bought his farm. In World War II, only about 5% of pilots made ace, and they were responsible for 50% of all air-to-air kills. The term is most commonly associated with aircraft pilots, but other types, such as tank aces, also exist. As well as anyone has been able to determine, aces are born, not trained.note  Ace pilots are common in fiction, most prominently in mecha shows and any Space Opera featuring space fighter planes. They tend to be more prominent in Real Robot shows, where the mecha themselves are fairly equal and the pilot's skills are more important, than in Super Robot shows, which place more emphasis on the power of the mecha.


An ace pilot will likely display all sorts of Improbable Piloting Skills, such as the High-Speed Missile Dodge. Aces may or may not come with wingmates. They will often have Machine Empathy, allowing them to sense problems from subtle differences in how their craft moves/feels/sounds, especially if flying their Ace Custom. Depending on the time period, may wear an Adventurer Outfit. An Ace who excels even beyond other aces is known as an Ace of Aces, a title typically granted only to a nation's highest scoring ace.

An ace pilot is not necessarily The Ace in terms of personality, although they can be. Famous aces may be given a cool-sounding nickname like, oh, say, the Red Baron. They also may only be Graceful in Their Element, and are (though not The Klutz) plodding on land.

Note that Improbable Piloting Skills or Improbable Aiming Skills do not guarantee anyone becoming an ace. The most important factor is luck; that is, to actually meet enemies and face them in the air. In WWII, only 50% of American fighter pilots ever met Axis airplanes in the air. On the other hand, in a target-rich environment, such as that which the RAF faced at Malta, any pilot will eventually become an ace if he survives long enough. The second important factor is rank: it must not be too low nor too high. Most kills are scored by flight and squadron leaders. Ranks below First Lieutenant usually serve as wingmen, while Lieutenant Colonel and higher ranks are usually preoccupied with desktop jobs. Many pilots have actually refused promotion in order to be able to fly and score victories.


Note that wingmen also may themselves be aces, especially if they fly in target-rich environment. Sometimes aces prefer to fly together as each others' wingmen. This is known as Fat Cat Flight.

Piloting Styles Preferred By Aces

  • Steamrollers are aggressive types who favor in-your-face frontal assaults, raining fire or blows on their enemy to keep them off-balance. Experienced pilots can almost always dodge a frontal attack, but if you keep pressing the attack, sooner or later they might slip up and take a hit. Because this tactic results in exciting, close-ranged fights with a lot of interplay between the two combatants, this is a particularly popular variant for protagonist aces in fiction.
  • Bushwhackers are cunning, devious pilots who eschew easy-to-evade frontal attacks in favor of taking potshots from the rear or other blind spots. When engaged in a duel, they try to wriggle out of it and drop out of the enemy's field of view so they can come in from another direction and catch the foe off-guard. Frequently, bushwhackers will sacrifice spare weapons as decoys, distracting the enemy so they can ambush them from behind (e.g, the Picard Maneuver). Most real world Aces are Bushwhackers. Also most Real Robot protagonists are Bushwackers due to the nature of the genre.
  • Snipers are similar to bushwhackers, but rather than using skill to escape a duel, have the accuracy and firepower to end each duel the moment it begins. They hide behind asteroids, colonies, or cloud cover, popping up to take potshots at their targets, and try to avoid close combat and running battles at all costs.
  • Pluggers — for want of a better term — are defensive players, who manage to stay calm and collected even under continuing attacks from bushwhackers or steamrollers. By continually dodging and deflecting enemy attacks, they can tie up otherwise dangerous foes in time-wasting sparring matches, and may even be able to sneak in the occasional counterattack. In fiction, this style is typically the province of secondary characters, but there are occasional leads who fit the profile (such as Mobile Suit Victory Gundam hero Uso Evin).

Note that fights against other veterans are usually a better indicator of an ace's style than battles against Mooks, who can generally be taken out with little effort.

Another classification, coming from the Finnish Air Force, is differentiating pilots who fly with their "brains" versus pilots who fly with their "muscles". Those who fly with their brains usually have superb mathematical and 3D skills, being able to manage the situation like a computer and form a clearer view of the chaotic scene of battle. They are excellent shots and who do not take unnecessary risks but rather attempt to attack the enemy from his blind spots and break off ASAP. Those who fly with their "muscles" are superb pilots, extremely aggressive, prefer dogfights and maneuvers, and are good with aerobatics but not necessarily crack shots. Either can become aces. "Bushwackers" and "snipers" are "brain" pilots while "steamrollers" and "pluggers" are "muscle" pilots. The difference is best illustrated by the von Richthofen brothers: Manfred (the original Red Baron with 80 kills) was a "brain" pilot, while his little brother Lothar (with 40 kills) was a "muscle" pilot.

Civilian examples exist as well, and not just for aircraft. While civilian pilots, obviously, don't technically meet the military definition because the goal of civilian flight is to not kill people (which means most who weren't military before do not have kills), some civilian pilots have saved lives and property with overwhelming skill and capability, overcoming multiple engine failures, hydraulic failures, or many other incidents which would fall under No One Could Survive That!.


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  • Eren Yeager and the other Titan Shifters from Attack on Titan. You thought piloting a 15 meter tall giant wasn't possible? Think again! This show at its core is a Humongous Mecha Anime.
  • Shin, Mickey, Saki, and many other mercenary fighter pilots in Area 88.
  • Pete Pumps from Ginban Kaleidoscope was this before he died in episode 1.
  • Heavy Metal L-Gaim: Daba, Leccee, Gablet... most of the main characters, really.
  • In the Mazinger series, Kouji Kabuto and Duke Fleed grow into the role (specially Kouji. In the first chapters it was painfully obvious than he had no idea of how to pilot a war vehicle, and the consequences of it were just so painful to him. Nevertheless, through training and battles he became a true ace). However Tetsuya Tsurugi not only was trained into it before the series but also he is the Trope Codifier - and a deconstruction - of Hot-Blooded ace pilots in Humongous Mecha anime.
  • The Macross franchise has a bunch, and an interesting tradition of the best pilot in each show not being the main character:
    • Max Jenius in the original Super Dimension Fortress Macross, and Milia Fallyna on the other side, until the two fell in love and she defected. Max takes this to such an extent that Word of God has confirmed him to be the best pilot in the franchise, bar none. Even when in his fifties and with somewhat "rusty" piloting skills in Macross 7, he still outperforms every other Ace in the series combined when he hops in a fighter.
      • While not the absolute best, protagonist Hikaru Ichijo was an extremely skilled pilot as well, as was his squad leader, Roy Focker.
    • Sylvie Gina and Nexx Gilbert in Macross II (The main character, Hibiki Kanzaki, is an Ace Reporter flying unarmed civilian craft instead).
    • The only reason why Isamu Dyson of Macross Plus hasn't been dishonorably discharged yet is because of his incredible piloting skills. He's still alive and active during the events Macross Frontier, and is mentioned in supplementary notes as having kicked Ozma's ass in training matches while piloting an outdated plane. His rival/former friend Guld Bowman is at least equally capable.
    • Gamlin Kizaki in Macross 7. Nekki Basara is arguably an even better pilot, but he's an Actual Pacifist.
    • In prequel Macross Zero, the aforementioned Roy Focker is the best pilot in the UN Spacy. His protege Shin Kudo is an excellent pilot as well, being able to even initially hold his own against a Variable Fighter... while piloting a regular F-14. Their main rivals DD Ivanov and Nora Polyansky are no slouches either, DD especially having trained Roy, and clearly a superior fighter.
    • Ozma Lee in Macross Frontier is SMS's best pilot, and possibly in the entire Frontier fleet; even near the end of the show, he is still able to out-duel main hero Alto Saotome by a couple of points due to his much greater experience and Alto being quite conflicted at the time. Michel, meanwhile, was the company's ace sniper. However, the show's best pilot is probably Brera Sterne, thanks in large part to him being a Cyborg.
    • Messer Ihlefeld in Macross Delta is Delta Squadron's ace, and easily shows the difference between honed skill and inexperienced raw talent whenever he effortlessly shows up protagonist Hayate Immelman's piloting. He frequently gets in duels with the Aerial Knights' own ace, Keith Windermere.
  • Even Robotech follows Macross's tradition of the best pilot not being the main character (aside from Max and Miriya), with Maia Sterling in Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles
  • Science Ninja Team Gatchaman AKA Battle of the Planets AKA G-Force AKA Eagle Riders gives us two in Ken The Eagle (who is named Ace in G-Force) and the man known as Red Impulse.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion gives us professional kid pilot Asuka to contrast Shinji, the epitome of Ordinary High-School Student spineless protagonists. Unfortunately all the piloting skill in the world won't save you. It will make you look like a Hot-Blooded badass in The Movie, though.
  • Akito Tenkawa of Martian Successor Nadesico, as well as his mentor Gai, do this, though the former is also known to use Bushwhacker-style tricks when the situation calls for it. Akatsuki & Ryoko are probably the best Aestivalis pilots in the series, though.
  • Code Geass has two main examples, Kururugi Suzaku for Britannia and Kallen Stadtfeld/Kozuki for the Black Knights. Several others can be considered above average such as some of the Knights of the Round, and some of the Black Knights, but none of them hold a candle to the above two.
    • Kallen Stadtfeld is a definite steamroller, which is required because her only useful weapon is close-range, which means that she has to be aggressive in order to survive. Even when she gets long-range attacks, she sticks to this in most cases. Suzaku himself has noted that even with Lelouch's geass command to "live" placed on him, he cannot beat Kallen, implying that she is arguably the best pilot in the Code Geass universe.
    • In an odd case of "Unstoppable force meets Immovable Object", Suzaku Kururugi uses the same strategy, even though he uses a well-rounded machine not nearly as suited to it as hers is. But Suzaku, being Suzaku, simply fails to capitalize on this in areas that his opponents lack... unless he's on a mission. This is particularly telling with any battle where he and Kallen clash, save when emotions get in the way.
    • While not exactly an exceptionally skilled pilot, Lelouch is a definite Sniper: while the Burai he used at the beginning is a mook with some cosmetic modifications, his later Knightmares - the Gawain and the Shinkiro - have brutal long-range firepower and next to no close-range fighting capability.
    • Oldrin Zevon from Oz the Reflection is an ace, but it is never clear which piloting style she prefers.
  • Noa Izumi from Patlabor. She's not really amazingly good, though, so much as always reliable, and in the ultimate Real Robot series that counts for a lot more. In one episode, her "forward" points out that her reaction time is worse than Ohta's, but her motions are more efficient (Ohta will start moving first, but Izumi will complete the action first).
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS has Nanoha in a high-ranking position in an alien air-force, the lack of planes not being an issue when you can fly without them. In fact, her official in-show nickname is "Ace of Aces". Her combat style is steamroller. It is worth noting that mages in Nanoha have strong shields, and mentally-guided projectiles help with aiming, so it's more a matter of "breaking through their shields with brute force" than "hoping they'll slip up and take a hit". The one ace Nanoha has never beaten in a square fight is Signum. She's the ultimate plugger, wearing down her enemies with a strong defense before unleashing her own Wave Motion Sword.
  • The various versions of Area 88 feature many aces among the mercenary pilots, including protagonist Shin Kazama, his friend Mickey Simon, and base commander Saki Vashtal. There are others, but they tended to die shortly after being introduced.
  • Strike Witches features various historical World War II aces... re-imagined as teenage girls. With animal ears. And no pants. In terms of tactics, most of them appear to be Bushwhackers or Steamrollers, while Sanya and Lynette are Snipers.
  • Overman King Gainer has three main ace pilots Gainer Sanga, Gain Bijou, and Cynthia Lane.
  • Lt. Fukai Rei from Sentou Yousei Yukikaze is an ace on his own right but his close relationship with his plane's AI makes him even more effective.
  • Both Klaus and his mother of Maiden Rose are flying aces, Klaus having at least 10 confirmed kills marked on his plane's tail in one flashback.
  • Similar to the Lyrical Nanoha example above, Mai-Otome has plenty of aces among the Otome. The two top combat aces, Haruka and Shizuru, are textbook examples of the Steamroller and Bushwhacker respectively.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: Simon the Digger. For that matter, Kamina, Viral, Lordgenome... One could make a case for almost any main character who gets in a Gunmen.
  • Noriko Takaya evolves into one nearer the end of the series. Kazumi Amano and Jung Frued are introduced that way.
  • In Magic Knight Rayearth, Eagle Vision is able to defeat all three Magic Knights / Mashin in his first sortie against them, due in part to his analysis of their weaknesses.
  • In Vision of Escaflowne the heroes are both Steamrollers by default. Warrior Prince Van and Knight In Shining Armour Allan both pilot Lightning Bruiser Guymelefs armed only with swords, forcing them to quickly close with the enemy and overwhelm them with skillful swordplay. Interesting, The Dragon Dilandua and his henchmen are clearly Bushwackers and Snipers, using stealth technology and advanced ranged weaponry to try to overwhelm the heroes rather than going toe to toe with them. Given the themes of honour and chivalry in the show, this contrast is more than a little thematically appropriate.
  • Lux Arcadia from Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle is one of the best pilots in the series thanks to his skill with nothing more than just a quack job Drag-Ride that easily wants to get shot down. His fighting style is a Plugger as he usually just turtles until the opponent gets tired out but that's because he's just using the fight as nothing more than a training exercise.
  • Shun Kuroeda in Tomica Hyper Rescue Drive Head Kidou Kyuukyuu Keisatsu. Specializing in sniping, he's a super-prodigy who can pilot a Drive Head despite not being "chosen" by the Drive Gear. And his skills are above-average too.
  • The Magnificent Kotobuki features a whole squadron of Ace Pilots, with over 200 kills between them all, in inferior planes.

