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Acrophobic Bird

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Raditz: Damn it... and there was no way I could've gotten out of there...
Piccolo: You know, you could've flown.
Raditz: DAMN YOU HINDSIGHT! (blech)

While escaping danger, a character who can fly will never think of the quickest way to avoid a pursuer: fly up. They will just fly very quickly... right in front. Worse yet, they may run instead of fly at all.

This is more frequent if a character is around others who can't fly, as it's the only way to create a real sense of danger. Flying up only occurs when the danger does likewise. In cartoons, this is often caused by replacing a generic animal in The Chase with a bird.

Acrophobia is the fear of heights, the idea being that the only sensible reason for a flying character not to do so is because they're literally afraid of heights (if this is genuinely the case, a Die or Fly situation can snap them out of it). Doing this runs the risk of a Belly-Scraping Flight. The non-flight variant is 1-Dimensional Thinking.

Compare 2-D Space and Water Is Air. For literal acrophobic birds, see Ironic Fear. Contrast Flying Flightless Bird, for birds that are naturally known to be unable to fly having the ability to fly.


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  • Conversed in a Japanese ad for Tsubasa ("Wing") Finance: a man is watching a TV show in which a winged angel is being chased by (non-winged) swordsmen, only to give up when he gets cornered in a spot with open sky above him. The man watching the film shouts at the TV, "Why aren't you using your wings!?"

    Anime & Manga 
  • In The Adventures of Peter Pan, the characters are unable to fly once they reach Neverland, making it that much easier for the writers to put them in danger. The exception is Peter Pan himself, who completely averts this trope by flying all the time.
  • Bleach: During the Fake Karakura Town Arc, Hachi creates a wall to hold off Baraggan long enough for the heroes to plan their attack. However, not only are all characters present capable of flying, they are actively doing so! The wall is floating in mid-air, and Baraggan still spends time tearing it down!
  • A Certain Magical Index: Justified. According to extra-Biblical Christian lore, St. Peter defeated Simon Magus, a magician using demonic power to fly, by kneeling down and praying, causing God to nullify Simon's magic and send him falling to his death. Although magicians in the To Aru verse could theoretically fly using magic, access to the spell used by St. Peter is ubiquitous and would negate any flight spells, so magicians by and large do not bother with flight for their own safety.
  • Damekko Doubutsu: Sakamata, a whale, cannot swim.
  • DOraemon
    • In Doraemon: Nobita and the Winged Braves, Gusuke, a bird humanoid from Birdopia, is afraid of flying due to the trauma falling when he was a hatchling. He gets over this to save Nobita from Phoenicia, with encouragement from Icarus.
    • Doraemon: Nobita's New Dinosaur have Nobita becoming the owner of two winged dinosaurs, Kyu and Myu, the former which is born with stunted wings and a short tail making it unable to fly. Kyu have to spend most of the movie leaning how to even take flight, and eventually succeeds in the finale.
  • Inuyasha
    • Played straight with Shippou, who had the ability to transform into things or creatures that could float or fly, but who never escaped danger in such a manner. Of course, he's also a very young child, so he can probably be forgiven for not always thinking in a calm, logical way (even if he was sometimes calmer and more rational than some of the adult characters).
    • Averted with Sesshoumaru's two-headed dragon-horse. The creature was usually seen walking, but that's only because it was Sesshoumaru's preferred mode of transport (if Sesshoumaru flew, the creature would also fly). However, whenever an attack was levelled at the children Sesshoumaru was protecting, the creature's first instinct was always to dodge upwards and drag the children to safety as high in the air as necessary to stay out of danger.
  • In Nagasarete Airantou, a bird being chased realizes that he can fly and the humans can't and promptly goes airborne. He muses over why he didn't think of that earlier when he looks down and remembers that he is acrophobic.
  • Pokémon: The Series
    • Before it evolved, Ash's Gligar had terrible control while gliding. After evolving into Gliscor it mostly overcame this.
    • Ash's Oshawott can't control Aqua Jet because he's afraid of keeping his eyes open while underwater. He manages to overcome it later.
    • Worse would be Misty's Psyduck, a Water-type platypus that doesn't know how to swim. Likely for the Rule of Funny, as it's implied this specific Psyduck is just that stupid.
    • Justified in the case of Ash's Noibat, who was a newborn and had to be taught how to fly by Fletchinder and Hawlucha.
  • In Princess Tutu, Ahiru almost never remembers that she can fly in her duck form, even though it's her natural state. Averted in a couple of occasions, but most of the time, she struggles with climbing, even as a bird.
  • Rozen Maiden: In Rozen Maiden: Träumend, when Shinku and Hinaichigo are being pursued by Barasuishou, they fly close to the ground for most of the chase. Yes, it's true that Barasuishou was flying above them at the time, but Barasuishou's main attack was to summon crystal spikes up from the ground, which they had to constantly dodge. Logic dictates that the further away you are from the ground, the less likely you'll be hit by the attack.
  • Tokyo Mew Mew: Mew Mint (Corina) occasionally falls victim to this, but she usually does fly up, probably because the enemies can too. We do, however, have the water-controlling, underwater-breathing porpoise-girl Mew Lettuce (Bridget), who rarely uses these powers, unless she has no other choice... because she really is afraid of drowning.

    Asian Animation 
  • Boonie Bears: One shows up in Season 9 episode 36, mesmerized by a pair of bird celebrities but unable to fly himself. The avian eventually gets over it with help from his bird idols.

    Comic Books 
  • Image Comics: The heroine Blacklight has flight powers — and acrophobia.
  • Owly: The third book deals with Owly, an owl, overcoming his fear of flying to rescue a friend stuck in a tree.
  • PS238: The first issue focuses on Ron, the son of this world's Superman Substitute. Ron can fly, but has a recurring nightmare about being sucked into a jet engine—though, as Zodon points out, that would destroy the plane, not him. He seems to get over it by the end of the issue, due to actually getting sucked into a jet engine without him or its passengers being hurt.