As expected of a Sci-Fi War Drama of sorts, the Gundam franchise have a palette of these:
  • The original Mobile Suit Gundam, of course, had Amuro Ray and Char Aznable, as well as a succession of other Zeon aces such as Ramba Ral and the Black Tri-Stars.
    • Amuro is almost too much of an Ace Pilot for his own good; his general skill, coupled with his experience and emerging Newtype abilities, basically means that the RX-78-2 actually starts LIMITING him after a while. Only after it is given an upgrade- in the form of magnetic coating for the suit's joints, increasing reaction speed- does the suit truly match its pilot.
    • For all his acrobatics, Char mostly sticks to steamroller and sniper tactics. He initially suffers the same limitations as Amuro, but we don't see it easily as not only does he get to change suits regularly, he also customizes them thoroughly (a freedom Amuro doesn't always have).
    • Amuro embodies traits from all four ace types in one way or another. When he first starts, he's mostly a Steamroller, relying on the Gundam's superior firepower and armor to overwhelm his enemies. However, as Zeon manages to close the technology gap, Amuro began evolving into more of a Sniper, and especially a Bushwacker. His gambit of sacrificing the Gundam in the final battle of the original series to get an opening to take out Char's Zeong is probably the ultimate example of the Bushwacker mindset.
    • The Nu Gundam, with its fin funnels and assortment of weaponry, gives Amuro even more ways to attack his enemies, meaning he can barely be touched, much less beaten, and even Char is no longer a proper match for him. This version of Amuro is considered by fans to be the greatest Gundam Ace in the franchise, bar none.
  • Char's second coming, Full Frontal, is primarily also a steamroller who shows that his performance on the field isn't just because of the Sinanju, but he is also shown to be more adaptive, pulling Bushwhacker tricks with his utilization of the debris field and his own propellant tanks to throw off the Unicorn and the Londo Bell MS Team.
    • One minor character, Robin Diez, proves to be a bushwhacker, using his Byarlant Custom's mobility to quickly annihilates at least ten Zeon units invading Torrington base, at a point when the Zeon's had already decimated the base's defenses.
  • The side stories from the One Year War give us many more aces of the One Year War and beyond, with pilots like Shin Matsunaga, Johnny Ridden, Anavel Gato, Agar, Lydo Wolf and Ken Bederstadt who all get awesome names and back stories that tell of their skills. There are many more names, but props really just have to be given to the Zeon and EFSF's highest scoring aces, Breniff Oguz and Tenneth Jung, both of whom are snipers.
  • It's mentioned in OVA like Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory that a good deal of mobile suit aces were also fighter pilots before getting their hands on a suit. As for the main villain and the lead, Gato is clearly a sneaky bastard Bushwacker - he uses spare weapons as decoys, and loves to somersault over his opponent to attack them from behind. For his part, Kou Uraki tends to stay on the defensive, making him a plugger. Kou's saving grace here is his superb reaction speed - every time Gato takes a swipe at him, he comes up with a last-minute defensive manuver, or sacrifices part of his Gundam to deflect the blow. This pretty much nullifies Gato's attempts to catch him off guard, since he can always save himself at the last split second.
  • Zeta Gundam's main character Kamille is arguably not the best pilot, since he draws a lot of strength from his Newtype powers. Camille is a textbook Sniper, and often has to be bailed out by his teammates when he gets stuck in a duel and can't get away to launch surprise sniper attacks. Char/Quattro might be number one here. Also of note is Yazan Gable, a near-inhumanly skilled Badass Normal of a Bushwhacker who makes up for his lack of Newtype powers through low cunning and sheer brutality.
  • Gundam ZZ's main cast also relies on Newtype powers for the most part. It's hard to find a good pilot who isn't equipped with an overpowered suit or Newtype powers, but Elle Vianno, Judau's fourteen-year-old Unlucky Childhood Friend, manages to be an astonishingly capable Plugger despite piloting the oldest, clunkiest suits on the Argama. There's also villainous ace Rakan Dahkaran, who favours heavily armed and armoured Lightning Bruiser mobile suits for steamroller tactics. Judau Ashta, the protagonist, is also a steamroller whose tactics involve charging headlong into battle, trusting in his Psychic Powers, his piloting skills and his powerful suit (in that order) to carry the day.
  • From both the above series: Haman Karn. Though she spends most of her time politicking rather than fighting, when she does get in a mobile suit, she is dangerous. At the climax of Zeta she defeats Char overwhelmingly (though, to be fair, she had a far more advanced mobile suit) and remains a serious threat throughout ZZ, and even in her final battle, she was holding back roughly half her firepower, and she was still kicking the ZZ Gundam around like a toy for most of it. As a pilot, she combines elements of all four styles due to her unique expertise with fin funnels, allowing her to employ whatever strategy works best in a particular situation. Despite that, she's clearly a "brain" pilot, which is contrasted against Judau, the most muscle-oriented Gundam pilot in the franchise.
  • The 08th MS Team was something of a break from standard Gundam fare in this regard, as none of the protagonists were considered aces even if they were arguably skilled pilots (except for Terry Sanders Jr, who had exactly five kills), and the show goes out of its way to differentiate merely being good and being an actual ace. Though most of the eponymous team are experienced pilots by the end, Norris Packard, the only character to be termed an ace, is in a league of his own. Unfortunately, he’s an antagonist. A classic bushwhacker, he was able to take on the entire 08th MS team on his own and keep them on the ropes through creative use of equipment and terrain. While the team shoots him down in the end, he died with his objectives accomplished, and is implied to have let them kill him (the reasons are complicated).
  • MS IGLOO 2:
    • Herman Yandell displays Ace tank gunnery (and command), although his Ace status might be in question as he's mostly known around EFGF tank battalions as a Sole Survivor, but it counts as he's got the highest score amongst all of them and is the only one to ever return from fighting "The White Ogre" Elmer Snell, who's a Steamroller. Yandell's tactics put him as a Bushwhacker, as he's shown to take advantage of a previous battlefield's environment and its remains, make full use of the tank's extensive loadout and use his own allies to trick the enemy. Likely a necessary thing as pulling a Steamroller on a Zaku with a tank would get one killed.
    • Major Jean Luc Duvall from the first set of MS IGLOO movies was presented as Zimmad Corporation's ace who was sent to show the awesomeness of the Zudah. He certainly moves like an ace, of which kind I'm not sure, since he struck at the Ball and GM teams like a Steamroller, then ran and forced the GMs to chase him and burn out their own engines before blowing up himself.
  • Umon of Crossbone Gundam is notable for two reasons - firstly, he made ace in a single battle during the OYW by destroying six Doms. Secondly, he pulled this feat off while piloting a Ball.
  • Mobile Suit Victory Gundam: Usso Evin, despite being 13 years old, favored bushwacking tactics because he primarily took part in guerrilla warfare, wishes to avoid killing if possible, and because by that point (UC 153) weapons are so powerful that a single hit from a beam rifle is enough to destroy a mobile suit (provided it hits the torso containing the nuclear reactor and the cockpit). Nevertheless, he cemented his ace pilot status by using all other styles at least once and regularly defeating superior numbers thanks to the sheer tactical adaptability and creativity that he displayed (with ideas such as creating a small tsunami to use as a decoy).
  • Mobile Fighter G Gundam is filled with obvious elite pilots, though they are more Martial Artists from Hell than real pilots. (Still, most notable are probably Domon, Master Asia and Schwarz).
    • On the main G-Gundam cast, Domon and Chibodee are Steamrollers, Sai Saici and Schwarz had some Bushwhacker tendencies, George De Sand is a mix of Bushwhacker and Sniper due to having long-range weapons, and Argo is a Plugger, piloting a heavily armored Gundam that can take much damage.
    • While many of the Gundam Fighters are usually Steamrollers, Gentle Chapman of Neo England stands out as a Sniper. There is a good reason he won the Gundam Fight three times, and lost only to Master Asia, a mix of Steamroller and a Bushwhacker, because of the latter's piloting skills.
  • Gundam Wing:
    • The title probably has to be given to Rent-a-Char Zechs Merquise/Milliardo Peacecraft. He is able to pilot some of the most challenging mobile suits in the series and can stand toe-to-toe with Gundams in straight combat. He is able to bring main character Heero to a draw in duels as often as he loses to him (and keep in mind, the Gundam pilots had standing orders to kill all witnesses). He earned his title of The Lightning Count after crushing a terrorist opposition force in under a minute.
    • Lucrezia Noin is also incredibly notable in this category. She's a Plugger, through and through, yet is often almost outright stated to have been holding back whenever Zechs is around. Combined with the fact that she's always a tech level or three below the enemynote , and the fact that Noin always survives without being taken out of the fightnote ... and you have a pilot who might as well be the most skilled character in the damned show.
    • There's also Treize Khushrenada, who goes into battle near the end of the series with a straight copy of the by then hopelessly obsolete Tallgeese. He duels Wufei's upgraded Altron Gundam and more than holds his own, to the point that he only lost because he threw the fight. On the other hand, Wufei's Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy personality flat out prevented him from using his own Gundam to its full potential, acknowledging Treize's mech's limitations and refusing to use his Dragons. He insisted on fighting Treize on no less than equal ground.
    • From the Gundam Pilots themselves, we can deduce that Duo is a Bushwhacker (stealth attacks), Quatre is a Plugger (heavily armored Gundam that can take punishment), Wufei a Steamroller (melee-oriented Gundam that needs to get close to its enemies), Trowa a Sniper (long-range oriented). Heero freely mixed the four pilot archetypes but is mostly a Bushwhacker and a Sniper.
  • Gundam X's Big Bad duo, the Frost brothers, often serve the role as Pluggers. Garrod is mostly a steamroller, albeit an incredibly adaptable one. There's also Lancerow Dowell, the resident Char Clone.
  • Loran of ∀ Gundam is either a Bushwhacker or a Plugger depending on the situation. It's actually his lack of kills that best mark his being an Ace—while there are plenty of pilots who fall into the Technical Pacifist category, Loran manages to defeat his opponents without killing any of them until the series is almost over. Even then, he racks up a grand total of two kills over fifty episodes. He manages this in spite of having fallen into the cockpit of the most powerful mobile suit that humanity ever built (and as we see from its brief capture and from the performance of its counterpart, the Turn X, it is terrifying in the hands of someone less scrupulous than him).
  • Gundam SEED:
    • Kira Yamato is the best and most infamous pilot in the show and its sequel thanks to his in-universe creation as the Perfect Coordinator. He is a One-Man Army, who is capable of fighting armies and who rarely if ever loses. There is a reason the opposing side is usually terrified of him, other than his best friend and one of the only other Aces who can stand a chance against him, Athrun Zala. Kira starts off being a Bushwhacker in the Strike Gundam and its variable backpacks, but graduates into a Sniper after acquiring the Freedom Gundam and its OP auto-lockon Beam Spam. Let's not even get started with the Strike Freedom.
    • There's also Mu La Flaga, who holds his own against genetically-engineered Coordinators in Bigger Stick mobile suits even though he himself is an unmodified Natural piloting either made-of-cardboard mobile armors and fighter jets or hand-me-down mecha.
    • Mu's rival, Rau Le Creuset is a Sniper, who can take on more or less any member of the cast, including Kira. His final ride, ZGMF-X13A Providence, plays directly to his strengths, allowing him to strike from a distance with his Attack Drones.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny:
    • Shinn seems to use Bushwhacker tactics when using Force or Blast Impulse, and switches to Steamroller ones when using Sword Impulse or the eponymous Destiny G.
    • Athrun is a Plugger, which causes people to doubt his skill compared to Kira or Shinn (despite him having defeated both of them at various points) because Athrun can spend an entire battle finding an enemy Gundam and dueling with it, while Kira and Shinn start tearing apart grunts left and right. This makes Shinn in particular think Athrun is far inferior to him because Shinn's personal kill count is might higher, only for Athrun to soundly stomp him when they fight later on. Though in Destiny Athrun's skills do take a nosedive when he's fighting someone he's doesn't want to, such as Orb forces or Kira.
    • Not to be outdone, the Cosmic Era has its own share of side stories with aces to show off, such as Sven Cal Bayan, who seems to share Char's indirect steamroller manoeuvres and Edward "the Ripper" Harrelson, who was a very close combat focused steamroller, even before the Earth Alliance got mobile suits. One character of note here, is Shiho Hahnenfuss, the only MSV pilot to have had an appearance before the MSV were even made (first seen in episode 48 of SEED). The few appearances of her indicate that she's a steamroller and she's crossed swords at least once with EAF ace Rena Imelia.
  • Gundam 00:
    • The Four Gundam Meisters are actually neatly divided up into the four categories:
      • Setsuna F. Seiei is a decided Steamroller in the first season, what with even being willing to throw any of his seven blades at the enemy to get a chance at them. He's arguably mixed with a Bushwhacker in the second season, but still retains his 'suicidal attack' method.
      • Allelujah Haptism is a Bushwacker, generally relying on the Kyrios/Arios's superior speed to run circles around his enemies.
      • Lockon Stratos, as his name implies, is a dedicated Sniper.
      • Tieria Arde is very much a Plugger, with his preference for mecha loaded with BFGs that can take a considerable pounding and give it right back with interest.
    • Graham Aker is also an excellent example of a steamroller from the same show, as he is capable of taking one of the most screwed-over and patched-together units ever with only a single melee weapon, and wiping out a vastly superior opponent in his final fight of the season. Admittedly, he did this at the expense of his own unit, but hey. A win is a win.
    • Then there's the series' resident Ax-Crazy mercenary Ali Al-Saachez: A man who has been able to duke it out against Exia with a near-Ace Custom Enact, for starters. And this is before he hjiacked one of the Throne Gundams, and way before he Curb Stomped 00 and Seravee simultaneously with the Arche.
  • Gundam AGE:
    • Flit Asuno matures into one by the end of his arc, and he continues to be badass throughout the series, even as he ages.
    • We also have Woolf Enneacle in the first and second arcs, notable for making X-Rounders look like idiots despite not being one himself.
    • The preeminent example here is Asem "Super Pilot" Asuno. Like Woolf, not an X-Rounder, but by the end of his arc he is unquestionably the most skilled pilot in the series, only failing to beat his opponent when faced with a massive tech difference.
    • The antagonist side has the Gallete brothers, Desil and Zeheart. Desil is more of an Ax-Crazy steamroller, while Zeheart is one of the few pilots in the series who can fight Asemu one-on-one and not expect to be toasted.
  • Gundam: Reconguista in G:
    • Bellri Zenam is of the Bushwhacker type, using guile and capturing the G-Self with a worker mobile suit.
    • The resident Char Clone, Mask, is of the Steamroller variety, using his Mack Knife's firepower to overwhelm opponents.
    • Similarly, Klim is a Steamroller, but this tactic proved to be a problem when faced against...
    • Dellensen Samatar who managed to damage Klim's Ace Custom mobile suit with an older mobile suit.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans:
    • Mikazuki Augus for the Tekkadan side. He is usually a Steamroller in battle, never flinching back at attacking his enemy.
    • On the other side, McGillis Fareed is so far seen as a Plugger. He uses this tactic against his former team-mate Gaelio Bauduin despite the fact that the latter's mobile suit has better weapons.
      • In his last ever sortie (the penultimate episode of Season 2), he switches to a Steamroller style, disabling enemy MS (and one Halfbeaks-class ship) left and right.
    • By the time season 2 comes around, Vidar who is actually Gaelio Bauduin under a mask is a Plugger, using his Gundam's increased mobility which, thanks to his newly installed AV Type E system, he can take full advantage of without any of the drawbacks (and sub-arm-mounted shields later on) to deflect and evade any and all enemy attacks. Hell, he gave Mikazuki a hard time while fighting him. When the boy who destroyed the mobile armor Hashmal singlehandedly can barely land a good hit on you, yep. You're pretty much an ace.
  • in Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt, the two protagonists exemplify the Steamroller and the Sniper, respectively. Io Flemming is an adrenaline junkie, Jazz-obsessed Blood Knight whose job is to charge headfirst into a Zeon occupied debris field. Meanwhile, Daryl Lorenz is an amputee who starts the story in an obsolete and barely mobile Zaku II manning a mounted cannon, and yet stays calm as a cucumber as he plays soothing pop music.

    Asian Animation 
  • In Guardian Fairy Michel, Kim can pilot Honeybee in any situation and uses all of its modes to their finest capabilities.

    Comic Books 
  • The Blackhawks
  • Jet Dream
  • Marvel had The Phantom Eagle, a pilot who fought for the USA in World War I. Because he had relatives in Germany, he had to fly as a masked mystery man.
  • Jack Fury (the father of MARVEL badass Nick Fury) was a pilot in the war.
  • Examples from DC Comics war features:
    • Johnny Cloud, aka "The Navajo Ace" (a literal WWII ace)
    • Hans Von Hammer in Enemy Ace.
    • Steve Savage, the Balloon Buster in WWI.
    • In Hunter's Hellcats, Snake Oil worked for a time as a barnstormer in carnivals before the war. He is in charge of flying the planes the Hellcats frequently steal when escaping enemy territory.
  • French 1960s (and onward) Tanguy Et Laverdure had Michel Tanguy and Ernest Laverdure.
  • The Marvel version of G.I. Joe had several ace pilots on both sides. Ace (Definite steamroller, going straight at Wild Weasel's nose at the end of their first match, and winning by detonating weapons dangerously close to him in their most recent match), Slipstream, Wild Bill (For helicopters instead of fighter planes), and Maverick come to mind for the Joes. Wild Weasel (Bushwhacker/plugger, likely only a plugger due to the toughness of the Cobra Rattler) was one for Cobra.
  • Arrowsmith is about the title character's gradual growth into one in a fantasy version of World War One.
  • In Athena Voltaire, Athena is an aviatrix by profession, having been part of an air circus (which she got involved with thanks to her father, who knew people in the world of travelling entertainment thanks to being a stage magician). She then became a pilot for hire, which is behind most of her adventures. She's good enough to take out attacking fighters more than once without needing to shoot back.
  • Lord Richard Quackett from the Disney Ducks Comic Universe is implied to be one, having flown in World War I - as a balloon buster (see below in the Real Life section) and lived to tell.
  • In Chassis, anyone who competes in the Aero-run has to be an ace pilot by definition. This includes Chassis McBain.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Wonder Woman herself is usually an excellent pilot, she does have an invisible plane after all which is usually some kind of Amazonian fighter.
    • Steve Trevor is almost always an excellent pilot regardless of continuity. It's evidently an inherited trait as his mother was one as well, as a flight trainer and one of the Women Airforce Service Pilots during WWII.
    • Wonder Woman (1987): One of the galactic slaves who aids in Diana's slave revolt and joins the revolution used to be a pilot and quickly jumps back into the role. She's able to skillfully pilot all sorts of captured Sangtee Empire vessels. While neither she nor her race are ever named she resembles Green Lantern Xrill-Vrex
    • In addition to making Steve strictly an excelent pilot instead of him also being a spy The Legend of Wonder Woman (2016) adds another great pilot to the supporting cast; Lt. Lawrence Stone, one of the Tuskeegee Airmen.
  • Baron Eric von Emmelman was World War One German flying ace who was hot down over a Polish swamp in 1918. After rising as The Heap some 24 years later, some later stories had him take to the skies again despite being a near-mindless Muck Monster: the long buried instincts of Eric allowing him to fly fighter planes against Axis flyers.
  • Combat Kelly and his Deadly Dozen: In later issues, the Dozen acquired their own ace pilotin the form of Jack 'Mad Dog' Martin, the so-called 'scourge of the airways' until he supposedly lost his nerve.