    Comic Strips 
  • One B.C. strip has a character sitting on a rock, looking at a dot in the distance. The object come closer and closer as we see it is a bird walking. Just as the bird passes the human it looks up at him and says "Bursitis". It then walks away.
  • The Far Side: A comic titled "Stupid Birds" shows a pair of birds attempting to escape a burning tree using a Bedsheet Ladder.
  • Peanuts: Justified with Woodstock, a literally Acrophobic Bird. Going too high gave him beakbleeds, among several other flight-related neuroses. He had a hard enough time flying forward. In one Sunday strip, Snoopy questions Woodstock on why it is that birds in the path of moving vehicles will hop around on the ground and not just fly away until the very last possible moment. Woodstock replies with several panels full of his unintelligible speech, to which Snoopy responds "That's the worst excuse I've ever heard!"
  • Pearls Before Swine: Guard Duck never learned to fly. This unfortunately means that he couldn't go with his flying duck girlfriend Maura when she flew away.
  • Safe Havens: The dodos learn the hard way that the reason they're flightless is because they're afraid of heights, after Samantha gives them eagle wings to see their son and grandchildren.
  • U.S. Acres: Wade Duck is also a justified example because he's afraid of everything, flight included.

    Eastern European Animation 
  • Gagarin: A caterpillar crawls into a badminton shuttlecock and gets whacked around for a while. When it finally sprouts wings and becomes a butterfly, it doesn't want to fly.

    Fan Works 
  • Coup De What: Pallasion, a dragon bigger than most houses, has a fear of heights. However, he can push it down if the situation is dire, like when he and several others give chase to Deathwing to ensure that the world doesn't end.
  • Legendary Genesis: Dion has to remind Eileen the Scyther that she has wings on several occasions. The most notable example is when Eileen's stuck in swamp water and futilely tries to pull herself onto a boardwalk using her scythes.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Land Before Time. Petrie, a young Pteranodon, has not yet learned to fly in the first movie, in which it is a Justified Trope. However, he learns how at the end of the movie, so the sequels don't always make sense. For example, in the ninth film, the group is cut off from their families by a large gorge. Petrie offers to fly over it and get help, but changes his mind after he is nearly burned by a jet of hot air coming out of the gorge. All he would have needed to do is, yes, you guessed it, fly higher. This may or may not be justified by his age.
  • Legend Of The Guardians The Owls Of Ga Hoole: Averted like crazy, and the film deserves some kind of reward for this. Right from the beginning, the protagonist calls the ground "the worst place for an owl", and thereafter, all the avian characters stay in the air or perched up high on cliffs and trees.
  • Moana: While changed into a giant hawk, Maui is shown being capable of soaring high above the ocean, but when he tries to get past Te Kā, he never flies higher than her head nor simply flies around her.
  • Planes: Dusty is an agoraphobic airplane who sticks to low altitudes. While this works fine for his job as a crop duster, things get complicated when he decides to enter an international race, where flying low gets him into all kind of problems (having to fly through bad weather, nearly crashing into a train, choppy waters) until he finally gets over his fear at the end. His mentor Skipper, is also revealed to be one, being unwilling to fly ever since his entire squadron was shot down, which he's blamed himself for ever since. He too conquers his fear at the end.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog: The Movie: When trying to reach the unstable power generator, Sonic is caught on a treadmill that prevents him from running closer. Tails rushes in and becomes stuck running on the same treadmill until Sonic reminds him that he can just fly over it.
    Sonic: Tails, come on, fly!
    Tails: Oh, you're right!
  • Winnie the Pooh (2011): Lampshaded. The gang — including Owl — has fallen into a pit and they try to get the anxiety-ridden Piglet to rescue them. Since Piglet is too terrified, Owl flies up to give the little guy a rousing speech, then flies back down into the pit once Piglet's confidence is up. The look on Rabbit's face after all this is priceless.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Cloverfield, the evacuation helicopter decides to fly low enough that the monster can jump up and swipe it out of the sky right after being bombed. You'd think the imminent bombing alone would make them want to fly as far away from the location as possible, let alone the giant monster factor.
  • Flight of the Navigator: Humorously averted when the kid gets into an alien ship with an artificial intelligence. When he pleads with the ship to get out of the military base and "fly twenty miles away", the ship decides to do that by going 20 miles straight up.
  • Godzilla (1998) features the eponymous lizard chasing attack helicopters through the streets of New York. The helicopters fly around the streets, being caught one by one, but never pulling up and flying away from it... note 
  • Iron Man: Inverted, as Stark immediately flies straight up upon realizing that Iron Monger is capable of flight... but the latter's flight system is essentially a rocket and doesn't seem capable of much other than straight up. Tony really wasn't trying to escape, though. He was exploting the fact that Iron Monger was a reverse-engineered and massively beefed up version of the Mark I Iron Man armor, complete with design flaws that Tony had corrected with his own Mark III armor.
  • Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus. A fighter is ordered to fly lower so its equipment can pick up the giant octopus. The pilot has time to give a Big "NO!" before a tentacle swats him out of the air.
  • The Meteor Man. The eponymous superhero uses Superman-like powers to defend his neighborhood from gangsters and doesn't really fly higher than a few feet off the ground because he is scared of heights. Partially justified in that his powers are not one hundred percent reliable.
  • Mission: Impossible III. Ethan's team in a Huey helicopter try to evade a Cobra gunship by flying through a wind turbine farm. For some reason the Cobra doesn't fly above the farm and fire its missiles (which are heat-seaking) down at them — but then if it did that we wouldn't have a cool scene of the Huey flying between the spinning turbine blades and the Cobra being smashed when it decides to Try and Follow.
  • Paulie: The title character is literally an Acrophobic Bird until he learns to fly.
  • Rambo III. Rambo destroys the Big Bad in his Hind gunship by ramming it with the main gun of his tank. Yes, it was flying at the time. And making repeated low level swoops from the direction Rambo's weapons were pointing.
  • Stealth features an extremely silly scene where two of the super-stealth fighters are chasing the rogue UCAV through a dangerous canyon; the end result is that one of them crashes, killing the pilot and damaging the other. The third plane? It was flying above the canyon watching this. Apparently, nobody thought the other two planes could just do that too and, since they weren't juking around avoiding the canyon walls, would be going faster by doing so. The UCAV was probably attempting an Aerial Canyon Chase, which is a legitimate but very dangerous tactic.
  • 2012: During the Really Huge Earthquake sequence, one cluster of protagonists escapes crumbling downtown Los Angeles in a small aircraft that never manages to get above a thousand feet.
  • We Were Soldiers
    • Justified in by the helicopters: As they were dropping off and picking up soldiers, they pretty much had to get down low. Indeed, the majority of the battle depicted in the movie was simply over control of the Landing Zone (the purpose of picking that particular LZ, of course, was to bait the NVA into a fight to confirm their location and test the effectiveness of the new Air Cavalry battle doctrine the Americans were using.)
    • Much of the air support was similarly justified, as at least some of it had to get low enough to identify the enemy and engage. In Real Life, one of the A-1 Skyraider attack planes crashed when it got caught by the fragmentation from one of its own bombs. Remember: the blast radius of any munitions dropped from an airplane includes the vertical dimension as well as the horizontal.