    Comic Strips 

    Fan Works 
  • A Crown of Stars: Although she was -very- broken when the story starts out, Asuka was her squad's best pilot, with the greater number of kills. During a scene Ching praises her performance during the battle of the Geofront and when she and Shinji used a barely-moving prototype mecha in Germany to fight and defeat several fully-functional MP-Evas. Later she has a new Transforming Mecha and kicks butts with it.
  • Advice and Trust: Asuka is the best Humongous Mecha pilot in the base, having trained since she was four and devoting her life to it. As they bond, Shinji and Rei also improve their performance with their war machines.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfiction A Kingdom Divided, Rainbow Dash and Lightning Dust are those, of a bushwhacker kind. Flitter and Cloudchaser, on the other hand, employ a tactics of steamrolling an airship with 20 mm automatic cannons.
  • The Child of Love: Among the main characters, Asuka is the best Humongous Mecha pilot. She even fought and killed an Eldritch Abomination while pregnant. She fought that battle so hard her teammates were amazed.
  • Children of an Elder God: Shinji, Asuka and Rei are more skillful and more competent than their canon selves. In their first engagement, Shinji and Rei managed to kill an humongous spider-alike Eldritch Abomination had turned the whole city into a giant cobweb infested with billions of spiders. In her first engagement Asuka tore a Sea Monster to bloodied pieces when it got her angry. And every time they killed a new Eldritch Abomination they became more powerful.
  • Code Geass: Paladins of Voltron: Kallen arguably the best pilot of the team, rivaled only by Suzaku. As all of the Paladins pilot Empathic Weapons, though, what type they are is up for debate.
  • Doing It Right This Time: Asuka travels to Tokyo-3 early to help with Shinji and Rei's training. When Shinji asks if she is right with them getting kills while she remains benched, Asuka replies she is rationalizing that it will be thanks to her training. Shinji replies it is not a rationalization because she was the best pilot and he was just lucky.
  • Inthe Shadowof Gods: Joker gets to show of his skills by catching Shepard and the Chief in one of the Normandy's side doors as the pair flies through space.
  • Evangelion 303: The Children and their wingmen are young but accomplished pilots. The best in the base are Asuka -a steamroller- and Shinji -a bushwhacker- (and possibly Kaworu).
  • HERZ: Shinji, Asuka and Rei are all excellent Humongous Mecha pilots with more than one decade of experience, although Shinji is the only one still has a functional Eva, and he seldom sorties.
  • Last Child of Krypton: Asuka had prepared her whole life to pilot war mechas and fight giant alien monsters, spending twelve years of hard training and rigorous preparation. She was the best pilot in the base, but every time she sortied and her skill seemed to be insufficient, her fragile self-esteem deteriorated, which in turn made piloting her mecha harder. By the end she had become unable to pilot... but since she had gained super-powers for that point, she did not mind much.
  • Once More with Feeling: After returning to the past, Shinji's performance with his giant robot gets his co-workers impressed and shocked, since they did not expect he was so good. However he considers that Asuka is better pilot and fighter than he could never be, and when he meets for first time -again- he takes care of praising her skill, knowing her confidence is very fragile.
  • The One I Love Is...: Asuka trained very hard since she was three to be the best mecha pilot ever. However, her frequent defeats eroded her fragile confidence progressively until her mind snapped. However she still got to show how good she was when she ripped the MP-Evas apart.
  • Superwomen of Eva 2: Lone Heir of Krypton: Asuka was the best and most rigorously trained pilot in the squad, and she got a good number of kills under her belt. However, as the story progressed and her powers surfaced she got to choose between remaining a pilot or being a super-heroine full-time.
  • In Neon Genesis Evangelion: Genocide, Asuka was her squad's best pilot, even although she was constantly defeated. When another alien monster attacked the base in chapter 6, she was the only one capable of defeating it.
  • In Thousand Shinji, Asuka is not only her squad's best mecha pilot but also her world's master of physical combat. Her final battle against the MP-Evas is described in-story as "a hive mind of nine killing machines versus the perfect single warrior."
  • Landing Day: Veen and Garasso, who are part of Harbinger 2-6's striker force. Both easily outpace their fellow Strikers and take out several of the human fighters.
  • The Discworld of A.A. Pessimal sees the evolution of the Air Watch, from its beginnings in a couple of Feegle mounted on tamed birds, to incorporate Lancre-trained Witches with a passion for flight. Olga and Irena become the first two Air Witches in the Watch. As the need for pilots expands, and the Watch acquires a brace of Pegasus flying horses, more skills are learnt and with a greater number of Witches graduating from training in Lancre looking for jobs, the very best witch-pilots are recruited to what becomes, by degrees, an Air Force. Olga Romanoff finds herself being regarded as the best flying Witch in the world; at the latest point in the evolution of Ankh-Morpork's Air Force, she finds herself commanding the best part of sixty fliers and proficient in a bewildering variety of flying Devices. Part of her backstory involves fighting in the air over Lancre, during the Elven invasion described in The Shepherd's Crown, and leading her pilots in knocking down quite a lot of air-capable Elves on yarrow stalks, thus qualifying herself - and several other witch-pilots - as combat Aces. This tale is here. Olga boasts all four types in her command:
  • Strikers 89: Lt. Frank "Warhound" Bishop is an almost textbook example of a Steamroller, flying his aircraft incredibly aggressively.
  • Strikers 2016: Lt. Morgan Laroux-Bishop is a hybrid Bushwhacker/Sniper, relying on opening a fight with very large volleys of long-range air to air missiles, followed by exploiting the resulting confusion and panic to eliminate any surviving enemy aircraft.

    Films — Animation 
  • Hiccup from the How to Train Your Dragon series is a dragon rider example. It's notable that, unlike the other riders, Hiccup is just a much of a part of the flying processes as his dragon, Toothless, due to the prosthetic tailfin he made for him, that is controlled via left pedal.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The very first Oscar-winning film, Wings, has Jack, a World War I ace.
  • Both versions of The Dawn Patrol contain a number of them, both within the R.F.C. squadron and in its nemesis, the high-scoring German ace.
  • Another early film fighter ace is von Rauffenstein (played by Erich von Stroheim) in The Grand Illusion, although the dogfight in which he downs two of the film's protagonists is not shown.
  • For a more modern Hollywood's view of German fighter aces in World War One watch The Blue Max and Von Richthofen and Brown.
  • I Wanted Wings has three: Jeff, John, and Al.
  • Darling Lili features several World War I Ace Pilots, including the leading man Bill Larrabee, as well as the Red Baron himself.
  • Battle of Britain contains a number of aces who are expies of real-life pilots like Adolf Galland (who was hired as an advisor for the film), Werner Mölders and "Sailor" Malan.
  • Star Wars:
    • Han Solo flies around in what seems like a junky ship, hardly able to fly, and yet he manages to evade and confuse Imperial fleets, while wittily insulting C-3PO and flirting up the Princess. The Millennium Falcon is often referenced as one of the better in the galaxy: it looks like a scrap heap because Han believes functionality is more important than looks. But regardless of the upgrades, the fact that Han outflies fighters in a transport remains very impressive.
    • Luke Skywalker, who has a Death Star to his credit in his first time flying an X-wing.
    • Luke's father Anakin Skywalker, who was outflying professional fighter pilots by the time he was 9! Obi-Wan referred to him as "the best star-pilot in the galaxy". He only gets to show off his skills once in the original trilogy (as Darth Vader in the attack against the first Death Star), but shines more in the prequels.
      • Special mention goes to an the incident in Revenge of the Sith where Anakin pilots General Grievous's flagship to a crash landing on Coruscant. The film makes it look like a simple, if rather large crash. The novelization explains exactly how much work Anakin was doing to keep the ship from breaking up, including using the Force to open and close hatches to tweak its descent by millimeters. Keep in mind this is something the size of a Star Destroyer with no engines. It's justly considered his greatest feat of piloting.
    • Wedge Antilles one-ups Luke: He has two Death Stars on his plane. (Luke was doing something more important during the second one, but nonetheless.) Wedge's first silhouette is because he attacked the place and lived to tell about it, something that can only be claimed by two other people: Luke Skywalker and Keyan Farlander, both of whom are The Hero (the latter is the Featureless Protagonist of the X-Wing video games) and both of whom are also Force-sensitive. Wedge really does deserve some Badass Normal points here. Aside from the two Death Stars he also has so many fighter kills that his ground crew chief switched to painting on kill marks for whole squadrons instead of single ships because he ran out of room on the X-Wing's flank.
    • Lando Calrissian, the Millennium Falcon's previous owner, who also helped fight the second Death Star.
    • Poe Dameron in The Force Awakens is described in the opening crawl as one of the Resistance's best pilots. When he comes back with The Cavalry after being presumed dead, he Steamrollers ten TIE fighters in ten seconds, making him possibly the most literal "instant ace" in the franchise! Also, when sprung from the brig on a First Order Star Destroyer and asked if he can fly a TIE Fighter to get them off the ship, he responds that he can fly anything. He proves this right by having instantly figuring out the controls of a fighter he's never flown before, and even instructing Finn on how to operate the controls of the back-seat turret despite only getting a brief glimpse at those controls while climbing into the pilot seat.
    • In The Force Awakens Rey steals a starship that hasn't flown in decades (and was basically falling apart before it was abandoned) and absolutely embarrasses several TIE fighter pilots while navigating through a junkyard on Jakku. And she does it all without a copilot, which Han never managed. Justified in that she is later revealed to have latent Force powers.
    • Kylo Ren proves to be a pretty damn good pilot himself during the pursuit of the Resistance fleet in The Last Jedi. Pretty appropriate considering that he's related to three of the other aces on this page. He leads an assault on the Resistance's flagship and comes through unscathed despite the heavy crossfire. Kylo Ren takes out the Resistance's entire complement of x-wings with one missile, completely crippling their ability to fight back. Then, he gets a clear shot at the bridge of the flagship, and would have taken out the Resistance's entire senior leadership, if not for the Force and the fact that his mother was on the bridge.
  • The Right Stuff has gobs of them, not just the Mercury astronauts and Mr. Ace Pilot, Chuck Yeager himself, but peripheral characters such as Slick and Scott Crossfield. They were doing stuff back in the Fifties that would make Travis Pastrana wet his pants even today. Made even more awesome because it's all true.
    • Hell, Pancho Barnes, the lady who owns the bar that Yeager frequents, was doing that stuff back in the 1920s.
  • Top Gun may be the quintessential modern Ace Pilot film, featuring the eponymous advanced flight combat school that you don't even get into unless you're already "the best of the best". Iceman in particular is described as a Steamroller. To paraphrase Goose, he just stays on you and harries you until you make a mistake. Viper and Jester at one point collaborate as a Plugger and Bushwhacker/Sniper respectively, with Viper drawing Maverick off while Jester sneaks up on him from behind. Maverick doesn't really have any single style since he flies almost entirely on instinct, even stating at one point, "You think, you're dead."
  • Iron Eagle is all about this as well, as a Follow the Leader to Top Gun. Doug Masters is so good that he can outfly veteran pilots as a teenager with no formal training.
  • Lost in Space - Major Don West gets assigned to the expedition because of his piloting skills (and problems with authority). Bonus points because the General who assigns Major West to the expedition is none other than Mark Goddard... the original Major West from the TV series! (The movie features at least two other actors from the TV show. Angela Cartwright, who played Penny Robinson, was one of the reporters at the unveiling of the Jupiter 2. Nobody could have failed to notice June Lockheart, who played Maureen Robinson, as Principal Cartwright.)
  • Captain Steven Hiller in Independence Day, who managed to take out an alien fighter ship surrounded by an impenetrable force field using some tricky flying and his parachute, in a dogfight that destroyed the entire rest of his squadron. Later, he pilots another alien fighter ship in execution of a plan that would lead to the destruction of a mothership a quarter the size of the moon, and containing probably several thousand colony ships and the vast majority of the alien race.
  • Amber of Sucker Punch in the dream sequences. She not only pilots bombers, but she has also piloted a Mini-Mecha.
  • Rafe and Danny of Pearl Harbor.
  • Frantisek Slama and Karel Vojtisek in Dark Blue World, a Czech movie about Czech pilots serving in RAF during World War II.
  • Red Tails: Lightning and Easy are the best pilots in the squadron, but everyone is a fighter pilot.
  • Ripcord from G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, despite supposedly being U.S. Army Special Forces rather than a pilot (Handwaved early on by a mention of him scoring really high in a flight training program, and wanting all along to go into the Air Force). He's even openly referred to as "Ace" once or twice by other characters.
  • Wash from Serenity. But then, he is a leaf on the wind.
  • The Great Waldo Pepper: Most of the main characters, but the German ace Ernst Kessler is the one they all are trying to match.
  • Cooper in Interstellar. At first only an Informed Attribute, he later proves to be an Ace Pilot when docking onto the wildly rotating spaceship without losing consciousness and when pulling off the Spaceship Slingshot Stunt around the black hole.
  • Alex in The Last Starfighter is a variation. He is a gunner, not a pilot, on what is essentially an outer space weapons platform (which lacks the maneuverability of the typical Ace Pilot vehicle), but he basically fulfills this trope.
  • Test Pilot is about just that, a test pilot who pushes experimental planes to the limits of their performance and beyond. It's a dangerous job.
  • Only Angels Have Wings is about the pilots of a rinky-dink South American airline who routinely have to make hazardous trips over the Andes and back in rickety propeller planes. In the climactic action sequence one pilot manages to get his plane back over the pass and through a storm, after a bird comes crashing through the windshield and one engine and the nose catch on fire. He lands safely.
  • Always: Quite a few among the aerial firefighters, but Pete stands head and shoulders above the rest, with Ted eventually rising to a similar stature.
  • Dunkirk has Farrier shooting down several Stukas, including taking one out over the titular beach while gliding on no fuel (having spent it all on getting there from the UK). Unfortunately, his reward for his efforts is having no choice but to land in German-controlled territory, where he presumably spends the rest of the war as a POW.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Thor: The Dark World: Loki claims he is this and proves it by being able to safely steer through a small crevice in an Asgardian rockface at high speed which is just barely wide enough for the ship—a lesser pilot would've crashed.
    • Captain Marvel: Prior to getting her powers, Carol was a USAF pilot. She and her friend Maria are both skilled aviators, though Maria has more actual piloting to do once Carol discovers she can fly. Carol gets herself and Nick Fury safely to Louisiana just as she's reclaiming her memories, and Maria defeats the Kree soldier Minn-Erva in an Aerial Canyon Chase.
  • It's a Wonderful Life: George's brother Harry becomes one during the war, single-handedly shooting down two kamikaze that were about to ram a transport carrying troops. Had he not been there, as George finds out during the It's a Wonderful Plot sequence, every man on that transport would have died.

  • There were plenty of "air adventure" series for boys written as propaganda during WWII (and a few during the '30s). Dave Dawson, Red Randall, Lucky Terrell, and A Yank in the RAF were just a few.
  • There are plenty of examples in Armada. Most of the protagonists including Zack, RedJive, etc are Ace Pilots (technically, they are drone pilots). RedJive actually goes by the name of The Red Baron.
  • Bereth in The Arts of Dark and Light is the fantasy equivalent, a skilled hawk rider in Elebrion's air force. Much of her plot arc concerns military actions when her country is invaded.
  • Biggles largely helped to cement the trope's popularity during and after WWII, especially to a British audience.
  • The X-Wing Series in the Star Wars Legends delves quite deeply into the fighter pilots of the Rebels/New Republic, as led by Wedge Antilles. The first of the Wraith Squadron sub-series has the New Meat pilots ask Wes Janson and Wedge who was the best pilot they ever flew with: the two of them reminisce at length about skilled pilots who died due to bad luck, and others like Skywalker who had incredible skills but moved on to other things. Wes concludes that the only real way to objectively measure pilot skill is total kill count and survivability, making Wedge Antilles (the only pilot to survive both Death Star runs) the best pilot in history. Wedge, naturally, demurs. All sorts of pilot types, especially The Ace, make appearances, and there are discussions of the five-kill rule, becoming an "instant ace", rivalries between pilots, and many more. Demonstrations of styles include:
    • Wes Janson - Definite Sniper, though with better dogfighting skills than the typical Sniper. He's a sniper with any ranged weapon, in or out of the cockpit. Most of the time he doesn't even need sights; he can tell with his eyes alone when an enemy is in his line of fire, whether they're a TIE Fighter a kilometer away in a dogfight or Stormtroopers to both sides of him while dual-wielding blaster pilosts.
    • Wedge Antilles - Most likely Steamroller. Against most opponents, he's simply too good to be nailed down to a particular tactic, but when the enemy has him boxed up, he tends to get increasingly daring. Further, his save of Luke, in the original movie, is pure steamroller. He's noticed his own Plot Armor, and at the start of the series the kill silhouettes painted on his X-Wing include two Death Stars and an alarming number of other big ships. He's shot down so many starfighters by that point that a mechanic apologizes for not being able to fit them all into the space allotted, and had to render some in red, marking a squadron's worth of kills. Being Wedge, it makes no difference to him how his kills are grouped; he never brags about being one of the best pilots in history.