  • In Cerberon by Fredric R. Stewart, the skraad, human-sized intelligent avians resembling bearded vultures fear flying in daylight because if they're spotted by humans, the humans will kill them.
  • In A Clash of Kings, Stannis Baratheon explains his decision to abandon the Faith of Seven and convert to the worship of R'hllor by telling a story of an injured hunting hawk that he nursed back to health but that was afraid to fly too high and as a result always missed its strike.
  • Discworld: Tiffany Aching is unable to ride a broomstick more than a few feet above the ground without getting an upset stomach. This is implied to be a side effect of her being mystically linked to the Chalk, hence uncomfortable if she's too far off the ground.
  • In Franklin in the Dark, Mr. Sparrow is afraid of heights, so sometimes, when nobody is looking, he puts on his parachute.
  • Owls In The Family by Farley Mowat is a short book about the author's youth in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and how he came to raise two baby owls at his home. The elder, named Wol (after how Owl spells his name in Winnie the Pooh), learned how to fly by accident after he wandered too far out onto a cottonwood branch and it broke. But Weeps, the younger, never learned. "I tried to teach him how by throwing him off the garage roof, but he wouldn't try. He would just shut his eyes, give a hopeless kind of moan, and fall like a rock without even opening his wings. Weeps didn't believe he could fly, and that was that."
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Thalia Grace is a daughter of Zeus, giving her lightning powers. The Sequel Series The Heroes of Olympus explains she most probably also has wind and airbased powers, namely flight among others, but as she is known to be terrified of heights since the first book she featured in, her mental block is too strong to use them and indeed it doesn't even occur to her she might have them. Thalia's brother Jason has lightning powers and can control the wind to fly, so it may be all in her mind.
  • Peter Pan: Justified. When Peter gets "wounded" by Hook, he believes himself unable to fly off of Marooner's Rock. The truth is that he's fine and can fly if he really wants to, but he takes his own imagination so seriously that there's nothing to do but leave him there.
  • Realm of the Elderlings: In Dragon Keeper, the titular dragons are misshapen and think themselves incapable of flight. The second book proves them wrong, as Heeby learns to fly. It is implied that Sintara and winged human Thymara can also learn.
  • Spellsinger: In one of the novels, the main characters encounter a pegasus Percheron with a severe case of acrophobia due to a childhood accident. Just rearing up on his hind legs is almost enough to cause him to faint. They end up helping him get over it with a large amount of stolen cocaine.
  • Winnie the Pooh: In The House at Pooh Corner, one story has Pooh, Piglet, and Owl getting trapped in Owl's home, after a storm knocks the place sideways with the door where the ceiling once was. Pooh comes up with a plan for Piglet to be lifted on a rope to the door. Piglet tries to protest this by asking why Owl can't just fly out. Owl justifies it with a vague explanation about not being strong enough to carry Piglet and not having enough room for take-off, but given his tendency to be a Know-Nothing Know-It-All it's kind of suspect.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Carnival Row: Justified; you'd develop a fear of flying too fast and too far up if you had PTSD from seeing other faeries mutilated by horizontally-placed barbed wire, a common occurrence in the Pact-occupied fae lands. Not helping is that the longer someone in the Burgue illegally flies, the more police shoot at them.
  • This trope gives the Criminal Minds episode "Nelson's Sparrow" its name. In one of Gideon and Rossi's first cases, the unsub is killing young women and leaving a dead bird in their hands. Gideon does some research and identifies the birds as Nelson's sparrows, and finds that their most characteristic trait is running away from danger rather than flying. He and Rossi use this fact to determine that the women were the same way; they didn't value their own lives enough to avoid or defend themselves from the unsub.
  • Firefly: Averted (and possibly lampshaded). When Wash flies into a canyon to avoid chase... only for his pursuer to fly over the canyon. He then makes the best of the situation by ducking under a rock formation to give them some temporary cover while they figure out a solution.
  • The IT Crowd: Lampshaded in an episode where Roy starts giving Moss a hard time about how everything he "invents" is worthless. The last invention being a ladder to help moths escape from bathtubs.
    Roy: Moths have wings. They can fly. When a moth thinks about traveling vertically upwards, a ladder is the last think they would think of.
  • Smallville: Clark Kent remains unable to fly for the most part of the show's run, but he demonstrated the ability when he was brainwashed (by his father). Every special guest Kryptonian seen has shown the ability (except for the deliberately-depowered Kandorians), and there is much needling. His cousin, Kara, says that he's holding himself back. He even acquires a Legionnaire ring, but the Legionnaires disabled its flight power so he'd have to learn it on his own. The creator's "no flights, no tights" rule is always getting pushed to more incredulous ends until the Grand Finale, when he finally embraces his destiny as Superman.
  • 30 Rock: Might be what Tracy Jordan was getting at in this clip, where he berates a pigeon eating his food "don't you know you can fly?"

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Averted most of the time and justified the rest, which addresses the problem of whether most flying creatures are capable of flying straight up. In the case of basically everything that isn't hovering, the answer is "no".
    • Played straight in fourth edition, where flight (normally a low-level ability) is considered a Game-Breaker. The game has numerous flight-themed abilities that require you to land every few seconds (i.e. you're jumping), and the pixie race is intentionally designed to (1) fly and (2) gain no benefits from doing so.
  • Warhammer 40,000: Zig-zagged. Some flying and hovering models, like jetbikes or creatures with wings, fight no differently in close combat than ground-based units (though they do get to ignore the effects of most terrain when moving). However, vehicles which can hover ("skimmers") have had rules making them harder to hit, depending on which edition of the game is being played and, as of 6th Edition, there are proper rules for flying vehicles and monstrous creatures, which allow them to fly well above the battlefield and avert the trope entirely.