      He's shown to have a strange grasp on what his opponents are thinking and what they'll do - before they do it. It's powerful enough that he once calls it "precognitive", though immediately after that he chalks it up to pure pattern-recognition gained through endless hours of experience. Wedge also has the ability to think incredibly fast in high stress situations, taking the circumstances in and making a complicated decision in a second or less. This has nothing to do with The Force.
    • Wedge has a counterpart in his brother-in-law Worthy Opponent Baron Fel, who is the page image. Fel is skilled enough that it's canon he reestablishes the Empire...
    • Tycho Celchu - Probably Bushwhacker. His flying style is described by a Force-sensitive opponent (who is also a phenomenal pilot) as being incredibly complex, with him constantly thinking of ways to box in the enemy, anticipating his moves, and potential paths out of the line of fire and back to a position behind the enemy. Wedge once says, "You see a target coming in, you see him launch missiles, choose one vector for him and fire in that direction. One time in ten you'll choose right and you'll vape him. Unless you're Tycho Celchu, when it's one time in four."
    • Derek "Hobbie" Klivian is a pilot known for his remarkable skill at surviving, despite runs of bad luck; few of his tactics are seen, but his ability to keep alive, turning even lethal shots into hits that allow him to eject and recover, may be evidence of being of Plugger.
    • There are plenty of other pilots, but those illustrate the styles best. Another EU book, Death Star, makes it clear that Darth Vader doesn't really fit any category, except perhaps the double-secret probationary Sniperollbushplugwhacker. He was able to make the second best Imperial pilot, pictured above, who is good enough to make a decent protagonist pilot feel like a child who can barely walk trying to keep up with a champion distance runner, look like a clueless farmboy. Casually. Without using a targeting computer, which, the protagonist believes, is outright impossible. The Force—and to be completely accurate, thirty-plus years of experience and ageless cybernetic components—helps pilots, clearly. Another thing to take into account is just how much of Vader's body is cybernetic. Think about how a pilot experiences extreme movement of blood from the extremities to the brain during strenuous maneuvers. Now think about a pilot without extremities, whose body doesn't have the same necessities as a typical human. And give him the power of the force. In Death Star, after flying against Vader in practice the top TIE pilot on the station narrates that, if he ever ends up on the wrong end of Vader's guns for real, he'll just self-destruct his ship to save time.
    • Special mention goes to Kell Tainer, an ex-mechanic whose expertise stems from detailed knowledge of his fighter's systems and capabilities. On several occasions, he can perform on-the-fly analysis of damage to his or other pilots' fighters, can direct precision strikes on enemy capital ships, and push the technical limits of his ship as far as it'll go. His most noteworthy performance is attempting to ram an allied fighter out of a terminal dive; although he failed to save her, his sheer nerve and improvisation earned him awards.
    • Luke Skywalker gets another mention here. In total piloting ability, he's in the same neighborhood as his father, and in some books he's shown racking up an impressive count of enemy fighters. Part of this ability, of course, comes from being a Jedi, and his ability to use the Force to augment his senses pushes his piloting ability far beyond what his purely mundane skills would allow. Even before receiving Jedi training, however, he was a highly-skilled bush pilot.
    • In the X-Wing Series' ninth book, Starfighters of Adumar, the titular planet is a Planet of Hats where Ace Pilots are the elite of society. But since it's also a Proud Warrior Race which sees no point in simulator practice, and the attrition rates of new pilots are appalling, none of them are very skilled. Even those with obvious native talent rarely live long enough to become truly skilled. This means that when the New Republic and the Imperial Remnant send their best pilots alive there on a diplomatic function, said pilots are all but worshiped. And subject to endless attempts to kill them for their status.
    • Another special mention should go to Wedge's eldest daughter, Syal Antilles, who manages to fight Luke Skywalker to a standstill in a dogfight. Jedi Grand Master Luke Skywalker. That's a feat few, if anyone else, can put on their record.
  • The Bloody Red Baron by Kim Newman is a Massive Multiplayer Crossover set during World War I, that sees Biggles, Captain Midnight and The Shadow go up against the Red Baron, Hans von Hammer and Airboy's ally the Heap. Oh, and they're all vampires! Extra-superpowered vampires powered by Weird Science, even.
  • Simon Black, the Australian hero of the 1950's 'Boys Own'-type adventure series by Ivan Southall.
  • Benjamin St. John of the Descent novels is described as having the potential to be the "greatest pilot of the century", which he has not quite achieved. But by the second book, with all the insane wacky piloting he does, no one's doubting the truth behind that statement. Most of his success lies in the fact that he has a habit of taking ludicrous risks and somehow making it out alive (he once, without any propelling power left in his plane, glided into a Martian sandstorm to evade his pursuers).
  • In the Larry Bond novel Red Phoenix set during a Second Korean War, one USAF F-16 pilot gets over 13 North Korean aircraft before being shot down. He is rescued by South Korean Special Forces, survives the novel and gets the girl.
  • In The Sixth Battle, there is a discussion of ace pilots among the pilots of Langley, some who get the title themselves.
  • In Dragonriders of Pern, Anne McCaffrey said that she intentionally modeled the personalities of many of her dragonriders on the Ace Pilot archetype, and for very much the same reasons - they're engaged in an incredibly dangerous business where quick reflexes are critical for survival, said business is critical for the survival of humanity, and the risk of horrible death looms over every flight.
  • Jack Ryan has Lt. Colonel Dan Malloy, a hot hand at using his chopper to get Team Rainbow into place. He's promoted to flying the President around by the next book.
    • Recurring character Bronco Winters shows up in several books (specifically Clear and Present Danger, Executive Orders (though he isn't named), and The Bear And the Dragon). He makes ace (five kills) by Executive Orders, though because some of his kills are classified from a special operation, he's not "officially" an ace until The Bear and the Dragon, where, in his first engagement, he gets five confirmed kills and makes it look easy. He becomes a double ace (ten kills) in the very next engagement.
  • In Dan Abnett's Warhammer 40,000 novel Double Eagle, every single protagonist is one of these. Oskar Viltry is a rare bomber-flying version Though later he switches to fighters. The primary ace on the Chaos side is a Bushwhacker, who is ultimately defeated by tricking him into getting too focused on a single target (something repeatedly mentioned to be a cardinal sin in a large-scale dogfight). While the Chaos pilot was concentrating on trying to tag a skilled Plugger, a Sniper was able to draw a bead on him.
  • BattleTech has several Ace Pilots, the most famous of which being Kai Allard-Liao, Champion of Solaris, and Natasha Kerensky, The Black Widow.
  • Lacuna has Alex "Jazz" Aharoni, who comes aboard the ship as the best pilot the Israeli air-force could muster.
  • Mack Maloney's Wingman series features a number of Ace Pilots among the protagonists, but especially Hawk Hunter, the title character.
  • Mary in It Can't Happen Here. Galvanized by her husband's murder and her father's incarceration, she joins the Corpo Women's Flying Corps and trains as a bomber pilot. She is later assigned to escort District Commissioner Swan's plane to Washington. She crashes her plane into Swan's, killing Swan, his aides, and herself.
  • In The Flight Engineer the protagonist, Commander Peter Raeder, has seven confirmed kills to his name which makes him the first ace of the Commonwealth/Mollie conflict. Unfortunately, in the same engagement where he scored his last four kills he also lost his hand, ending his career as a fighter pilot.
  • The Wild Blue and the Grey is an alternate history novel in which the Confederate States of America participate in WWI on the Western Front (having been helped to independence by the French and British). The protagonist is a Cherokee pilot (Oklahoma is also independent and allied with the Confederacy) with the Confederate Air Corps named Amos Ninekiller; after he starts racking up kills the press starts hoping he'll actually score nine so that they can write a puntastic headline. William Faulkner is a pilot in the same unit.
  • Orion: First Encounter : Erin becomes this, despite still being a young student, via a computer that rewires her brain.
  • In The Black Gryphon, Skandranon is the finest flier among Urtho's gryphons. Skandranon is also called "The Black Gryphon" because he has his feathers painted black. He utilizes both Steamroller and Bushwhacker styles, and his M.O. tends to be "get in way over my head, then improvise my way through it."
  • Aeon 14 has protagonist Tanis Richards' Love Interest Joe Evans, a man talented with both Space Fighters and shuttles. It's mentioned that his Bio-Augmentation includes mods to let him withstand much higher g-forces than non-pilots can, Tanis included (she has to do some nanotechnology MacGyvering to survive a hard burn in book 2, but Joe is unaffected). A memorable scene in Outsystem has a merc attack against Intrepid get foiled by his fancy flying of a cargo shuttle. Late in the chase, mercs emerge from a hiding place aboard the shuttle and hold the heroes at gunpoint. Then there's a sudden jolt, the mercs' aim is thrown off, and Tanis and the Space Marines fill them with holes.
    Joe: Oops, did I clip that cargo net? Sorry about that.
  • In Banco, Papillon teams up with a pilot named Carotte. He served in World War II by transporting spies in and out of German-occupied France, sometimes landing his plane with no other visual aid than torches at night. He's a masterful pilot and completely reckless, not afraid of Buzzing the Deck for his amusement, able to land on sloped beaches with a wing trailing in the water, and finally sets down in the middle of a rough road when they're running low on fuel.
  • Star Carrier has Trevor "Sandy" Gray, who earns his nickname after ordering his squad to launch AMSO (also known as "sand") canisters, typically used as a missile shield, at near-c speeds at a large alien fleet that has invaded the Solar System. The result? A massive shotgun blast that cripples the alien armada, forcing it to retreat even before the capital ships arrive. This becomes a standard tactic in later books. Gray is also notable for coming from a "Prim" background, having grown up in the flooded ruins of Manhattan with no modern technology. Gray ends up not only surviving to become an admiral twenty years later, but also engages in negotiations with the Sh'daar Masters, which results in a ceasefire. It's actually not uncommon for Space Fighter pilots to have capital ship kills on their record, considering their standard armament includes dozens of powerful nuclear missiles, a KK cannon, and a particle beam projector. Standard fleet tactics also dictate launching several squadrons as soon as a fleet arrives to a hostile system, with the fighters accelerating to near-c speeds using gravitic propulsion and then launching nukes at those speeds. The impact of a nuke, traveling at relativistic speeds, usually destroys any ship.
  • In the Discworld, Nanny Ogg takes the Dwarf Casanunder on the pillion of her broomstick. Once he gets over the fact that a couple of thousand feet up with nothing underneath him is not a comfortable place for a Dwarf to be, he proves to be a very effective air-gunner with a crossbow as he and Nanny set about knocking flying Elves out of the sky. The Elven yarrow stalk may be faster and more manoevreable than a broomstick; but Nanny and Casanunder demonstrate that an airborne Elf is something of a Glass Cannon. She easily becomes an Ace that night over Lancre.
  • In Shadow of the Conqueror, Daylen is one of the few people skilled enough to fly skyships and similar vehicles with all safeties disengaged. Everyone who has every flown with him at the helm thinks of these maneuvers as absolutely crazy, but Daylen makes them work. As the inventor of the annihilator, he's brought aerial destruction like nothing his world has ever seen, as well.
  • Captain Bertholt, a minor character in The Outlaws, is the commander of the Bavarian battalion during the Kapp rebellion. He served as a fighter pilot in WW 1 with the ultimate score of 55 enemies shot down (this is the number mentioned in the book; in Real Life Bertholt had only 45 aerial victories).

    Live-Action TV 
  • Airwolf:
    • Stringfellow Hawke is a helicopter ace several times over in the eponymous chopper, including:
      1. 4 Cuban MiG-19s in one go.
      2. Two WWII bombers, on separate occasions, the latter being missile armed.
      3. Another version of his own chopper.
      4. An experimental attack chopper, known as "HX-1".
      5. A Soviet Kalmar/"Delta III" class SSBN.
      6. A lot of MD 500 look-a-likes.
    • Dominic Santini almost certainly got more than five in World War II.
  • Howlin' Mad Murdock from The A-Team was most certainly one of these: he flew a small jet, a jumbo jet, a biplane, many small passenger planes, a jetpack, and untold numbers of helicopters over the course of the series. Other characters (especially the colonels and general chasing after the A-Team) acknowledged Murdock's mad skills. Whether he's a Steamroller, a Bushwhacker, or a Plugger depends on the episode. Given his craziness, it makes (relative) sense for him to be all three.
  • Babylon 5:
    • Several of the main characters were portrayed as pilots of some skill. Sinclair, Sheridan, Ivanova, and Garibaldi all had Ace Custom starfuries featuring distinctive Nose Art. Marcus and Lennier both piloted White Stars through numerous battles. Londo Mollari bragged about being such a pilot, and on one occasion got to handily prove it in a shuttle dodging Anti-Air missiles like it was no big deal (he could be extra daring since he already knew how he would die and it wasn't for years). G'Kar led a patrol of Narn fighters to Z'Ha'Dum and was the only one to survive a battle with the Shadows. Even some of the villains qualified, such as Mr. Bester, who had his own elite telepath fighter squadron, the Black Omega Squadron, as his own pet project. Sinclair is openly stated to be one, having flown a starfury in various battles of the Earth-Minbari War and not only survived but killed a discrete number of Minbari fighters.
    • Executive Meddling forced J. Michael Straczynski to add one of these in the second season. He responded by having the pilot do nothing for almost the entire season and then killing him off at the season's end.
    • Meanwhile Ivanova got an Offscreen Moment of Awesome in this regard in "Believers", taking on something on the order of two dozen raider ships by herself in defense of a passenger liner. When she got back, she laughed it off to Garibaldi as an uneventful flight. Garibaldi remarked that her fighter would be in the shop for at least a week.
  • In Battlestar Galactica (2003):
    • Kara "Starbuck" Thrace was played straight as the best pilot in the Fleet, with the kill count and retina-detaching moves to match (including locking the wings of her viper with Apollo's to bring him home when it lost power - in the middle of a battle!). Also, plenty of pilots will claim to be able to fly anything with wings. But how many of them could climb inside something's dead body and fly its brain?
    • Starbuck may be the Fleet's Top Gun, but Lee "Apollo" Adama is second only to her, even pulling off a few Starbuck-worthy moves in his own right when an injury puts her out of commission.
    • There was also an episode dealing with the Cylon ace, Scar, who's a Bushwacker/Sniper using his wingman as a decoy. Scar had one big difference from every other Ace on this page: he couldn't die, at least not permanently. He was resurrected and reloaded into fighter bodies countless times, until he seemingly had too much experience to be beaten at all. Sure, he had countless kills, but he himself was killed a significant number of times - and every time he died, he got angrier and angrier. Starbuck gets him by using his own tactic against him, luring him into position so her wingman Kat can shoot him down, and this time he doesn't come back on account of their having destroyed the Resurrection Ship earlier in the season.
  • Most of Battlestar Galactica (1978) pilots were these: Apollo, Starbuck, Boomer, Jolly, Greenbean, Cree, Sheeba. If you weren't a Bridge Bunny, you were probably an ace pilot. Justified in that only the very best pilots survived the destruction of the fleet.
  • Greg "Pappy" Boyington from Black Sheep Squadron, both on the show and in real-life was an ace pilot in World War II, having shot down between two to six Japanese planes while he was with the Flying Tigers and 22 more with the Marine Corps.
  • In Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Buck is one of these, performing dogfighting with 25th century spaceships, as most pilots in this era rely completely upon their combat computers.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Tenth Doctor takes over control of piloting the Titanic as well as the Vinvocci's spacecraft, and pilots both through perilous environments (one while it was on a high-speed collision course, and the other through several waves of missiles), despite having no experience in either vehicle before.
    • "Victory of the Daleks": Danny Boy is one of three pilots that fly Spitfires into space to assault the Dalek ship, and is the only one to survive.
    • "The Tsuranga Conundrum": General Cicero became a decorated war hero with her piloting skills. And although it's been a while since she's flown anything, she still retains those skills.
  • In The Expanse, Alex is this for the Rocinante, the legitimately salvaged Martian gunship that the main heroes fly on. Alex is actually a fairly interesting case of playing with this trope: when piloting the Canterbury, a humble cargo transport ship, he seems like a damn good pilot, but he later explains that he was considered not good enough to make the grade in the Martian Navy and says that he was "a glorified bus driver" during his time in the Navy. The implication at the time is that he's something of a Normal Fish in a Tiny Pond; amazing by the standards of a civilian transport pilot, but substandard in the eyes of the extremely badass Martian Navy. While he does do some leveling up during the course of the series, including one period where he trains obsessionally to improve his performance, it soon becomes clear that he legitimately qualifies for this trope and the Martian military badly underestimated his skills and potential. This is also why Alex is particularly attached to both the Roci and the crew, as having the chance to actually pilot a Martian gunship after spending twenty years getting passed over in the navy is essentially a case of My Greatest Second Chance for him.
  • Hoban Washburne of Firefly is a genius pilot who is said to be able to "thread a needle" with a Firefly-class freighter—and the skills he's shown backs it up. Because Serenity is completely unarmed (except for its destructive engine exhaust), Wash is restricted to playing as a plugger, with emphasis on outmaneuvering and evading his opponents instead of defeating them in a straightforward confrontation.
  • From the Earth to the Moon: The astronauts, naturally. Wally Schirra stands out among them as The Ace.
  • Horrible Histories casts the WWII Royal Air Force as, um... a boy band.
  • Madam Secretary: We only know Henry McCord's flying record via exposition to his son for a school project because he's retired by the time of the series. In an unusual variant, rather than being a Navy or Air Force air-to-air ace, he flew F-16s on ground attack missions for the Marine Corps in Operation Desert Storm and, in his own words, "I always hit my target."
  • Mayday:
    • Subverted in the Tenerife disaster. See Real Life for more details.
    • A couple of other episodes on Eastern Flight 401 and United Flight 173 also show how having an ace pilot can be a liability instead of an asset. Flight crews are now trained to work together as a team, thanks to these accidents.
  • The Orville has Lieutenant Gordon Malloy, the best pilot in the fleet, who got blacklisted for showing off to a girl, resulting in lots of cargo being lost. He's also famous for drawing penises on lots of places. But he's also manages to pull off a trick known as "hugging the donkey", which allows the Orville to evade a powerful Krill destroyer and then position the ship to receive an out-of-control shuttle, while in the middle of said firefight. In a later episode, his piloting skills are the only thing that allow Captain Mercer's daring plan to work against a Krill battlecruiser. Lieutenant John LaMarr is the ship's navigator but is also a highly-rated pilot himself, second only to Malloy. He gets to show off his skills in one episode (without even spilling his soda). Subverted with Pria Lavesque in "Pria", who appears to be able to fly the ''Orville' out of a dark matter thicket, but later reveals that she was just faking. The actual flying was done by a 29th-century device she has previously attached in engineering.
    Lt. Gordon Malloy: This is something I call "hugging the donkey".
    Lt. John LaMarr: You can "hug the donkey"?
    Lt. Gordon Malloy: Dude, I've been "hugging the donkey" since flight school.
    • When doing a test fight against a Moclan ship in "Deflectors", Ed had to ask him to dumb it down - the point of the test was to see how the improved Deflector Shields stand up to fire but the Moclans couldn't get in a single hit until that point.
    • During the Battle for Earth, Gordon is shown piloting a Krill fighter and casually taking out Kaylon ships several times the fighter's size, while quoting Top Gun. And that's after pulling two seemingly impossible maneuvers in a shuttle: successfully launching off a ship in FTL (normally suicide) and then pumping all of the shuttle's power into a single powerful burst of speed that should have cracked the shuttle like an egg.
  • Agent Dave Pomeroy, from the TV Movie Panic in the City, is a reserve pilot for the Coast Guard, and can fly a helicopter from a suburban area out to the coast on short notice, a handy skill for disposing of a nuke.
  • The Alternate Rimmer in Red Dwarf is so much this trope that they even named him Ace. "Smoke me a Kipper...!"
  • Space: Above and Beyond: The series revolves around USMC Do Anything Soldiers whose ostensible specialty is as fighter pilots, but the 58th Squadron's commanding officer Colonel T.C. McQueen, the Sole Survivor of the previous top squadron in the Corps, stands head and shoulders above them despite a Career-Ending Injury to his inner ear. After an enemy ace nicknamed Chiggy von Richthofen after the historical Red Baron kills several squadrons' worth of pilots including a 58 Red Shirt, McQueen has the surgical implant keeping his inner ear working removed and personally goes out to blow Chiggy von Richthofen out of space.
  • Stargate:
    • Stargate Atlantis has John Sheppard as the quintessential Ace Pilot who can fly anything and isn't afraid of proving it. He is seen flying a helicopter, Puddlejumpers, F-302s and a Dart. And a hollow asteroid. And, once or twice, a city.
    • Jack O'Neill from Stargate SG-1 isn't so bad himself. Even though he transferred from fighters to special ops a long time ago, he hasn't lost his touch and gets to demonstrate it a couple times, most notably in the opening episode of Season 7 in which he needs to make a hyperspace microjump to place himself inside an enemy superweapon's shields, level out before crashing into the superweapon, and then take out the small thermal exhaust port, while dodging enemy fighters on the way in and out. He labels it "the wackiest plan we've ever come up with," then proceeds to execute it perfectly.
  • Star Trek
    • Star Trek: The Original Series has Mr. Sulu, who is such a hot pilot that he could jump into a 20th century helicopter and fly it expertly.
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
      • Commander Riker was stated (and briefly shown) to be the best pilot on board. (Mainly because he's the only pilot on board, or at least the only one capable of flying the Enterprise on manual. Riker's much-maligned joystick in Star Trek: Insurrection is actually a faster, more precise, and simpler way to control the ship than typing commands into the computer, or however the helmsman normally controls the ship).
      • Captain Picard is actually an extremely good pilot as well, although it's shown more subtly. He's been known to take the helm himself in situations where extremely precise maneuvering is needed to get the ship out of danger ("Booby Trap", "In Theory"), talked an inexperienced pilot through a difficult maneuver in order to avoid a crash ("Coming of Age"), and most notably developed the Picard Maneuver ("The Battle") which exploits the fact that a ship traveling at FTL velocities is invisible.
    • Star Trek: Voyager has Tom Paris, who had been flying since he was five years old. In his own words:
      Paris: Captain, asking me to give you a bumpy ride is like asking a virtuoso to sing off-key.
    • Star Trek: Enterprise:
      • Helmsmen Travis Mayweather is said to be an expert pilot having grown up on ships, although in the series, he does not get to use this talent on-screen much.
      • Captain Archer is also shown to be a highly skilled pilot, having been one of the test pilots for the early NX Program prototypes ("First Flight").
    • Star Trek: Discovery gives us Lieutenant Kayla Detmer, who's had a pilot license since she was 12. In a season 2 episode, she ends up doing a "donut" in a starship in order to get a dark matter asteroid to drag an asteroid stream away from a planet. Michael Burnham herself is shown to be pretty good in the previous episode, when she navigates a dangerous Asteroid Thicket in a tiny one-person pod.
      • Also Christopher Pike, who was a test pilot before he was captain.
    • Star Trek: Picard:
      • Cristóbal Rios demonstrates his topnotch starship piloting skills during his David vs. Goliath battle with Kar Kantar.
      • Before they meet, Rios praises Seven of Nine as a magnificent pilot to his Emergency Tactical Hologram while she helps him fight off Kar Kantar.
      • Narek gives Rios a run for his money in the piloting department when their ships engage in a Space Battle around Coppelius. Narek could very well have obliterated La Sirena if Seven of Nine hadn't arrived with the Artifact, but their vessels are incapacitated by the Orchids before a winner can be determined.
  • Jake Cutter from Tales of the Gold Monkey is one of the Plugger variety (considering his plane is an unarmed Grumman Goose flying boat, he's rather obligated to be). He is also a literal Ace, having five confirmed victories flying against the Japanese when he was with the Flying Tigers.