    Video Games 
  • Baldur's Gate: Dragons never take flight, even as things start to go south for them.
  • In Banjo-Kazooie, Kazooie can't fly until you specifically gain the ability from Bottles, and even then, it's only in specific places. In Tooie, she has to gain the ability to glide and doesn't get it until fairly late. She's a reasonably fast runner, though.
  • In Bug Fables, many winged bugs walk on foot most of the time. While it's justified with the most bugs losing an ability to fly over generations, it was stated that the bees, wasps, dragonflies, and several other bug species still retain the flight ability. Yet despite this, most of them still walk on foot. Especially more notable with Vi, who, despite the fact that her flight ability might greatly help the team out, refuses to carry Kabbu over the gaps, complaining that he would be too heavy, and it's not until Chapter 6 she starts doing so, after Queen Elizant orders Vi to start carrying him around while Leif carries the rest of the group with his magic.
  • Dragon Age: Origins: A similar situation during the final boss fight is justified by having Riordan tear through the Archdemon's wing first, grounding it.
  • Somewhat subverted in Battle Stadium D.O.N. In the game, none of the Dragon Ball characters can fly, which makes sense, since the game would be kinda broken if they could, due to its gameplay. To make up for it, they can do quick dashes in the air.
  • Dragon Ball Online lets you fly as early as level ten but doesn't let you initiate flight in a fight, not even against flying enemies, and if attacked you'll drop straight to the ground.
  • Dungeons & Dragons Online: Played very straight. All flying creatures simply hover, and dragons never fly in combat. Perhaps the most blatant example is the Velah raid. Velah is a red dragon who is seen flying throughout the raid, except when it comes time to fight her, when she lands and remains completely stationary, moving only her head and claws to attack those right in front of her (her back-side is protected by impassable rocks). Other dragons in the game do actually move around, but none use flight as part of their fighting strategy.
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Dragons do fly, but conveniently land within reach of a sword every once in a while, and never fly away from a battle unless the player shows no intention to fight. The Dragonrend shout serves almost exclusively to force a dragon to land so melee based characters can fight them. Of course, this could be justified as it's established ingame that fleeing from a battle is considered shameful to dragons (as evidenced by Odahviing's reasoning for betraying Alduin for the Dragonborn), as well as the dragon's arrogance in their superiority over the mortal races.
  • Fallout: The various flying enemies throughout the franchise, such as bloatflies, cazadores, and stingwings never bother to fly above about head-level.
  • The Fire Emblem series has units with flying mounts like Pegasi or Wyverns, as well as some characters who flat out have wings of their own. While these characters do use their gift of flight to freely negotiate terrain, none of them seem to think of using it to attack from above and, instead, will hover just above ground level so the enemy can hit them. Particularly egregious if the ground-based enemy is the one initiating the attack and the unit is in no condition to fight. A subversion appears in Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, in which one chapter has a battle take place in the sky.
  • Granblue Fantasy: Nezahuapilli, a Winged Humanoid, has a severe fear of heights because he fell out of a tree as a child. He feels that this makes him unworthy of claiming the title of the Winged King.
  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas: Plated with. Once C.J. becomes pilot-trained, he can fly any plane wherever... except when the plot says "No" or he tries to fly over the missile-equipped Area 69.
  • Jurassic Park: The Game: At one point, the rescue team are in a helicopter and are trying to get out of range of the Tyrannosaurus. Yoder simply backs away from her rather than flying directly up.
  • League of Legends, which is played at ground level, nevertheless has a champion that is a bird, two champions with wings (one of which flying), a levitating champion, and even one piloting a helicopter; with the appropriate skin, he turns into a Red Baron biplane or flying saucer. These can all be attacked with melee weapons from the ground. As a double whammy, the bird is the slowest champion in the game.
  • LEGO Batman: The Video Game has the Scarecrow and the Joker running from Batman and Robin. The two villains set up obstacles to slow down the heroes, but there is one problem with this picture. They're all in aircraft! Batman and Robin could have easily flown over all of the obstacles, but they didn't.
  • Metal Gear: The Hind-D in the original Metal Gear. It remained on the ground, firing only its main gun. To add injury to insult, there's a spot on the map where Snake can stand and hit the Hind but it can't hit him.
  • Mighty Goose have you playing as the titular goose, who can't fly. Though it's justified since you're a Cyborg goose with mechanical appendages in place of wings and legs.
  • Neverwinter Nights
    • NWN has the prestige class "red dragon disciple", wherein you draw strength from your draconic heritage and become more dragon-like, finally acquiring the half-dragon template. In the original RPG, this included the ability to fly, but due to the computer game's limited engine, flying just isn't an option. Which means that at higher levels, your character acquires a fancy pair of wings... that do nothing besides flap a little when you run.
    • Lampshaded by Deekin, a Dragon Disciple Bard in Hordes of the Underdark, who as well as being unable to fly with his own wings, sometimes wonders aloud why dragons spend so much time walking.
    • Also lampshaded by Kaelyn the Dove in Mask of the Betrayer, expansion pack to NWN2, who claims that her wings are only ever useful as an occasional sunshade. For some reason, the benefit of wings from a mechanical point of view is a bonus to running speed.
    • The tabletop version of this class, along with the Half-Dragon racial template, has the wings be not quite perfectly formed on smaller creatures — they're not "draconic" enough. Flight is only possible for size Large creatures or larger with this template or class, contrary to physics. There are, however, feats that allow such creatures to fly; one such example is "Improved Dragon Wings" from Races of the Dragon.
  • For Overwatch, an animated short called The Last Bastion shows two fighters perform close air support in the desperate battle to defend Stuttgart, but they fly lower than that role necessitates (especially against an enemy horde full of Bastion robots that can can serve as antiair platforms, and one indeed goes down in flames), and the camera immediately pans to the dropships deploying the Bastions, which would be far more suitable targets.
  • In Planescape: Torment, Fall-From-Grace is a succubus with leathery wings. Though rather squishy in melee combat and a gifted spellcaster, she never thinks to take flight either to escape a bad combat or to simply find a safe place to cast spells. Likewise, when pursuing the player, the gargoyle-like abishai never unfurl their wings and use their flight speed to keep up. They walk after a player who can run, enabling the player to evade them pretty easily. In 2nd Edition Dungeons & Dragons, which is the source of Torment's mechanics, both succubi and abishai could fly fairly quickly.
  • Pokémon:
    • Charizard and Dragonite, both of which have fully functional wings, could not learn the move Fly until the releases of Pokémon Yellow and Pokémon Gold and Silver, respectively. Oddly enough, Doduo and Dodrio, who seem to be based upon ostriches, have always been able to fly.
    • And also played straight with Bug Pokémon, many of which have fully functional wings, but only three, Volcarona, Genesect, and Vikavolt can learn Fly. There's a simple explanation: Fly isn't the HM that allows a Pokémon to fly. It's the one that allows them to carry a trainer while doing so. Flying-type Pokémon who can't learn Fly tend to lack strength, not capability.
    • Of course, this doesn't excuse cases like Spearow or Pidgey, both of whom can learn Fly, but neither of whom are larger than 1'00" tall nor weigh any more than 5 lbs. And let's not even get started the unique case of a Pikachu that learns Fly via an event...
    • An explanation offered by Bulbapedia is that the original Japanese name of the move could be read as "super jump," explaining how Doduo could learn the move (the Pokédex entry mentions it can jump very well). However, many future Pokémon were also noted as being able to jump well but couldn't learn the move.
      • The real explanation is right there in the game. In battle, Fly just involves jumping high and landing on the enemy, hence the low accuracy. Outside of battle, it involves transforming into a giant bird to carry the trainer.
      • This is muddled further by the addition of the move Bounce, an attack that's almost identical to Fly (to the point of being a Flying-type attack as well), but is clearly described as a super jump attack.
    • Beedrill, Venomoth, and Volcarona, despite being in perpetual flight, aren't considered Flying types due to them instead being Bug/Poison in the case of the former two and Bug/Fire in the case of the latter (Who's at least able to learn Fly, unlike the other two).
    • In Pokémon Sun and Moon the regional early-bird, surprisingly, evolves into this despite their mid-stage flying. Toucannon remains on the ground almost entirely aside from some attack animations. This leads to a moment when Kahili, the Flying Elite Four member, has her Toucannon use the Flying Z-Move, Supersonic Skystrike. Toucannon does not budge an inch or even flap its wings as it flies up into the air, while staying completely still as a stone, before ramming beak-first into your Pokémon. Also a case of Shown Their Work, as toucans in real life can't fly very well due to their short wings.
    • In the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series, only some winged Pokemon move by flying, which grants them the useful ability to cross over water and pits. Other winged Pokemon like Pidgey and Salamence who choose to get around on foot are incapable of this.
  • In Sly Cooper, several of the enemies encountered by the player are birds. Some of them, like the dodos, cannot fly. However, there are others , such as vultures, herons or pigeons, that can do it, yet all of them prefer to fall to their deaths if knocked out from high places or into the water, instead of just coming back flying.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog: Any and all of the various flying (and occasionally climbing) characters from the franchise have probably been subject to this at some point, in and out of the games. Granted, the thing that's after them may be very tall (and flying isn't as fast as running), but in some cases, it's just strange. For instance, there's a cutscene in Lava Reef Zone in Sonic 3 & Knuckles where Knuckles pushes a boulder down some stairs just after whichever character you're playing as (either Sonic or Tails) goes up them, knocking them back down again so they have to go up again. If you're playing as Tails, the game doesn't let you fly over the (slow-moving) boulder!
    • Let's not forget Super Sonic. His ability to fly is well established in canon, being utilized in many final boss battles. But even if the game lets you go Super in regular levels, he'll never be seen flying in regular levels. (Not without the same help that normal Sonic would require, at least.)
  • Super Mario Galaxy 2: Fluzzard, who is a giant parrot who, according to his hummingbird friends, is actually afraid of flying and prefers to glide instead, and is often used by Mario/Luigi to obtain Power Stars by having him fly to the finish line.
  • Super Robot Wars: Flying units can be intentionally moved along the ground by the players in case they need terrain bonuses, like, say, make a unit move into a forest to increase chances to evade. This is useful because most of the ground enemies can attack even if your units are in the air.
  • Super Smash Bros. Brawl: Played with in Subspace Emissary cutscenes:
    • Early in the story, Pit leaps (with a boost from Mario) towards the airborne Ancient Minister and falls when he misses. It looks like a case of Cutscene Incompetence and Acrophobic Bird, but it's not. Pit normally can't fly unless he is powered by Palutena, and then it's only for five minutes at a time. Of course, that makes one wonder why she didn't help and why he can fly when controlled by the player.
    • Later on, Meta Knight subverts this by actually flying up high, and then immediately averted when the Ancient Minister shoots a dead-accurate laser shot right through Meta Knight's wing, forcing him to land and tend to it.
    • Meta Knight actually seems to flip-flop in cutscenes. He flies low to the ground or runs when outside and traveling with others, but ascends to high height when he needs to save Lucas and Pokémon Trainer. He also flies through narrow indoor corridors, where you'd think running would be easier due to the size of his wingspan. Lastly, rather than flying up the entire way to the Halberd, he chooses instead to climb and leap up a mountain.
  • Tales Series
    • Colette from Tales of Symphonia gains a pair of fully functional wings after the first dungeon (Lloyd, Kratos and Zelos also are shown to have them by the late game), but never seems to think to use them to fly across gorges to hit switches, get to out of the way treasure chests, or climb over an Insurmountable Waist-Height Fence, except for a few random cutscenes where she suddenly remembers she can fly.
    • Speaking of Tales games, Tales of Phantasia had a witch-like character who could use a flying broom. There are a couple situations where it's used to fly up (such as getting treasure chests too far to reach and avoid a dungeon that the other characters have to go through), though none that would desperately call for it.
    • Inverted by way of Plot Tailored to the Party in Tales of the World: Narikiri Dungeon 3. Several chests are blocked away on islands over bottomless pits or hot magma. The only way to get to them is by leading a party with Arche, the above Cute Witch, or Calo in the Witch or Arche costumes. (And no, you can't do it with Collette or her costume. Go figure.)
  • Warcraft:
    • Warcraft III: Winged Dreadlords will sometimes ask "If I have wings, why am I always walking?"
    • World of Warcraft:
      • The game has flying creatures, such as hippogryphs. However, prior to Cataclysm — at least in Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms — the "flying" enemies acted like they had invisible feet. For example, you spot one on top of a short cliff and shoot it — and instead of flying straight at you, it took a very jerky path off to the side and down along the route you'd have had to walk if you were earthbound. There may still be a few mobs like this, but for the most part, the flying enemies actually fly now.
      • Outside a few specific quests (bombing runs and such), you can't engage in 3-dimensional combat even with a flying mount (as attacking causes you to dismount). However, killing somebody, getting on your flying mount, and hovering above the corpse out of enemy reach is a common method of ganking.
      • It's also possible, though tricky, to attack from above. One possible method is to dismount high above an opponent who's idle in the air, fire off a shot that stuns them, hopefully dropping them from the sky, and then activating a gadget to slow your fall.
      • Druids, who can enter flight form instantly (and thus can do this while falling) sometimes engage in aerial combat, but they don't really have enough spells they can use in the air to do it very much. Mages have more, but they can't remount — on the other hand, they have the Slow Fall spell.
      • Speaking of druids, one feral druid tactic called the "RAWRbomb" involves shapeshifting out of flight form and into bear form in midair, drop down towards your target and casting Feral Charge when it's in range, which negates fall damage. In addition to allowing the druid to reach the target much more quickly (this is important when trying to hunt down rare monsters sought by many players), it also has the added coolness of a giant bear dropping down from the sky onto someone's unfortunate head.
      • An old druid game is "Aerial Chicken", which consists of flying really high, dismounting, and the one who re-mounts first (or splats into the ground) loses. Bonus points for convincing non-druids (who cannot re-mount while falling) to play.
  • Winx: At several parts of the game, you are arbitrarily stopped by rocks on the path or falling down pits, even though the protagonists are fairies, more than capable of flight.
  • Zoo Tycoon 2: Flying animals, such as the secretary bird, may fly around their enclosures, but it never occurs to them to fly over their exhibit fences.