  • The novelty song "Snoopy vs. the Red Baron" actually has the facts correct (on the human half, anyway); Manfred von Richtofen really did rack up 80 well-documented confirmed victories (and another 20 or so suspected ones) before he was brought down.
  • Iron Maiden's "Aces High" takes the viewpoint of an RAF pilot during the Battle of Britain.
  • Music/Sabaton has a song that details some of Manfred von Richtofen's ventures, such as the aforementioned 80 kills or how he was first enlisted in the cavalry.



    Tabletop Games 
  • The Star Wars d20 roleplaying game has always had some kind of Ace prestige class. The revised d20 edition had two: the Ace Pilot and the Jedi Ace. And since the Ace Pilot had 10 levels and the Jedi Ace had 5, the really dedicated Force-sensitive pilot character could max out both.
  • Ace of Aces was a game which simulated combat between two World War I biplanes using only two matching books, each filled with views of the opponent, seen from the cockpit of the player's plane. The players selected their next move, exchanged numbers and ended up on a new page showing the result. If a player choose badly, this could be a shot of incoming machine-gun fire.
  • d20 Future's "Dogfighter" advanced class.
  • Aeronautica Imperialis has pilot skill ratings used to determine the chances of a pilot pulling off an impossible maneuver (e.g. flying at '0' altitude, normally a crash for a non-ace pilot, and not dying). 'Ace' pilots (those who have scored five kills) have a better pilot skill rating (generally 3+ or 2+ instead of 4+ or 3+) and thus a better chance of not dying. And then you have the Nightwing squadron of four planes that shot down sixty six hostile fighters in one engagement. Technically impossible under the AI rules because a Nightwing has enough ammo to down only nine fighters before being forced to disengage (and you'd have to be really lucky to pull it off anyway), but possible using the Apocalypse rules.
    • In the main 40K game, you can buy Ork Dakkajet planes an ace pilot, known as a "Flyboss", who has survived more dogfights than he can count (i.e. six or more). This increases his Ballistic Skill rating when shooting at aircraft and skimmers to a princely 3, the same as the average human infantryman.
    • In the Rogue Trader RPG setting two of the options for a Voidmaster's special ability are ace pilots (either for large starships or space fighters). The Flight Marshal alternate career rank allows a Voidmaster to become even more of an Ace Pilot. Oddly enough, rules for fighter combat (as opposed to deploying entire squadrons) weren't added until much later.
  • BattleTech also has pilot skill ratings along with gunnery skills for marksmanship. The piloting skill is used for everything from preventing your 'Mech from overheating to jumping on top of your opponent's mech and crushing it beneath you.
  • A trait on offer to players in Rocket Age. For a more specific example look to Herr Aldritch Switzer, Nazi test pilot and scientist.
  • In the Systems Malfunction tabletop game, the "Vehicle Expertise" and "Ace" perks allow characters to become ace pilots of the vehicle of their choice. In the LARP, the Pilot class allows characters to be ace pilots of Mini-Mecha and/or remote-piloted drones.
  • In X-Wing Miniatures, virtually every single ship has at least one named pilot with unique or at least uncommon talents and a Pilot Skill of 7 or above - people like Luke Skywalker, Wes Janson, Corran Horn, Juno Eclipse and Boba Fett, have Pilot Skill 8. The Aces among Aces, however, are those with Pilot Skill 9. There are only nine characters with Pilot Skill 9: Darth Vader (TIE Advanced), Soontir Fel (TIE Interceptor), "Quickdraw" (TIE/SF), Han Solo (YT-1300 - and has two cards with different talents), Wedge Antilles (X-Wing), one version of Poe Dameron (T-70 X-Wing), Talonbane Cobra (Kihraxz Fighter), Dengar (Jumpmaster 5000), and Fenn Rau (Protectorate Starfighter). Amusingly enough, since Pilot Skill is used for Action Initiative, this means that unless he's up against one of the others mentioned, Han is virtually guaranteed to shoot first. In terms of the piloting styles, jouster lists lean towards Steamrollers to rip enemy ships apart as quickly as possible, arc-dodger lists favour Bushwhackers to evade enemy lines of fire and slowly wear down enemies who can't actually respond, and turret lists like big, durable Pluggers who can soak up arc-dodgers' low damage output and don't really care much about fire arcs. Most of the above aces are Steamrollers who specialise in dealing lots of damage quickly (Vader, Poe, Quickdraw, Dengar, Talonbane Cobra and Wedge); Han is a Plugger with some useful tricks first and foremost, Soontir is a Bushwhacker, and Fenn Rau can either fight like a Bushwhacker or Steamroller depending on how you fly him (although Bushwhacking with him tends to keep the pressure off his Glass Cannon ship).
  • The Warbirds RPG is focused on the player characters being mercenary fighter pilots in a setting where that role is analogous to "rock star who shoots people". Bluntly, if you're not a skilled pilot, you're probably an NPC. In the Guild, anyone with ten dogfighting kills is a "dogfight ace", while ten strafing kills is a "strafing ace"; there are certain plane upgrades you can only take if you've reached this status, and some require you to have fifty in one category (an "Elite Ace") - you get free plane upgrades as your killcount rises, although if it gets shot down you need to start over or drop a lot of money on getting your kite back up to scratch.

    Video Games 
  • Jak from Jak and Daxter has vehicle skills that are top notch, and have been a core aspect of his character since [The Precursor Legacy.
  • The main protagonists from Sigma Star Saga are both Ace Pilots.
  • Advance Wars Eternal War:
    • Jonathan. Played with, in that he also gets good land units, at the cost of poor naval units and infantry.
    • Robyn. Taken to extremes in that she loves staring at the sky, and hates pollution. (Small irony then that jets are frankly awful for the environment. They don't run on captured sunbeams.)
  • The Wing Commander series always has you play an ace pilot, and furthermore, features a group of different aces that you will fly with during missions, each of which has different temperaments and tactics in battle. Some games even put personalized Aces on the enemy side, each of which can generally be described as conforming to one of the types above.
  • The heroes of the Gradius series are experienced Gradius pilots who tackle Bacterian forces with the Vic Viper series, such as James Burton and his descendant, David Burton, who pilots the Vixen series instead in Nemesis III. The Salamander OVA has a trio of Gradius military pilots named Dan, Eddie Evans, and Stephanie McBain that aid Latis' battle against the Salamander forces. Even Latis' prince, Lord British, is also this trope himself, as he also helps the heroes take on the Bacterians with his own fighter.
  • Super Robot Wars Original Generation:
    • The Aggressors were the founders of mecha combat, and are still some of the best mecha pilots in the game. Also The Federation ran the School, an experiment in turning children into ace pilots - the only four to survive were Ouka, Seolla, Arado, and Latooni, also some of the best pilots in the game (though you only get Ouka for one level). Also anyone with a last name that ends in -stein (Branstein, Garstein). Which makes Elzam (a Branstein and an Aggressor) wicked awesome.
    • There's also the ATX team in which during the first game Kyosuke, Excellen and Bullet are at the same level if not surpassing the Aggressors to the point where Sanger Zonvolt (another Aggressor and arguably most badass in the OG verse so far) believes they have a better chance of beating the aliens than HE does.
    • In fact nearly everyone on your team is an Ace Pilot either by insane skill (ATX, Aggressors, Axel, Irm and Ring), developed Telekinesis abilities (Ryusei, Aya, Kusuha and company) or by being the only pilots capable of operating unique and extremely powerful machines (Masaki, Lune, Kouta, Folka etc). Really the reason the OG group is so unbeatable is because they have nearly every Ace in the EFA in one group.
    • Also, in many of the Super Robot Wars games, once a pilot racks up 50 or more kills in a playthrough, they're given the status of "Ace", which gives various advantages depending on the game and character, ranging from slightly higher starting morale (Which is necessary for unleashing their most powerful attacks) to all manner of dodge and damage bonuses. Super Robot Wars W takes this even further with W (pronounced Double) Ace status upon reaching 100 kills, and gives an even more dramatic bonus. Notably, the pilots who make Ace the most easily tend to be of the Plugger archetype, via either improbable evasion skills or the ability to soak up ridiculous amounts of damage, because players can simply send them into the thick of the enemy and let them rack up kill after kill when the enemies unwisely try to attack them.
  • Asemu doesn't get Soul in Super Robot Wars BX but he gets the Super Pilot ability, which gives him a 20% damage boost.
    • While the usual standards for grabbing the ace bonuses apply, people consider Amuro to be the greatest pilot among X-Cross in-universe for Super Robot Wars X.
  • Project Sylpheed, Freespace, various Star Wars games, face it, you WILL be playing as an ace pilot in any space shooter. In Freespace, you're not awarded an Ace medal until you've scored sixty kills: if it were five, you could be an Ace after your first flight. Double- and Triple-Ace medals also exist for reaching 150 and 350 kills.
  • Ace Combat speaks for itself, with your main pilot shooting down hundreds of foes and destroying even more ground targets by the end of the game all on his own. You can be any type you want, depending on your plane and loadout. And in almost every game, you will have to face another top ace as the Final Boss.
  • Ace Combat Zero: Cipher (player) VS every enemy ace of the game and later, Pixy. The Belkan War introduced its own ace style classification based on a simple Karma Meter: the Knight Ace only kills the targets he is ordered to kill, sparing the neutral ones (civilian facilities, damaged enemy planes, etc.), even though that brings him little in terms of cash; the Mercenary Ace kills everything he can get his sights locked on if he'll get paid for it, combatant or not; and the Soldier Ace finds a compromise between his conscience and material needs. Gameplay-wise, the Mercenary gets to buy better planes early on but has to face tougher enemy aces, while the Knight fights less aggressive enemies and is praised by both his allies and his enemies . Some prime examples of Snipers would be Schnee Squadron, whose main tactics include electronic jamming and long-range Phoenix missiles. The Final Boss forces you to steamroll via Air Jousting because his plane's only weak points are the front air intakes.
  • Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown: Trigger (player) VS Mihaly Shilage. In an interesting take on the situation, while this is non-canon since the player can do what they want, Trigger mentally fits the steamroller archetype as subtle narration clues imply that he is rather gung-ho and eager to fight. Mihaly has both the skills and the plane to fit whatever archetype he needs to counter his current foe.
  • Vector Thrust, being heavily based on Ace Combat, draws similarly from the glamour and glory of aerial combat. Its AI is also designed to closely resemble ace archetypes in Skirmish Battles.
  • Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords:
    • The character Atton Rand seems to be the token "ace pilot" character, particularly in terms of personality. However, under his control, the ships you travel in during the game seem to crash an uncanny number of times... Kreia and Bao-dur both comment on this as the game goes on. According to Atton, the only reason the lot of you are still standing is because he is a good enough pilot to land a half-exploded shuttle instead of slamming it nose-first into a hill.
    • In the first game, being an excellent pilot is Carth Onasi's Informed Ability. He at least only crashed once, and it was more like a controlled emergency landing after one of the Hawk's engines is blown out by the Star Forge's defenses. Between that, and getting safely off Taris during an orbital bombardment, Carth's on-screen record is better than poor Atton's.
  • Likewise, you take on the role of an Ace Pilot in both the X-Wing and TIE Fighter games, and proceed to kill hundreds upon hundreds of government employees doin' their jobs/the good guys. You dick. In the latter game, you become so respected within the Empire's ranks that Darth Vader himself requests your help.
  • Eagle from the Advance Wars series, to the point that it's his entire personality. Days of Ruin gave us two: the revenge-driven Tasha and the Smug Snake Waylon.
  • The entire Star Fox Team, of course... except maybe Slippy and Krystal.
  • Freelancer is crawling with them. Trent (your character), unsurprisingly is one of the best, out of everybody in the game. Literally, considering the premise of this game.
  • In Ace Online (A.K.A. Air Rivals), players with enough PvP kills earn ranks and titles, one of which is "ace." All of the listed piloting styles exist in this game in some shape or form, although every player must utilize each of them for different situations and types of enemies.
  • Crimson Skies had the main character Nathan Zachary, and his crew of Ace Air Pirates.
    Nathan Zachary: When you hit the ground, tell'em Nathan Zachary sent ya!
  • In Infinite Space, you'll find a few recruitables with ace piloting skills, and you'll notice how they can turn the tide of a battle when used right. Most notable of these come in Act 2 (Namely Mihhaelo Luka and Volo Naturo), since in Act 1, only Gadina has the skill while Johano Sceptro and Brava Soneto only have some close stats.
  • Strangely, Ultima I, as part of the main plot, requires the player to launch into space and kill 20 enemy ships, thereby becoming a "Space Ace."
  • Mass Effect:
    • Jeff 'Joker' Moreau, although the player is almost never exposed to his competition. In the first game, he dives from orbit to drop an armoured vehicle on a landing strip 30 metres long and then pull up to escape back into orbit, while under continuous heavy fire, one one motion. The Normandy is not damaged. Oh, and the very minimum 'safe' landing zone to make a drop in, according to Alliance regulations? 100 metres. Joker is quite literally the best pilot in the Alliance. Notable in that his craft isn't a fighter like is common for the trope, but a 100+ meter frigate. And he still makes it do tricks that one would expect more from a fighter craft.
    Joker: It takes skill to bank in a vacuum. Don't think it doesn't.
    • Mass Effect 3 adds shuttle pilot Steve Cortez (who previously served as a fighter pilot in the Alliance Navy), who claims the UT-47A Kodiak flies like a brick, yet he still wins dogfights with Cerberus gunships flying one. In the Citadel DLC, a rogue mercenary gang steals the Normandy SR-2. While Shepard infiltrates the ship, Cortez has to prevent it from jumping to FTL by literally blocking it; repeatedly flying within a 30-degree cone of its line of travel will trip the jump safeties and keep the mercenaries from fleeing. It also exposes Cortez to the SR-2's formidable main weapons, so he has to continuously duck in and out of the line of fire, keeping up with the frigate's course changes and dodging skyscrapers. Cortez accomplishes this feat in a taxi.
  • Tails from Sonic the Hedgehog. Depending on continuity, he either built or upgraded the Tornado, but no matter what after Sonic meets him he becomes its designated pilot, outflying robots and aces decades his senior through sheer skill.
  • Any named character from Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X..
  • Air Force Delta Strike's entire cast of pilots by the end of the game.
  • In Company of Heroes, Tiger ace Hauptmann Josef Schultz is a clear expy of Michael Wittman. In a later expansion, the player can take charge of Schultz's tank to do battle with the British 7th Armoured Division in the real-life Battle of Villiers Bocage.
  • Becoming one is your goal in Red Baron. Along the way, you may encounter other historical aces from World War I, including the Red Baron himself.
  • The same goes for IL-2 Sturmovik. Most of the World War II aces are featured in the game, mainly via their Ace Custom planes.
  • The Ravens and LYNX from the Armored Core series.
  • Solatorobo has Chocolat, a thirteen-year-old girl who can fly circles around the best of them with a chunky airship that's more of a flying home base than a fighter plane.
  • The Player Character in the X-Universe games. Getting the highest combat rank, "X-TREME", requires you to destroy tens of thousands of ships, and kills by your Player Mooks don't count.
  • Jake Logan from Tachyon: The Fringe. He's established as already being an experienced mercenary fighter pilot at the start of the game, creating a minor quandary as to how to frame the tutorial. The solution ended up being to have Logan evaluating a newly hired piloting instructor.
  • In each of the Elite games from the original to Dangerous, the player is expected to become one by getting enough kills to reach the eponymous rank of Elite (and in Dangerous' case, doing it in exploration and trading as well).
  • If you want to get to the center of the Galaxy in No Man's Sky, you are expected to become one of these due to the enemies you fight becoming harder and harder to take down as you get closer to it.
  • Noble Six of Halo: Reach is implied to be one even by Spartan standards, since the very reason s/he was transferred to NOBLE Team in the first place was because of his/her impressive piloting exploits during a counter-insurgency op on Mamore. The player gets to put those skills to use in the space dogfight section of the level "Long Night of Solace".
  • Kerbal Space Program, though most decidedly of the non-military variety, does give us Jebediah and Valentina Kerman. Both of them, as well as any other Kerbalnaut with a "Pilot" profession, are highly-trained masters of guiding spacecraft throughout the cosmos. Jeb and Val in particular have a hidden "Bad S" flag set to true, meaning they never lose their cool, even when the craft is barrel rolling sideways into a cliff face at 300 miles an hour.
  • Titanfall and Titanfall 2: Pilots, who control the titular Titans, are deadly both in their Titans and on foot.
  • Several of the Sunrider’s Ryder pilots might qualify, but Asaga Oakrun is the only one explicitly referred to as an Ace Pilot in-universe. She’s the Steamroller type, piloting a Ryder that is basically nothing but guns and a pair of swords, and can easily take on anything that comes her way.
    • Icari Isidolde is the Bushwhacker type, as her Ryder is a Fragile Speedster that excels at taking out enemy Ryders but can’t do much against ships. She relies on her overwhelming speed and stealth capabilities to get in, cut her target to pieces, and get out before their friends can retaliate.
    • Sola di Ryuvia is the Sniper type, and she has an actual sniper rifle as her weapon of choice. She can only make one shot per turn, but that one shot is usually strong enough to take out most mechs and seriously damage enemy capital ships if not destroy them outright.
    • Kryska Stares is the Plugger type, as her primary role in battle is to provoke enemies into attacking her slow and heavily-armoured Ryder instead of the more fragile members of your team. And since said Ryder is armed with battleship-grade weapons, she can give just as good as she gets.
  • Rean Schwarzer from The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel grows into one. His specialty is both a Steamroller and a Plugger.
  • Trevor Philips of Grand Theft Auto V is the team's designated pilot, and he's really good at. Even being an amoral, insane drug addict in the present hasn't diminished his flying skills. He was actually on his way to being a military pilot before he flunked the psych exam.
  • Flying Red Barrel:
    • Marc, pilot of the titular Red Barrel
    • Peat, who pilots the Blue Crow;
    • Members of the Guild Sherry
    • Islay
    • Others.
  • COD 2 Spanish Civil War Mod: Joaquín García Morato, the top-scoring Nationalist fighter ace, makes a brief appearance during one of the Nationalist missions when he shoots down an enemy fighter.
  • Henry Stickmin Series: Charles, for all his bumbling, is a god when he's in the cockpit. In the Triple Threat plotline of Completing The Mission, he's able to stop his chopper mid-flight so the rotor blades don't chop up Henry and Ellie as they leave the sabotaged rocket and so they don't hit the inside of the chopper at terminal velocity. This is an incredibly difficult maneuver to pull off, requiring precise timing and exact calculations of the trajectory and speed of all involved parties. And he pulls it off without a hitch.