  • The Bird Feeder: In #38, "Look out!", Josh isn't aerodynamic anymore due to his new cyborg cap, making it difficult for him to fly. Later, in #44, "Sleeping...", he doesn't even consider flying when in danger.
  • El Goonish Shive: In the "Death Sentence" arc, Grace wanted to try talking to a magically-enlarged boar to save its life, and she planned to simply fly out of the way if the boar wouldn't cooperate. When the boar inevitably got mad and charged at her, she panicked and dove out of the way, forcing Raven to shoot the boar before it could gore her. This causes her some Angst going forward.

    Web Original 
  • The Nostalgia Chick took the Don Bluth movie Thumbelina to task on how the heroine never uses her bird sidekick's flight to solve any of her problems (until, of course, the climax):
    "Get on the bird... Get on the bird... Get on the fucking bird!"
  • Similarly, The Nostalgia Critic pointed out the Fridge Logic in one episode of Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, where Sonic and Tails were trapped in a cage, with the floor opening up beneath them. The Critic wonders why, if Tails could fly, he doesn't just pick up Sonic and get them out of danger.
  • The title character of Nukie tries to reach his brother in America despite the fact that he is stranded on Africa. Both of them are aliens who are capable of flying as the reviewer, The Cinema Snob, repeatedly points out, which would end the movie rather quickly. When Nukie finally suggests flying, the Snob's reaction is amazing to behold.
    Cinema Snob: You don't. Fucking! SAY!!
  • Oxventure, Dungeons & Dragons game: In "Silent Knight", it turns out Egbert's had the spell Misty Step (which would allow him to teleport 30 feetnote  at any time at the cost of one of his, rarely used, spell slots) for several adventures, but Mike (and by extension him) forgot.

    Western Animation 
  • Classic Disney Shorts:
    • In the Donald Duck short Good Time for a Dime, Donald briefly tries to fly away from a rogue airplane ride, but it ends up not working at all, and he still plummets. By that time, his arms/wings were already anthropomorphic enough that they clearly weren't wings anymore.
    • In Alpine Climbers, Donald must rescue Mickey from an angry eagle (it's a little hard not to be on her side as Mickey was stealing her eggs). He flies by spinning his tailfeathers like a propeller!
    • If hallucinations count, Donald is actually shown flying in one later scene in The Three Caballeros, but he is flying like a hummingbird rather than like a duck.
    • One episode of House of Mouse was actually about Peter Pan helping Donald learn to fly.
  • In Aladdin: The Series, there is at least one episode where Aladdin repeatedly tries to tell Genie to shapeshift into a bird and carry them away, and Genie just doesn't get it.
  • American Dragon: Jake Long: One episode has Jake being kidnapped by the Huntsclan as part of a hunting ritual and chained to a bunch of other magical creatures with their own idiosyncrasies (including a mermaid with a phobia of water).
  • Cyberchase: Justified with Digit who literally has acrophobia or gets injured in a way that prevents him from flying.
  • Dragons: Riders of Berk: In "Gem of a Different Color", while fleeing through a forest from an angry mother dragon, the main characters continue to fly close to the ground and under the tree canopy rather than trying to gain height to get away from the nests and lose their pursuers or to avoid having to constantly dodge around tree trunks. Hiccup even says they need to get out of the trees, but they do so by trying to exit the forest horizontally — the thought of simply flying a few feet upwards to clear the treetops never occurs to anyone.
  • Drawn Together: Lampshaded and played for laughs. Captain Hero frequently stays in bad situations his superpowers could get him out of for various reasons. When the characters bring it up, it sometimes becomes a case of I Forgot I Could Fly. He points out that, while they were in a helicopter about to crash to death, that he could easily save them. Sadly, he can't as he is addicted to drugs. "Still think doing drugs is cool?"
  • Fantomcat had Lindberg the pigeon who was terrified of heights and usually refused to fly.
  • Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law: Lampshaded in an episode where Harvey wishes he had some way to just fly away while standing in a prison yard... while fluttering his wings.
  • Justice League: Superman tends to forget he can fly whenever he's fighting a ground-based foe like Solomon Grundy or Darkseid. The latter at least has the (almost) never-missing Omega Beams to make it so that keeping his distance via flight wouldn't really make Superman any safer. .
  • Looney Tunes:
    • It's especially and extremely evident in any Tweety and Sylvester cartoon. Granted, the earliest incarnation of Tweety was colored pink because he was supposed to be a baby bird and thus unable to fly. His color change came about due to censorship, not any implications of him growing older.
    • Lampshaded in the cartoon Million Hare with Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck racing each other to try to win $1M. Twice, Daffy is falling off a cliff (in one case towards a body of water) and Bugs remarks "I wonder if that silly duck will remember that he can [fly/swim]?" Of course, Daffy doesn't.
    • In The Looney Tunes Show, when Daffy gets on a hang glider:
      Daffy: Wow! I'm flying! I'm like a bird! Wait, I am a bird. I'm... like a plane!
    • However guaranteed it may be that the Road Runner will elude whatever traps Wile E. Coyote sets, it's never because the bird remembers he can fly. Nor does the Coyote ever take the Road Runner's ability to fly into account, when designing said traps. [[Justified Trope|Justified]] by Truth in Television. Real life greater roadrunners are very poor flyers and lack the keel on their breastbones to anchor the well-developed pectoral muscles found in birds that are longer distance flyers. They really do just stick to the ground.
    • Duck Dodgers: Spoofed in an episode where Daffy's clothes get mixed up with a Green Lantern's. He shoots up into the air, says he's the first of his kind to fly... all while a flock of ducks flies past in the background.
  • My Little Pony:
    • My Little Pony 'n Friends:
      • Sting the bee can fly, and used to do so, but he's a poor and clumsy flier and stopped flying entirely until Morning Glory convinces him to try again.
      • In "The Magic Coins, Part 3", when Niblik is holding the drawbridge open with the heroes hanging from its edges, it seemingly doesn't occur to any of the pegasi involved that they can just fly instead of hanging helplessly over a precipice.
    • My Little Pony (G3) gives us a pegasus with a phobia of clouds.
    • My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic:
      • Justified with Fluttershy, who really is acrophobic — Spike even questions why a pegasus would be scared of heights. In her case, it's an extension of her fear of everything. Fluttershy's phobia of heights is at its worst in "Dragonshy", where her wings lock up at the mere sight of heights, leaving her unable to cross even small gaps that ponies without wings crossed with ease. The plot of "Hurricane Fluttershy" outright hinges on this problem, where it's revealed that her tendency to freeze up when confronted with heights caused her to be bullied by other pegasus ponies, which in turn led her to be uncomfortable flying in front of them and less than confident in her capacity to fly at all. Her fear of heights grows much less pronounced in later seasons.
      • Rainbow Dash, meanwhile, just seems to have an easier time maneuvering forwards instead of up. This tendency to fly mostly horizontally, combined with her tendency to be Too Fast to Stop, has lead to countless head-on collisions which have earned her the nickname "Rainbow Crash". Some of said collisions could have easily been avoided by simply flying higher. Her habit of forgetting that she can fly vertically also causes other problems. She suffers from this hard when fleeing from a horde of cookie-obsessed "zombies" in "28 Pranks Later". It never occurs to her that by flying upwards, she'd become safe from all non-flying pursuers. Vaguely justified in that instance as she's scared out of her wits and it's been well-established she's not very wise or good at functioning under stress...
      • In "Owl's Well That Ends Well", despite having what are by all appearances two perfectly normal wings, the dragon pursues Spike only by running on the ground. This is especially notable when the main characters escape him by crossing through vegetation too thick for him to pass through and he simply stays back, roaring in frustration, instead of trying to climb or fly over the obstacle — the only thing he uses his wings for is to spread them dramatically while roaring as the main characters flee to safety.
  • Oggy and the Cockroaches: Running on Rule of Funny, if Oggy is simply chasing the cockroaches, they won't fly to escape him, but if Oggy chases the cockroaches over a cliff, they will fly to laugh at Oggy's peril.
  • On Pip Ahoy!, Hopper, a one-legged seagull, really doesn't like flying very high, but is sometimes willing to face his fear to help out Pip.
  • The Powerpuff Girls (1998):
    • In the episode "Cootie Gras", the girls are trapped in a pit with a boy they think is afflicted with the terrible disease of "cooties". They run around in the pit, trying to dodge the cootie boy attempting to kiss them, never once attempting to fly and only doing so after they realize Cooties isn't really anything and let him have the kisses he was so eager for.
    • In the episode "Down 'n Dirty", Buttercup is being chased by the townspeople because she refused to take a bath. The chase scene was really intense, with Buttercup rushing through the woods, and suddenly, she stops and realises "Duh, I can fly." It seems really bad, since they actually float around at least half the time.
  • Regular Show: The "forgot I could fly" variant of this trope occurs in "Death Punchies". Rigby abuses a forbidden kung-fu technique and ends up sending Mordecai and himself to a pit that's steadily filling with lava. After the two wail and moan and blame each other for their situation, Mordecai says he was smart enough to learn a way to escape, and uses another forbidden kung-fu technique to fly to safety. This is the only instance in which Mordecai has been able to fly, despite being a bird (specifically a blue jay, a species perfectly capable of flying).
  • In Ruby Gloom, Scaredy Bat has a fear of heights. This is mostly Played for Laughs, though. Scaredy Bat is afraid of everything, including flying.
    "Being in the air, on the air, I do not even like getting air mail!"
  • The The Super Hero Squad Show version of Falcon is afraid of heights.
  • In Teen Titans, Beast Boy seems to forget that he can change into a flying creature to get out of trouble (notably in the first episode with Mad Mod). Much of this is played for laughs or can be explained by remembering that Beast Boy isn't the brightest tool in the shed. Although, he DID outright state once or twice that his biggest issue was thinking which creature would actually be the most beneficial to a situation... Hence why him turning into a giant, heavy beast when on unstable footing was usually comedy relief. On occasion, he has tried to fly away and promptly been shot down by a ray-gun, force-field, or what-have-you. He also mentions at one point that transforming into a flying animal is very tiring.
  • On T.O.T.S., part of Bodhi's backstory is that he was scared to fly. He loved the idea of delivering babies for T.O.T.S. so much that he made up a song that helped him get himself over it.
  • Transformers:
    • Another literal example is found in The Transformers (the TV series), The Transformers (Marvel) (the comic), and Transformers: War for Cybertron — Silverbolt, leader of the Aerialbots, is terrified of heights. In the cartoon, the Aerialbots were built on Cybertron out of the remains of old craft, with Silverbolt being built from a low-altitude shuttle, whose limitations were apparently carried over by Vector Sigma into Silverbolt's personality. Optimus Prime named him leader of the group to help keep his mind off of his weakness (though it may also be due to Silverbolt having the most level-headed personality among the Aerialbots, and being the only one of them to inherently respect other, weaker lifeforms such as humans).
    • Even worse off is the Autobot Triple Changer Broadside, whose alt-modes are jet fighter and aircraft carrier. Not only is he acrophobic, but he gets seasick on the water.
    • In Transformers: Rescue Bots, Blades, who transforms into a helicopter, has a similar fear of heights.
    • In addition, the majority of the Decepticons in the original series could fly. However, they still chose to run on foot most of the time, even in the title scene — in which the seekers transform out of their jet modes, land on the ground, and then rush the Autobots with guns blazing.
    • Of course, Starscream doesn't require much provocation to high-tail it out of there and make use of his aerial superiority. That doesn't mean it'll actually work though.
    • Transformers shows feature a number of instances when characters who are able to fly simply fall off a ledge anyway. Examples include the Decepticons falling into lava at the end of the episode Heavy Metal War, the Dinobots (among them Swoop, a flying robot-Pterosaur) falling into a tar pit in the two parter Dinobot Island, and various flight-capable Beast Wars characters doing the same, even when their flight gear is seemingly undamaged (Terrorsaur, in fact, dies this way).
  • W.I.T.C.H. centers around five girls, collectively called the Guardians if the Veil, each of whom is granted the ability to control one of the elements of nature as well as flight in their guardian forms. Taranee, the Guardian of fire, is shown to not only be afraid of heights (she mentions getting nauseous just wearing heels) but fire as well. However, this applies only to the first episode of the series and Taranee never displays these fears again.
  • There's a Woody Woodpecker cartoon where Woody falls from a great height, starts flying, and admits, "Hey, I forgot I was a bird!"