    Web Animation 
  • Four Seven Niner from Red vs. Blue is a Plugger, flying an apparently-unarmed Pelican. Has, to date on screen, done the following:
    • Hovered feet below and stood off from an oil rig-like structure.
    • Avoided fighter fire by flying through an ice canyon in one of the few justifiable examples of the latter trope.
    • Retrieved a package and two Freelancers in freefall. In a city. While the building they'd just jumped off of was collapsing next to them. UNDER FIRE.
    • Navigated an Asteroid Thicket while evading enemy fire, deploying a Freelancer team, and eventually saving the Mother of Invention from a tactical nuke while outracing the blast radius.
    • Performed a VTOL landing out of freefall from flight altitudes. In seconds. The maneuver was so delicate that she needed an AI to give her the countdown to deceleration burn with her reaction time factored in.

  • Sally Skunk from Silent Sillies is one in the "Mavericks and Mummies" story.
  • Broch Landry from the comic Good Ship Chronicles is perhaps the greatest pilot alive, but also dangerously unstable and prone to snap necks at the slightest provocation.
  • Many of the characters in Angels 2200 are the character type, if not specifically 5-enemy-pilots-killed aces.
  • The T-Girls of the Remix Comic Jet Dream. Harmony Thunder was (pre sex-change, as Jack Thunder) a literal Korean War ace.
  • The Hark! A Vagrant strip about Billy Bishop (see also Real Life, below).
  • Captain Anzollo in Second Empire. He successfully evacuated his Emperor and his troops from the heavily defended Skaro, and later on he became one of the titular Second Empire's best pilots, taking the fight to the massed forces over Ziragalen and blunting the offensive before it had a chance to start. Even knowing he was going to die, he used Explosive Overclocking on his own engines to successfully disable a couple of dozen pursuing ships.
  • Eddie in Jackie Rose. Despite his skittish nature, he can fly an airplane expertly to get through narrow crevices and even shot down three planes in a dogfight. This even goes all the way into his past when he managed to pull up a plane when it was nosediving when he was no more then 11 years at that point.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • SWAT Kats:
    • T-Bone and Razor seem to favor a mix of Steamroller and Plugger styles. An example of an Ace with a back-seater - T-Bone's the pilot, Razor's the gunner/weapons officer.
    • The Red Lynx, being a Red-plica Baron, is naturally one of these. Even as a ghost piloting an old broken down biplane he is able to hold his own against the SWAT Kats and their Turbokat. The SWAT Kats only manage to shoot him down thanks to the sheer technological advantage the Turbokat has over the biplane. So when he hijacks the Enforcers' prototype fighter jet...
  • Baloo from TaleSpin is a situational bushwhacker/plugger; in open sky, he bushwhacks like a mofo via ridiculous aerial acrobatics, in mountains and cities he plugs like a bastard through terrain manipulation, both supplemented by occasional usage of Abnormal Ammo — the only option available to him, as he takes on waves of fightercraft with a cargo plane. Unfortunately, he's about as business-savvy as the idiots who caused The Great Video Game Crash of 1983. Perpetual Poverty to the hilt, followed by a buy-out he wasn't even aware of until the new owner unlocked his door with her own set of keys.
  • Launchpad of DuckTales (Both the 1987 and 2017 versions) and Darkwing Duck fame is an excellent pilot capable of flying anything. Landing it, on the other hand... In the comics continuation of Darkwing Duck Launchpad even claimed he could fly the Ranger Plane in a Cutaway Gag. Gadget (not a bad pilot herself) disagreed (though she probably said it because Launchpad is too big for the Ranger Plane).
  • Red Max, from Wacky Races, at least as an Informed Ability - his name is derived from the Red Baron and from Blue Max. By style, one can argue he's a bushwhacker.
  • Zap Monogan from Dex Hamilton: Alien Entomologist.
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983): He-Man's mother, Queen Marlena, gets a chance to show off her skills in the original series episode The Rainbow Warrior.
  • In The Legend of Korra, both General Iroh and Asami Sato are shown to be amazing biplane pilots. Bonus points to General Iroh, who figures it out completely on the fly. Asami at least had six months to become an ace.
  • Ellie the Ace has the title character, Ellie, and The Rival, Danny.
  • Star Wars Rebels has Hera Syndulla, the captain of the Ghost. Racking up kills among TIEs is one thing, but she's also one of the very, very few people who have outflown Darth Vader. She also flew the prototype for the B-wing in both its initial test flight and its first combat mission.
  • Voltron: Legendary Defender is full of characters who are excellent pilots, but special mention is given to Keith, who was a pilot prodigy and top of the class at the Garrison before being expelled due to disciplinary issues.
  • The Deep: Kaiko Nekton is the underwater equivalent of this. Will says she is greatest sub pilot alive and all the evidence supports this. In "The Dark Orca", she discovers she can roll the Aronnax: something no one thought was possible.
  • Celery from Ready Jet Go!. She is great at piloting the flying saucer, avoiding asteroids and other threats with ease. In fact, Carrot mentions in "How Come the Moon Changes Shape?" that Celery has been voted the best driver (well, technically pilot, but the Bortronians tend to treat saucers like cars) in the Bortron system for three years in a row.

    Real Life 
Most of these are from the two World Wars, for obvious reasons. Some, however, are from the Arab–Israeli Conflict, the Korean War and The Vietnam War. We have yet to get an ace from the current century, as most current conflicts don't involve air combat. And the few that do involve air combat have been Curb Stomp Battles, where the winning side massively outnumbers the loser, leaving far too few kills to go around for anybody to become an ace.
  • The Trope Namer was Frenchman Céléstin Adolphe Pégoud, the second pilot to perform a loop before World War 1. After he shot down his fifth German plane he was lauded in the French papers as an "ace", which at the time was a general term for someone who had done something heroic or noteworthy. British and American journalists who saw this then generalized that a pilot qualified as an "ace" if he shot down five planes. Pégoud himself racked up another air victory before being shot down himself in 1915.
  • The most famous Real Life ace would be Rittmeister Baron Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron. He is the ace. In fact, he is usually referred to as the ''ace of aces'', since ace simply wasn't enough (the term "ace" in WWI was derived from anyone who shot down at least five aircraft. Richthofen was officially credited with 80, though he may have downed over 100). Richthofen was killed in 1918 (it's not definitively known who fired the kill shot, as it almost certainly came from the ground rather than from another plane). Considered a Worthy Opponent, the Allies gave him a full military funeral.

    Richthofen was a real-life example of the Sniper/Bushwhacker. According to his wingmen, his flying skills were not vastly superior, and he considered his aircraft merely a means to bring his guns to bear. At that point he would deploy his real skills: superb marksmanship and a gift for selecting targets which were not aware of him. At least, not until bullet holes appeared on their planes...

    He is perhaps best known for having taken the flamboyant step of painting his aircraft red, sacrificing the element of surprise for instant recognition from wing mates. Despite camouflage being the official rule for aircraft, it was permitted soon enough for other squadrons to have their machines painted with their own unique squadron colors.
  • Manfred's younger brother, Lothar von Richthofen was also an ace pilot with 40 kills. He survived the war, became a commercial pilot and died in a crash in 1922.
    • Du bist Schläger, kein Jäger! (You are a brawler, not hunter!) - Manfred's ("brain" pilot) opinion of his little brother Lothar ("muscle" pilot)
    • Their cousin Wolfram von Richthofen also gained the Ace title with "only" 8 kills (having joined the Air Service much later than his cousins, the war ended only 7 months after Wolfram's first combat flight) and later served in the Spanish Civil War and World War II, where he raised to the rank of Field Marshal and the command of an entire air fleet.
  • A very notable earlier one, of whom Richthofen was a pupil, was Oswald Boelcke.note  Boelcke's biggest claim to fame is the Dicta Boelcke, the first manual of air-to-air combat and still relevant today. He was a mixture of a Steamroller and a Bushwhacker, the Dicta holds that a pilot should first seek to achieve surprise or attack from a superior position, then get into combat and stick with it until the other guy is flaming wreckage on the ground. Boelcke was killed in action in 1916.
  • Ditto for Max Immelman, who was a contemporary of Boelcke, was the first pilot to be awarded the Pour le Mérite, Germany's highest medal, (which was nicknamed the "Blue Max" in his honor during WWI) and was an inspiration to Richthofen. And having an aerobatic maneuver (in fact one of the basic ones) named after you doesn't hurt opinions, either. Immelman too was killed in action in 1916.
  • The real life ace with the highest kill count was German Erich "Bubi" Hartmann, with 352 victories credited. He felt his biggest achievement was never losing a wingman. Hartmann was the classic Bushwacker. He once described his own flying style as "Dive - Attack - Run Away - Coffee Break". He also stated that only damage his plane ever suffered in air combat was from destroyed enemy planes' debris. This was in large part because of his style of fighting: He would fly as close as possible before firing. He was known to have said "If you wait until the other plane fills the entire window of the cockpit, you don't waste a single round."

    There is a theory that he was able to achieve such a killcount only due to amphetamines — which were invented by Germans specially for the military pilots — due to him being on the front only for a relatively short time, but having a very tight schedule. His logs show as many as eight sorties on a certain day. While each sortie in WWII rarely lasted longer than a couple of hours, those planes didn't really have "power steering", and air combat is one of the most tiring activities known to man. Two sorties per day was the par for the course, three were somewhat tiring, four were a chore, five a burden and six nigh impossible. Eight sorties are widely considered achievable only by using stimulants.

    Hartmann fought on the Eastern Front, and attributed his number of victories to the fact that he was often tasked with interception of air-to-ground assault planes flown by novice pilots who were taught to stay in close formations and rarely if ever took evasive actions. See also the Japanese training philosophy explained below as Soviets shared this attitide. However, he also shot down seven U.S.A.A.F. planes engaged in bombing raids on the Romanian oil fields of Ploesti.
  • Roald Dahl, better known as a bestselling author, was officially credited with 5 kills for England during World War II, but possibly scored more. One incident on his autobiography Going Solo describes an incident where he was cornered alone in his plane against six German bombers, with three crew each, making the encounter 1 vs. 18. With only three minutes before his engine overheated, Dahl managed to shoot down one of them and escape.
  • Hans-Ulrich Rudel, possibly the most deadly man in an aircraft. He got the Knight's Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds (an award ranked second only to the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross), the only man who got that. His claims include destroying over 600 vehicles, along with sinking a battleship, two cruisers, four armored trains, and 51 enemy aircraft.
  • Hermann Göring, head of the Luftwaffe in Nazi Germany was an ace in World War I, with 22 victories. By the end of the war, he was commander of Jagdgeschwader 1, famous as the Red Baron's "Flying Circus" (he was apparently an unpopular commander, due to being rather arrogant even by fighter pilot standards), and mustered out as a Captain with a number of medals, including the famous Pour le Mérite.
  • René Paul Fonck, Allied ace of aces in World War I and of all time. His 75 confirmed victories (just short of von Richthofen's count) exceeds the tallies of any allied WWI and WWII pilot, though he claimed up to 140. He was a combo Sniper/Bushwhacker, known to stalk a target before taking it down with a single short machine gun burst. In his own words: "I put my bullets into the target as if I placed them there by hand."
  • The Soviet Union had the only real life female aces: Olga Yamshchikova (17 confirmed kills), Lidia Litvyak (12 confirmed, up to 20 rumored) and Katya Budanova (11 confirmed, up to 14 rumored). Litvyak and Budanova were killed in action, while Yamshchikova went to become the USSR's first female jet test pilot.
  • Ilmari Juutilainen, 94 kills, the top Finnish Air Force ace, as well as the highest scoring non-German fighter pilot in WWII. 2 kills in a Fokker D.XXI, 36 kills in a Brewster Buffalo and 56 kills in a Messerschmitt Bf 109G. The first two were highly obsolete when he flew them, and the Brewster Buffalo was never known to be a good airplane at all...though the Finns managed to make them work. He served as an airplane mechanic as a conscript, and went to flight school only after his mandatory military service. He had extremely good both theoretical and practical knowledge on how airplanes behaved and what various plane models could and couldn't do. This was an asset in air combat as he could force the enemy to fight on his own terms. His best day was 30 June 1944 when he shot down six Soviet fighters on one flight. He flew actively after the war as well, and flew for the last time in the age of 83 (Finnish Air Force F-18 Hornet).
  • Douglas Bader. 22 aircraft, with two false legs. Badass is an understatement..
  • Alexei Maresyev, with 11 victories, also with two stump legs. Died on the day of a big memorial service in his honour just for spite.
  • One British Hurricane pilot, James MacLachan made ace, then lost an arm to enemy fire. With a false arm, he did it again.
  • Pekka Kokko, Finnish Air Force ace with 12 kills. Lost a leg in air combat and considered to be unfit for combat. What did the Finnish Air Force do? They made him a test pilot!
  • There are many cases, mostly from World War II, of pilots making "ace in a day" (5 or more on a single sortie). That, for the Americans, usually meant a Medal of Honor. The recordholder was David McCampbell, a USN pilot at Leyte Gulf; nine confirmed and three probable kills in single sortie, a record that remains unequaled. He, however, was already an ace twice over. His wingman, Lt. Roy Rushing, scored 7 victories during the same sortie.