    Real Life 
  • Many small forest birds avoid flying above the canopy as the treetop levels are much safer. The airspace above the treeline is where the larger predatory birds tend to hang out. However, all birds know enough to fly up out of reach of land-bound predators like cats.
  • As some scientific studies and anyone who has chased pigeons will tell you, many ground-feeding birds won't fly unless they have to. Until they decide they can't reach that raised platform or can't escape that pursuer without flying, they'll try to do it on foot. Most birds will run up slopes while beating their wings for extra speed, rather than flying to the top, until the incline is almost completely vertical. This is because powered flying —particularly the takeoff part— is a rather energy-intensive activity, so the more a bird flies, the more food it needs to ingest afterwards.
  • Some paleontologists theorize that this is how dinosaurs evolved flight in the first place. The theory is that feathers evolved as insulation, then got used by flapping to aid the dinosaurs in running up steep slopes. As feathers evolved to be better at this, they became possible to use for gliding. Then the dinos combined the two uses, and the rest is (pre)history.
  • There are many birds that, while they have large wings, fly rarely or almost never because their bodies simply aren't built for it. This is especially common on islands, where predators are scarce and flight is not a priority. Examples include the kakapo of New Zealand (a ground-dwelling parrot that can only use its wings to glide from a high perch), the kagu of New Caledonia (which has large wings, but cannot flap them for long periods of time), and the Laysan duck of Hawaii (which can only flutter for short distances).
  • Wild chickens and turkeys are both perfectly good at flying, but breeding them to produce more meat or lay eggs (or sometimes just for looks) has resulted in most domestic varieties being hardly able to get off the ground, if at all. Many people don't realise they're not actually flightless species.
  • Unfortunately, flying straight up does not work when attempting to escape from a car hurtling toward a bird at 50 mph. The car goes too fast and the bird can't get out of range fast enough. Ends with a splat on the windshield. Some smarter types of birds, such as crows, having spent centuries living alongside humans, know how to defy this trope, but if you drive slowly along a country lane, there's a good chance that you'll find a pigeon who thinks they can avoid your car by slowly and clumsily flying in a straight line above you, only about 30 centimetres above the ground.
  • "Nap of the Earth" flying sometimes seems like this due to the likelihood of crashing, but can be safer than flying into the radar of enemy SAM defenses. It works by putting obstacles and the curvature of the Earth between you and the enemy radar. However, if your enemy mostly relies on guns or shoulder-launched or other small SAM systems (which are a lot more common than bigger, long-range ones) for air defense, it does make sense to fly higher to avoid them. Essentially, you have to decide if you are more concerned about the big missiles and guns that can reach you at high altitude (fly low, or use Wild Weasel tactics) or the smaller missiles and rapid fire anti-aircraft guns and small arms fire (fly high and fast).
    • This is the difference between British and American attack helicopter doctrines. The Americans use their helicopters to rain Death from Above, which is somewhat safer, whilst the British instead choose to prioritize lethality over safety.
  • Many types of birds like ducks and geese imprint on the first thing they see after they hatch, so a goose that was hand-raised from an egg might have literally no clue that it's supposed to be able to fly. A notable aversion was dramatized in the movie Fly Away Home, where a girl uses a light aircraft to teach her geese how to migrate (rather than having their wings clipped).
  • Sparrowhawks are specialists at flying less than a meter above the ground, which allows them to use shrubbery as concealment so nearby small birds won't sound the alarm and warn their prey of the hawk's approach. Flying low also allows them to save energy, as each flap of their scoop-shaped wings causes air to bounce off the ground, giving them extra lift when their wing-scoops catch the backblast.
  • Earwigs. They have wings, and they can fly quite well. They spend such little time in the air that most people don't even know this. When threatened they prefer to brandish their pincers or run away, and when getting from point A to point B they prefer to keep close to a flat surface.
  • Literally true if you are flying a Ground Effect Vehicle, which will crash if flown out of ground effect.
  • The Parlor Roller is a breed of pigeon named for and selectively bred to do "summersaults" in the air as well as tumble and roll. They stop flying at all when they reach full adulthood, the exact reason why is not known.