    One explanation of this comes from a flaw in the Japanese training system: they used The Spartan Way to produce a small supply of excellent pilots while the Americans used Bigger Is Better to produce ten times as many ''good' pilots. The Americans also rotated their experienced pilots home to act as Veteran Instructors to new pilots to give them the benefit of their experience while the Japanese pilots remained in combat to be killed off or become shell shocked veterans. Thus when the second crop of Japanese pilots came out after Midway they were less trained than their American adversaries, and there were very few skilled veterans still alive to mentor them. When the third crop came out during the attrition-heavy Solomon Islands campaigns, they were almost completely untrained in comparison to the Americans they were facing.
  • Second highest scoring Finnish Air Force ace of WWII, Hans Wind (78 kills), scored "ace in a day" on five separate ocassions - and all within one month! The wingman of Captain Wind was SSgt Nils Katajainen (36 kills). On their last air battle 28 June 1944, they attacked twosome a Soviet air formation of 70+ aircraft and managed it to abandon the bombs. Amazingly, they both survived the feat.
  • Randy "Duke" Cunningham was an American ace during The Vietnam War (the "hitting the brakes" maneuver from Top Gun was based on one of his tactics), being involved in some of the most known dogfights of that war. He was elected to Congress in 1991. In 2005, he was found guilty of corruption and served eight years in jail.
  • Michael Wittmann was a German World War II tank ace, known as "The Black Baron". He got 138 tanks and 132 anti-tank guns, before being killed by the British Canadians either the British or the Canadians (it's disputed) in 1944.
    • It's important to note that German aces, especially Wittmann, had hilariously overinflated kill counts, as the Germans marked joint kills as full kills for all involved, marked probable kills as full kills, had a much lower barrier to recognize a kill (resulting in many German aces scoring more kills than there existed in the area according to Allied documents), and were typically assigned the kills for their entire unit in action.
  • Kurt Knispel, another German, holds the World War II record, with 168 confirmed tank kills.
  • Otto Carius, yet another German, who scored 202 vehicle kills (including some 60 softskins) on Tiger I, Tiger II and Jagdtiger. He was an pharmacist by his civilian profession. What did he do after WWII? Returned to home and set up a pharmacy store named Tiger-Apotheke!
  • LaFayette G. Poole, nicknamed "Wardaddy" by his crew, an American tanker serving in France, accounted for over a thousand Germans KIA and a further 250 POW, and 258 German AFV kills, 12 of them being tanks. Al this took place in a time period of 81 days in 3 different tanks during 1944. And these aren't just kills claimed. These are the kills confirmed by German operational archives.
  • Eddie Rickenbacker was the American Ace of Aces (most kills) in World War I. His autobiography is one long string of achievements, all told with a humble, "just the facts", style. Before the war, he had already gained fame as a race car driver. He spent the first part of his time in the Army as an airplane mechanic before managing to get a transfer into the Air Service.
  • Richard Bong got that title for World War II, getting 40 confirmed kills before it was decided to pull him from the front line. He went into flying test aircraft and died on 6 August 1945. The following day, he shared some front pages with the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Bong acknowledged that he was a poor shot, and compensated by aggressively charging in at full speed to shoot his targets up close. This resulted in frequently getting hit by debris from the fighters he destroyed, and one of his probable kills was a plane he collided with. His P-38 Lightning, being far more durable than any Japanese fighter, came out of this accidental ramming just fine.
    • It's generally accepted that Bong and his rival, Major Thomas Buchanan McGuire (38 confirmed kills), both shot down well over 40 aircraft, and that it's impossible to say who really had the higher score. McGuire died because he was so impatient to catch up with Bong that he took a significant risk during his last battle. About to be pulled from active service too (Bong had already returned to the States), he wanted to make the most of his final mission, so he didn't drop his external tanks before attacking a lone Japanese Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa fighter; this would enable him to continue on the flight and find more enemies to shoot down. Unfortunately, the Japanese pilot, Akira Sugimoto, was an ace himself with some 3,000 flight hours on Hayabusa, and McGuire, too low and encumbered by his drop tanks, crashed into the jungle.
  • Billy Bishop was the second-highest-scorer for the entire British Empire in World War I. Started out as a Steamroller, then changed to a Bushwacker, which he found to be more effective. The Red Baron considered him the most skilled opponent he ever faced and the Germans called him the Hell's Handmaiden for his lethal effectiveness. He was a crack shot, having been a great marksman as a boy in rural Ontario, and was renowned for his keen eyesight. On the other hand, he was a sub-average pilot, crash-landing numerous planes. His official count is 72 victories, just behind the Red Baron for the entire war, yet there has been lingering controversy about whether he simply made up the details of a solo raid that won him the Victoria Cross, the British Commonwealth's highest military award.
  • William Barker, another Canadian, is the most decorated serviceman in the history of the entire British Empire. Also won the Victoria Cross, after he was ambushed by 15 German planes, and fought them to a standstill, bringing down three of them before multiple wounds forced him to crash land directly behind Allied lines.
  • Raymond Collishaw, another Canadian, (must be something in the water, eh?) credited with shooting down 60 aircraft in the First World War, mostly flying triplanes. He supposedly gave away even more kills to bolster the confidence of new pilots. The new pilot would shakily fire a few rounds at a German aircraft, Collishaw would sweep in and fire a quick, efficient burst, and down goes the German. Back on the ground, Collishaw claps the newbie on the back and congratulates him on his first kill.
  • The highest British scorer, Edward "Mick" Mannock (73 kills), was also known for helping his wingmen in this way. He was said to have been blind in one eye, and is believed to have cheated on his pilot's exam. He was also known for his visceral hatred of Germans, and he vocally preferred to machine-gun downed pilots on the ground. He was killed in action in 1918.
  • One of the most dangerous roles in WWI air-fighting was to shoot down observation balloons. These were protected by antiaircraft batteries and fighter patrols, and were also explosive as they were filled with hydrogen. Several pilots on both sides, however, gained reputations as balloon-busters. The most famous were Willy Coppens of Belgium (37 kills, including 34 balloons) and Frank Luke of the United States (18 kills, including 14 balloons). All Luke's kills were scored in a mere eight days of flying. Sadly, Luke's very aggressive solo style of flying likely contributed to his death after he attempted to down three balloons in a single sortie before being shot down. His chain of command had been preparing to officially reprimand him for his hotheadedness and lack of team player mindset (pilots who fought alone usually died alone at the hands of pilots who fought together), but instead decided to recommend him for the Medal of Honor after his death.
  • Chuck Yeager - who was also the first man to break the sound barrier. Before he did that, his claim to fame was becoming an Ace in one day, and being among the first American pilots to shoot down a jet. He also scored two of his 11.5 official kills (he actually scored at least one more) by maneuvering two German pilots into a collision. Appropriately enough, his name is an Anglicized version of the German Jaeger ("Hunter"). As far as his style, he was a "steamroller" and a "sniper"; he could and did mix it up with the best of them, but also had almost superhuman eyesight that allowed him to hit at longer range with machine guns than most pilots could with cannons. The latter skill was how he took down a jet in his prop-driven P-51.
    • Like Ilmari Juutilainen did, Charles Yeager still flies actively P-51 Mustang in air shows (in his 90s), as does his WWII squadronmate Clarence "Bud" Anderson, a 16 victory ace. They often fly together in formation.
  • While we are on the subject of test pilots, Royal Navy Captain Eric "Winkle" Brown, is considered by many to be the greatest test pilot who ever lived. The first man to intentionally land a jet on an aircraft carrier, he logged 2,407 arrested carrier landings and flew 487 different types of aircraft, both records unlikely to ever be exceeded. He is one of the few pilots to fly every significant combat aircraft fielded by all combatants in WWII, Axis and Allied, including all of the operational German jets, and was the only allied test pilot to fly the practically suicidal Messerschmitt Me 163 rocket fighter under power. He even taught himself how to fly a helicopter with nothing more than a pilot's manual and a stiff drink when he was ordered to ferry one of the the Royal Aircraft Establishment's first Sikorsky R 4 B Hoverflys to Farborough. And to top it all off he wrote it all up in several books and dozens of magazine articles.
  • Hanna Reitsch, "Die Hanna", could also qualify. She was the official test pilot of the Third Reich, and after the WWII she was very active on soaring, setting many world records. It is claimed only her gender prevented her becoming a "real" WWII fighter ace. Hanna Reitsch and Eric Brown knew each other well - they both had been introduced to aviation by WWI ace Ernst Udet.
  • James Jabara, the first man to become a "jet ace", getting a total of fifteen kills in the Korean War to add to his one-and-a-half from World War II. Numbers five and six, of two MiG-15s were done with one drop tank stuck on his aircraft. He signed up for a tour in Vietnam in 1966, but was killed in a car crash before deploying.
  • Saburo Sakai, the highest-scoring surviving ace of the Japanese Navy, had a career filled with moments that make him worthy of this trope. One was his 800-mile flight, in a damaged plane, a bullet hole through his head note , which blinded one eye and paralyzed half of his body. Another was surviving a dogfight with sixteen American planes, better than his own, without a single bullet in his aircraft. And a third was the time a terrified enemy pilot bailed out before Sakai had even fired a shot. During that famed flight of survival, he was near to passing out several times, so he took to intentionally aggravating the pain in his wounds to jolt himself wider awake. Upon arriving at his base, he insisted on reporting to his superior officer before getting medical attention. After the war, Sakai became a devout pacifist, swearing that he would never kill anything again, not even an insect. In his autobiography he claimed his greatest achievement was not shooting down a Dutch airliner, even though it would have been an easy kill, because he saw women and children on board.
  • Otto Kretschmer was a German WWII U-boat ace who sank 47 ships for a total of 274,333 tons before being captured by the British in March 1941 in an engagement that led to the death of Joachim Schepke, another ace. This was the most tonnage sunk by any U-Boat commander even though Kretchmer missed out on a significant portion of the Battle of the Atlantic. He survived the war.
  • Günther Prien, another U-Boat ace, who was killed in 1941 attacking a convoy a week before Kretschmer's capture. Before that in 1939, he managed to get publicly praised by Winston Churchill after sneaking into the Royal Navy base at Scapa Flow, sinking a battleship and getting back out before the British worked out what was going on. His closest counterpart in Royal Navy would have been Lieutenant Max Horton, who navigated his submarine to Constantinople harbour to sink a Ottoman Turkish battleship anchored there in WWI. He was promoted to Admiral in WWII.
  • Otto Hersing commanded U 21, which on 5 September 1914 became the first German submarine to sink an enemy warship (the cruiser HMS Pathfinder). He went on to sink two British battleships, HMS Triumph and HMS Majestic, in the Dardanelles in 1916.
  • Otto Weddigen, captain of U 9, sank three British armoured cruisers in 75 minutes on 22 September 1914. He went on to sink another one on 24 October, but died on 18 March 1915 when U 29 was sunk by being rammed by the battleship HMS Dreadnought.
  • The submarine captain credited with sinking the largest enemy tonnage ever was Lothar von Arnauld de la Périère, scion of a Huguenot noble family driven from France by Louis XIV. During World War 1 he sank 194 allied ships totalling 454,000 tons. He was known for taking care to do his best to stop ships before sinking them in order to allow the crews to get into their lifeboats. The highest number of ships sunk was credited to Otto Steinbrink, but his 202 sinkings "only" totalled 232,000 tons.
  • David Wanklyn of HM Submarine Upholder won the VC in the Mediterranean. Credited with 140,000 tons, he was the highest (confirmed) scorer on the Allied side.
  • In the Pacific, USS Wahoo was commanded by "Mush" Morton. Known for his incredible aggression, he was the first sub commander to successfully sink a destroyer with a "down-the-throat" shot. Three of his officers went on to become successful skippers of their own, including Dick O'Kane.
  • Dick O'Kane of USS Tang won the Medal of Honor for his last patrol — by ripping apart a Japanese convoy in a surface night attack, long after even Japanese escorts started carrying radar and making surface attacks incredibly hazardous. While Tang went down in that attack, she was sunk by her own torpedo — otherwise she would have escaped scot-free.
  • Commander Jimmy Launders of the HMS Venturer holds the honorable distinction of being the first and only man ever to sink an enemy submarine while both his and the enemy's ship were submerged. Off the course of Norway on February 9th 1945, the Venturer detected U-864, which was known to have jet engines and V-2 parts destined for Japan onboard. A new vessel, U-864 was equipped with a snorkel allowing it to run submerged - a new feat for a submarine of the period. Realizing that the enemy would not surface and thus present him an easy target, Launders and his crew proceeded to do what was thought to be impossible: Mentally calculate a firing solution in four dimensions. Even with their almost impossible math skills, they still had to estimate the submarine's depth and make a Batman Gambit about its evasive maneuvres. This they did, firing half their torpedoes at the German sub. U-864 managed to evade three, but the fourth punctured its pressure hull and imploded it. Had she reached Japan, WWII may have been significantly longer.
  • Luigi Rizzo, also known as The Sinker, was the closest thing Italian MAS (a speedboat with two torpedoes strapped on) Ace. Closest thing because he only sank two ships... Who just happened to be the coastal defence ship SMS Wien, that was being hunted down by the Italian Navy due the damage she was wrecking and was sank while in the supposed safety of Trieste's harbour, and the Austro-Hungarian flagship SMS Szent István, single-handedly ruining the Austro-Hungarian Navy final sortie. And the latter wasn't even on purpose: he was returning to his base after an uneventful patrol when he stumbled on the Szent István and her squadron (consisting of another battleship, a destroyer and six torpedo boats) sailing to join the rest of the Austro-Hungarian battleship fleet for a desperate attack on the Otranto Barrage, so he decided to fire torpedoes before running home to warn about the impending attack, sinking the flagship without the squadron realizing what had hit them and convincing the commander-in-chief Horty (with flag on the other flagship Viribus Unitis leading another squadron) the Italians were waiting for him. Rizzo also took part in the Bakar Mockery, a raid in a supposedly impenetrable harbor 80 km in a sheltered waterway named for the raiders leaving behind bottles containing mocking messages of challenge (to try and lure the Austro-Hungarians into an ambush), and the only reason he didn't sink anything is that, after the Wien, the admiralty had deployed torpedo nets against the protests of the ship captains, resulting in his torpedoes being blocked.
  • Though it's not often remembered in the West (due to certain political disagreements in the intervening time) the highest-scoring Allied ace of World War II was in fact the Russian Ivan Kozhedub with 62 kills. In Soviet times there was a (officially suppressed, as the party line was that Soviet advisors didn't actually take part in combat) rumor that Kozhedub, despite the official orders to the contrary, actually flew combat missions in the Korean War, where he was a military advisor, and had another five victories there, becoming one of the very few two-war aces. It couldn't really be confirmed, though.
  • It's widely believed that Kozhedub and the second best Allied ace of WWII, Alexander Pokryshkin (59 kills), have much higher real kill counts due to the way Soviet scoring system worked. Soviet pilots, ironically for a socialist country, received significant money bonuses for their victories, so to fight overclaiming and thus overspending, the confirmation rules were intentionally very strict, requiring, for example, the confirmation by the ground team, which automatically excluded any kills made behind the enemy lines, even if witnessed by other pilots. Pokryshkin also reportedly had many of his early kills not registered due to his bad relations with his superior officer.note  Pokryshkin also had the habit of "giving out" his victories to his wingmen and other younger pilots in his regiment in later years of WWII, as attested in their memoirs. It's thought that his real kill count is somewhere in the vicinity of ~120 victories.
  • Giora Epstein. With a meager (compared to WWII aces) 17 confirmed kills holds the record for shot down jet planes and is the top ranking post-WWII ace. There is an old story about Giora being a part of the group escorting a certain United States senator / former fighter pilot around Israel. After a tour of the IAF museum the senator spent some time describing every single one of his 5 confirmed kills in detail before asking Giora himself whether he had anything to boast.
  • John Thach is more a thinking ace pilot as a tactician, with only 8 air-combat kills, but who in World War II invented The "Thach Weave" which allowed US pilots to fight the technically superior Japanese Zeroes, even frustrating Saburo Sakai, and later the Big Blue Blanket that was an effective defense against the feared Kamikaze suicide attacks.
  • Frank G. Tallman, the legendary Hollywood stunt pilot. He may have never flown in combat but no one can deny that he was one of the greatest ace pilots who ever lived. Amongst other things he flew a Beechcraft 18 through a steel framed billboard at 200 MPH with less than 24 inches of clearance for It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and landed a Standard J1 biplane on two-inch caster wheels for The Great Waldo Pepper. Tallman did things with real airplanes that no one would dare do outside of CGI nowadays and his book Flying The Old Planes is considered a classic of aviation literature. Ironically, he died in a preventable accident, flying at low altitude in bad weather.
  • Robin Olds wins the award for professional longevity first gaining 12 victories in World War 2 flying P-38s and P-51's in the European Theatre and then 20 years later he downed an additional 4 MiG's over Vietnam flying the F-4 Phantom. He retired in 1972 as a Badass General and during his Vietnam years he was known for an extravagantly waxed (and decidedly non-regulation) handlebar mustache. Indeed, to this day, American airmen honor General Olds' epic badassery by growing mustaches during Mustache March. Also, he has a fighter wing named in his honor: The 8th Fighter Wing, aka "The Wolfpack", from a Rousing Speech he gave before the battlenote  where the wing, under his command, ambushed a dozen of the NVAF's newest MiG-21s and shot down seven of them... nearly half of North Vietnam's entire inventory of the advanced fighters. With no American casualties.

    Olds is on the record that once he scored his 4th kill in Vietnam, he deliberately avoided taking a 5th MiG because he was informed they'd drag him out of combat and put him on publicity tours once he became a two-war ace. He also missed out on the Korean War despite constant lobbying for a transfer to a combat squadron (any combat squadron)note . So if things had gone a little differently, it's very possible that Olds could have become the only three-war ace.
  • Though not an aerial ace, scoring no recorded kills on aircraft, Major Charles Carpenter is still regarded as both a highly skilled pilot of the ultralight L-4 Grasshopper scout plane and a complete lunatic known as "The Mad Major." The reason for this was due to his frustration at not being able to fight the Germans directly... whereupon he had bazooka tubes mounted to his normally unarmed scout plane and began hunting German armored vehicles. And succeeding. Major Carpenter is officially credited with at least six armored car and Panzer kills, though unofficially his unit believed he'd knocked out several times that amount, included at least one operational kill against The Dreaded Tiger tank. Bazookas had an effective range of about 250 yards and Carpenter had no means by which to aim them, meaning that he had to get dangerously close to take a shot, eyeball most of his shots without even the courtesy of iron sights, then pull up and away before he embedded himself in the ground at high speed, making him one of the most unconventional and terrifying tankbusters known to man. And he did this all in 1944 in Europe, meaning he didn't even have a year to make a name for himself committing this mayhem. He lived to survive the war and return to being a history teacher.
  • Nguyen Van Coc, highest scoring ace of The Vietnam War. There were sixteen Vietnamese aces and two American onesnote .
  • Before the production of You Only Live Twice, the James Bond producers, as well as the film's director and some crew members visited Japan to scout for locations. Director Lewis Gilbert got terrified when the helicopter pilot said "Me kamikaze pilot!". But the man's flying was good enough for him to be hired by the film's production. And when two helicopters had a small on-air collision (which severed the foot of a cameraman), the kamikaze managed to land the damaged chopper on a really irregular terrain! (the film also features a lesser example in K.H. Wallis, the inventor of Little Nellie who did some truly risky landing-takeoffs piloting it)
  • Richard Candelaria, an American World War II pilot who happened to fly a P-51D Mustang on April 7, 1945. He gets separated from his squadron and forms up on the bombers they were to be escorting ahead of the rest of his squadron just in time to fight off 15 Luftwaffe in Bf 109 fighters, including one German ace, and two more in Me 262 jet fighters alone. This man defeated the jets, possibly shooting down one, shot down the German ace in a one-on-one dogfight, and took out three other planes before the rest of his squadron arrived on scene, at which point the rest of the Germans bugged out. And you, too, can witness his feat thanks to modern science and an interview with the man himself. [1] His tale starts at 8:00 and continues into part 4 and 5. This sounds very like the final mission of the flight simulator Blazing Angels, suggesting they took his tale and made it into a video game.
  • Louis E. Curdes was one of the few pilots (see below) to shoot down planes from four powers in World War II. In the Mediterranean, he shot down seven German planes and one Italian plane before being shot down and taken prisoner. He escaped and evaded capture for eight months before making it to Allied lines. He was later transferred to the Pacific where he shot down a Japanese plane (One of only three pilots to shoot down planes from all three Axis powers.). THEN he shot down an American plane which was about to land in Japanese territory, forcing it to ditch. He is the only American pilot to earn a medal for shooting down an American plane. To top it off, his future wife was on that plane. [2]

    Saburo Sakai and probably a few other Japanese pilots shot down planes from five different powers — Chinese, British, Dutch, Australian and American. This probably also goes for quite a few German pilots (some of whom had already shot down enemy aircraft in the Spanish Civil War), since Germany was engaged in war against several smaller powers in succession and simultaneously. For instance, in the North African theatre of operations the Luftwaffe faced not just the British, but also the Australian, South African, Free French and U.S. air forces. Meanwhile on the Eastern front, the Soviets were facing the air forces of Germany, Italy and various smaller powers allied to the Axis.
  • Hans-Joachim "Jochen" Marseille aka the "Star of Africa", while not exactly the most famous German ace of World War II, was exactly what you'd expect an ace pilot to be - a total womanizer and party guy with not much respect for authority. He was transfered to the North African theater in order to get him away from French women. While in the Battle of Britain he had not been notably successful, in North Africa he became virtually unstoppable. He would charge his plane straight into large British formations, then use high deflection shots to shoot the cockpit of his foes (at such an angle, you can't even see the plane your shooting at due to the engine). He racked up 158 confirmed kills, which all were against Western Allies, all but seven in North Africa. On 1 September 1942 he shot down 10 fighters that can be verified on RAF records. Erich Hartmann said that he thought Marseille was the best shot of any fighter pilot. He was killed when he tried to bail out of his Bf 109G after the engine failed and he hit the vertical stabilizer.
  • Second-highest on the list of top-scoring German "Experten" against Western Allies with 102 credited air victories was Adolf Galland, known to R.A.F. pilots as "the Fighting Fob". Like Marseille, he came from a French Huguenot family. He started flying in the Condor Legion during the Spanish Civil War and finished the Second World War as commanding officer of the major German jet-fighter unit, the JV 44. Known for his love of cigars (there was a special holder in the cockpit) and for the Mickey Mouse emblem on his planes.

    A note must be made here regarding the JV 44. Formed partly as a Uriah Gambit and partly as an Antarctic reassignment for Galland, who was a vocal critic of Goring and the policies and tactics of Luftwaffe high command, this unit became the greatest gathering of airfighting talent ever assembled in any military force on the face of the Earth, with all its pilots easily qualifying as aces—if not triple aces—before they joined the unit. Many pilots recruited into the outfit had more than a hundred planes downed to their credit; the five top scoring pilots of the unit downed more than a thousand planes combined over their flying careers.note  Equipped with the Messerschmitt Me 262, these men mainly participated in defensive missions, attacking Allied bomber formations. Thankfully for the Allies, no more than six of the unit's planes were operational at any given time, and the war ended just two months after the unit's formation. Many of the pilots went on to become high-ranking officers in the postwar West German Air Force, aided by the fact that very few fighter pilots and even fewer aces of the Luftwaffe were ardent Nazis to begin with. Given the nature of modern aerial warfare, no such assembly of aces would likely ever exist again.
  • Francis "Gabby" Gabreski scored 28 kills in World War II and another 6.5 in Korea, putting him half a kill short of being a septuple ace and making him one of the few two-war aces. He was famous (or infamous) for a flying style that was aggressive to the point of recklessness, often ripping into enemy formations before his wingmen had any chance to join the fight. His hyper-aggressive style made him controversial among his various wingmen; some thought he didn't care about fighting as a team and only wanted more kills for himself, while others loved the way he flew and tried to emulate his fast, hard-hitting tactics. This recklessness very nearly killed him on his final mission of World War II, a flight that wasn't even supposed to happen. He was scheduled to be flown home after having flown the standard maximum number of combat hours, but managed to convince somebody to let him fly "one more mission" escorting bombers into Germany. During a strafing run, he flew too low and clipped his propeller, and after he crashed he spent the rest of the war in a German POW camp.

    Gabreski also happens to have been a Polish-American who spoke fluent Polish. Before the United States Army Air Forces were fully up to operational status in Europe, he managed to talk British authorities into letting him fly with the Free Polish Air Force (which was then under British operational control) so that he could gain combat experience before his unit entered operations.
  • While they don't shoot anyone down or engage in dogfights, bush pilots are by the definition of their job often required to be crazy-skilled aviators. Operating in harsh environments like the Australian Outback and the Canadian wilderness, a single pilot can be expected to do anything from shipping cargo, transporting people and acting as a flying ambulance. They have a reputation on the whole as being slightly touched in the head but great pilots who you can count on to have your back. Famous examples include Clennell "Punch" Dickens Rusty Blakey and the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia.
  • Almost 90 Czechoslovakian pilots flew in the Battle of Britain and served in several RAF units. Karel Kuttelwascher had 18 confirmed kills (plus 2 for fights in France). The top Czech scorer in the Battle of Britain was Sgt. Josef František, flying with Polish Fighter Squadron who claimed 17 confirmed kills, which made him the highest scoring Allied pilot in the Battle of Britain. Other Czechoslovakian flying aces were Alois Vašátko, František Peřina, Otto Smik, Josef Stehlík, Miloslav Mansfeld, Leopold Šrom, Václav Cukr, Otmar Kučera and Tomáš Vybíral. The RAF's 303 Squadron was manned mostly by Polish pilots, plus Josef Frantisek, and despite arriving late they managed to be the top-scoring fighter outfit in the Battle of Britain, making them a squadron of Ace Pilots.
  • Bob Hoover, regarded as one of the greatest pilots to have ever lived. Upon receiving the new P-38 Lightning, his first action he took in it was to shut off one of the engines at low altitude, and proceed to perform aerobatics, for which he was barred from flying a P-38 ever again. He was shot down over enemy lines in a Spitfire Mk V, then taken prisoner, only to later break out of prison, and fly a Fw-190 to the Netherlands.
  • When flying in target-rich environment or the Last Stand, almost any pilot who can survive long enough, will become an ace. The Battle of Malta produced more RAF aces than any other single campaign, top scorer being George "Screwball" Beurling with 27 kills.note  Likewise, the top scoring RAF pilot, Marmaduke Thomas Pattle, scored the majority of his 50 kills during the Battle of Crete.
    • Pattle was the high scorer of both Gloster Gladiator (15) and Hawker Hurricane (35). Only 6 of his victories cannot be cross-checked on existing Italian or German records. He 25 of his victories in twenty days before his death in air combat over Eleusis Bay.
  • John Boyd, father of the F-15 and F-16 and the Energy-Maneuverability Theory, and the man who literally wrote the book on flying fighters, was himself a pretty hot pilot back in the 1950s. Though he never scored a kill (he was too young to enlist in World War II, he flew an F-86 in Korea but didn't serve a full tour of duty, and was assigned as a base commander in Vietnam), he made a name for himself as "Forty-Second Boyd," so named because of a challenge he issued to pilots in training. If a pilot could last forty seconds in a mock dogfight against him, he'd pay the pilot $40. No one ever pulled it off. And let's emphasize that he did this in an F-100, a capable plane but also so unforgiving that it was known for a 25% fatality rate in training.
  • Edward "Butch" O'Hare, the namesake for O'Hare International Airport in Chicago (they even have an F4F Wildcat in front in his honor). He became the American navy's first ace of World War II by shooting down five enemy bombers in a single day (a feat which also earned him the Medal of Honor), and he was the one who proved that the F6F Hellcat marked the end of Japanese fighter superiority at Marcus Island, for which he received the Distinguished Flying Cross. He also helped the navy develop its night defense tactics, and according to a former wingman, always taught his pilots little tips and tricks to improve their flying. Unfortunately, though, he was lost in the navy's first night defense flight — he was caught in the crossfire between a Japanese G4M "Betty" and a TBF Avenger, and his Hellcat dipped out of formation and into the darkness. Neither he nor his fighter were ever found.
  • Any reasonably competent pilot with a dash of aggressiveness and enough tactical savvy can score aerial victories in a plane designed for dogfighting. A very talented few (Rudel, Vejtasa) can score victories in a dive bomber. Adrian "Warby" Warburton of the RAF scored five aerial victories while flying a Martin Maryland, a type of MEDIUM BOMBER with forward-firing machine guns.
  • Jalil Zandi, an Iranian Air Force F-14 Tomcat (yes, that F-14 Tomcat) pilot was credited with 11 aerial victories during the Iran-Iraq War.
  • Maj. Greg "Pappy"note  Boyington. Short, tough, pugnacious, possessing of no brain-mouth filter, and ugly. He first saw combat with the famed Flying Tigers in China, where he quickly butted heads with Claire Chennault on tactics. Boyington had a great advantage over many other pilots in his sheer physical strength, allowing himself to haul his plane through blackout-inducing maneuvers by raw force of will that would leave his wingmen and opponents passing out. He was also known to pick the most battered, beat-up, and decrepit-looking aircraft on the flight linenote  to instill confidence in the pilots under his command. During his time in China he was credited with two aerial victories and 1.5 aircraft destroyed on the ground (Boyington claimed six air victories). After the US entered the war, Boyington returned to the United States Marine Corps. Arriving in the Pacific, he cobbled together a squadron from unassigned pilots under the designation VMF-214. Originally dubbed "Boyington's Bastards," they were eventually immortalized as the legendary (and more media-friendly) Black Sheep.note  Flying F4U Corsairs in combat against the Japanese, Boyington claimed a total of 28 aerial victories (he's officially credited with 26) by the time he was shot down and captured in 1944, tying Rickenbaker as America's Ace of Aces (eventually surprassed). Throughout his active service, Boyington was in a heated competition with fellow Marine pilot Joe Foss (himself a legend to the Corps for his actions during the grueling Battle of Guadalcanal as part of the Cactus Air Force) to break Rickenbaker's record. The press, looking for a morale boost for Americans growing weary of the slogging war of attrition in the Pacific, ate Boyington's antics up, with such publicity stunts as sending the Black Sheep a St. Louis Cardinals baseball cap for every Japanese plane shot down. This lead to an iconic publicity photo of the squadron standing on the wings of a Corsair with caps and bats. Both Boyington and Foss ultimately ended with 26 credited victories, however Foss is awarded the title of the Marine Corp's Ace of Aces since two of Boyington's victories came with the Flying Tigers. Boyington is almost as famous for his personality and being perhaps the Trope Codifier for the two-fisted, hard-chariging, brash and belligerent Marine as he was for his piloting.

Civilian examples are pilots who, through training, skill, and capability, have saved multiple lives either on their planes or on the ground, or both. As mentioned above, technically they don't fit the military definition of an ace because they saved lives rather than took them, but that takes nothing away from their skill - in fact, that some of these pilots accomplished maneuvers that their craft should not be capable of, under conditions like complete engine failure and complete hydraulic system failure and power failure makes them even more the trope.
  • The entire crew of the Apollo 13 mission: specifically Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert, Fred Haise, Gene Kranz, and John Aaron. Surviving multiple life support system failures in space, jury-rigging a system to keep themselves alive, and managing a successful return landing with all aboard surviving.
  • The crew of Gemini VIII, Neil Armstrong and Dave Scott, survived a thruster malfunction (that nearly caused both to black out) and emergency abort, landing safely after only 10 hours in space. It was Armstrong's coolness-under-fire that got him picked to lead Apollo 11 on the first moon landing.
  • Eric Moody and Roger Greaves of British Airways Flight 9.: A cloud of volcanic ash had stalled all of the engines, flaming out one. Both kept the plane in the air anyway and it eventually landed safely, with no loss of life. Bonus points go to Moody for managing to remain calm under pressure:
    Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We have a small problem. All four engines have stopped. We are doing our damnedest to get them going again. I trust you are not in too much distress.
  • Bob Pearson of the Gimli Glider flight: the flight ran out of fuel due to an imperial/metric unit mix-up before reaching its destination, causing all engines and all electrical power to fail. Pearson operated the jet as if it was a glider to make the emergency landing at a disused airport, saving the lives of all onboard, none of whom were even seriously injured. Not to mention that all other pilots crashed the plane when they were put in simulation of the event.
  • Subverted tragically with the Tenerife disaster. Jacob Veldhuyzen van Zanten, pilot of the KLM 747 involved in the crash, was the airline's most experienced and decorated pilot, and was regarded with such esteem that he served as KLM's spokesman and appeared in all of KLM's print adverts. It was this preceding reputation — as well as the fact that he was the pilot who had certified his first officer on the Tenerife flight — that probably factored into the crew's reluctance to stop him from impatiently taking off from the crowded, foggy airport without ATC clearance. This resulted in the destruction of two jumbo jets, the loss of 500+ lives, and the worst aviation disaster in history. In fact, when KLM found out that one of their jets was involved in the crash, they tried to contact Van Zanten to have him clean up the PR mess, not realizing that he was the pilot involved in the crash.
  • Although they were unable to save the plane, the crew of Japan Airlines Flight 123 certainly deserve mention. Because without any prior training, and under the effects of hypoxia, and with no hydraulic controls, they managed to keep their stricken 747 in the air for over thirty minutes before the plane slammed into a mountain, killing all but four of the 524 on board.note  What makes it more remarkable, is that in simulations after the accident, not a single simulator pilot was able to replicate the exact results and control the aircraft for anywhere near as long, while having the benefit of knowing beforehand what they were simulating, and having a clear head to do it.
    • The legacy of the accident would live on however when the crew of United Airlines Flight 232 found themselves in a very similar situation. By pure chance, however, a United Airlines instructor and check pilotnote  was headed home to Chicago and happened to have chosen that particular flight to get him there. The instructor, Dennis Fitch, had actually studied the JAL 123 disaster carefully, and up until then had been trying to figure out how to make the DC-10 controllable with just engine power alone. His persistence almost paid off entirely when the aircraft suffered a catastrophic mechanical failure of the fan blade in its tail engine, and lost its hydraulic system, rendering the flight controls useless. By alternating throttle inputs, Fitch was able to assist pilot Alfred C. Haynes, first officer William Records, and second officer Dudley Dvorak with regaining some control over the plane's speed, altitude, and steering. The pilots were able to get the plane away from populated areas, notify emergency services, and try their best to land - and while 111 people did die in the resulting crash, 185 survived what could only be described as impossible odds due to these pilots - and without any ground casualties. Ironically, the crash also restored faith in the DC-10, which up until then, had been seen as a flying death trap following two major accidents, the second of which grounded the fleet for months.
  • Ed Reyes and Jaime Herrera, the pilots of Philippine Airlines Flight 434. Their Boeing 747 lost its flight controls after Islamic terrorist Ramzi Yousef set off a bomb in the passenger cabin (as part of a trial run for a larger plot to bomb several international flights). Reyes and Herrera used the same steer-by-throttle method as Haynes and Fitch. The pilots eventually brought the aircraft down safely in Okinawa. Several passengers were injured by the blast, but the only fatality was a man who had the bad luck to be seated directly above the bomb.
  • US Airways Flight 1549, called the "Miracle On The Hudson," with only 3 major injuries and no deaths when, due to sudden loss of power from a bird strike, there was no choice left but to ditch in the Hudson River. Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger, who successfully glided the plane to a floating stop while avoiding river traffic, is the most well-known, but the entire crew of Flight 1549 was later awarded the Master's Medal of the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators. The airplane was then put on permanent display in the Carolinas Aviation Museum at Charlotte International Airport, where it is the centerpiece exhibit.
  • 21 years before the Miracle on the Hudson TACA Flight 110 was on final approach to New Orleans airport when the plane's engines flamed out due to excessive water ingestion. Unable to restart them and with insufficient height to make it to an airport, the pilot, Carlos Dardano, prepared to ditch in one of the canals surrounding New Orleans. Then, at the last minute, the flight crew noticed a grass levee running alongside the canal, made the split-second decision to land there, managed to reposition the plane to align it with the levee, and pulled off a near-textbook landing. Not only was no one seriously injured, but the plane itself was in good enough condition that with only a single engine replacementnote , the NTSB was able to fly it off the levee and to a nearby airport for further inspection and repairs. The aircraft was later returned to service.
  • The unnamed pilot of Delta Flight DL431/DL302 out of San Juan, Puerto Rico to New York City, On September 5, 2017. It landed in San Juan at 11:58 am and took off less than an hour later at 12:43 pm. This sounds routine, but at the time, Hurricane Irma was lashing the Island. The plane was flying in the relatively narrow gap of calm air between the outer band and the core of the second most powerful hurricane in the history of the Atlantic Basin. It maintained itself in the narrow band of calm air for over 400 miles.
    • This was actually entirely planned by everyone at Delta from the pilot, the ground crew, and dispatch office and corporate headquarters, all needed for the fast turn around. And proven when Delta did it again before Hurricane Maria just a week later.


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