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Always Know a Pilot

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Being an old army buddy is a good way to know a pilot.

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

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

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

Unrelated to the original "test episodes" of television series.


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

    Comic Books 
  • One issue of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (Marvel) has Kwinn, Snake Eyes and Doctor Venom escape from zealous mercenaries in Sierra Gordo aboard an old but functional Lancaster bomber. It just so happens that Doc Venom is an accomplished pilot, and he gets the derelict rustbucket airborne.
  • Hunter's Hellcats: Several stories into the run, it is suddenly established that Snake Oil—the team's Con Man—worked for a time as a barnstormer before the war. (A later story says that he used to ferry stolen planes, which is probably more believable, but there is no reason he could not have done both.) Following this, anytime the team he needs a pilot, he is it.
  • Zinda Blackhawk has served as this for numerous DC teams and heroes, including the Suicide Squad and the Birds of Prey.

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

    Films — Animation 
  • Zig-Zagged in The Incredibles, when Helen Parr a.k.a. Elastigirl needs a plane ride to a tropical island in the middle of nowhere. She calls her pilot friend who used to fly her around during her days as a superhero. The surprise comes when it turns out it's just to borrow the plane, because she pilots it herself.note 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Gonzo reporter Robert Caulfield hires cropduster Albain to search for astronaut Charles Brubaker from Capricorn One. Albain immediately deduces that Caulfield is working a heist, and demands half the take as payment. Albain flies his biplane well enough to checkmate two helicopter gunships bent on eradicating all witnesses.
  • In the movie version of Clear and Present Danger, Ryan and Clark, in Columbia, need a pilot for their chopper. Clark finds Buck Zimmer, passed out at a bar, and presses him into service.
  • In The Mummy, Rick happens to know an old expat named Winston, a middle-aged pilot with a literal death wish, who's happy to fly them on a very dangerous mission. He dies in the process, but it lets him Go Out with a Smile.
  • In The Mummy Returns Rick gets his old friend Izzy to fly him and his family in pursuit of Imhotep.
  • 2012: When John Cusack and his family force the reluctant Gordon to pilot a small plane and later a much bigger plane.
  • Independence Day: The military is so devastated that there is literally a call for anyone with prior piloting experience. Randy Quaid's doofy dad character has experience with.... crop dusting? As a bonus, the President, who was established as an Air Force veteran early in the film, reveals that he too will be joining the fight.
  • Mars Attacks!. Byron Williams rescues Tom Jones from Martians. He needs a pilot to fly him to Washington D.C., and it turns out that Tom Jones knows how to fly a plane!
  • Seeking a Friend for the End of the World: Dodge's neighbor Penny wants to get home to the UK to see her family before the asteroid wipes out humanity, fortunately Dodge's dad is a pilot. Most of the movie is the trip to try and get to him and his plane.
  • Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. In the first movie, Lara Croft has to get to Cambodia fast. She smiles at a framed photo of herself with a team of British special forces. Cut to her being parachuted out of an RAF transport aircraft over the Cambodian jungle. In the sequel Lara is ferried around by British Intelligence like a quasi-James Bond, but it's subverted when someone is needed to fly a helicopter and the only person is her Voice with an Internet Connection who's done it in flight simulation games.
  • Seven (1979): Among her other skills, Alexa is a helicopter pilot: a fact the audience doesn't learn until she rents a chopper so she can get to the private estate of her target, the Hermit. It comes in handy later in the film when Drew is stranded on the beach while the Kahuna is escaping in his yacht. Alexa stll has the rented chopper and is able to pick Drew up so he can continue his pursuit.
  • In Death Ring, Matt's best friend is 'Skylord' Harris: a chopper pilot who saved his life in Guatemala. When Matt and Lauren are kidnapped, Skylord goes searching for them. He borrows a helicopter for the charter company he works at and arrives at the island just in time to provide a much needed extraction.

  • The Adversary Cycle. In Nightworld, the heroes have to go on a Fetch Quest to assemble a Sword of Plot Advancement. Unfortunately The End of the World as We Know It is happening with Eldritch Abominations roaming the Earth gobbling up people, ships and aircraft. Fortunately one of them has been preparing for this moment for a long time, and has a couple of pilots on tap for just this purpose.
  • The Executioner
    • During his war against The Mafia, Mack Bolan hijacks a jet plane flown by Jack Grimaldi, an ex-Vietnam veteran like himself who's working as a mercenary pilot for the mob. Bolan convinces him to do a Mook–Face Turn and he helps out whenever Bolan needs a pilot, as well as becoming a member of Stony Man once Bolan started working for the US government (though he could also draw on US military pilots then).
    • In Able Team #13: Scorched Earth, the obligatory Disposable Pilot is averted when the DEA aircraft carrying Able Team is shot down by Mexican army units working in league with the Big Bad. This means they have a pilot handy when they capture a Mexican army helicopter and have to use it in the sequel novel.
  • In Ken Follett's non-fiction thriller On Wings of Eagles, Ross Perot has to arrange for a private jet to get his people out of Iran during the revolution. There's a company right there in Texas which can do this, but it turns out they only lease aircraft. Perot persuades them to provide pilots, insurance, and all the other things necessary on a one-off basis.
  • The hero in Siberian Light knows a pilot, which turns out to be very useful. (This may be because the author is obsessed with Russian Airplanes).

    Live-Action TV 
  • The A-Team: A large part of Howlin' Mad Murdock's usefulness to the team is that he can fly anything that Face can scam. This makes him very useful for transportation (though they have to work around B.A.'s fear of flying).
  • MacGyver (1985) has recurring character Jack Dalton, a pilot and con man with a good heart underneath it all. Ironically, MacGyver is also a pilot (though he doesn't use that skill often), and most of their adventures start with Jack needing a copilot. In fact, on the one occasion where MacGyver comes to him, he's extremely excited to have a chance to return all the favors MacGyver does for him.
  • Magnum, P.I.: Thomas Magnum frequently seeks help from T.C., a helicopter pilot that conducts aerial tours of Hawaii. Though it's often an imposition, T.C. routinely comes through for The Hero.
  • Person of Interest: Finch knows how to fly airplanes. This comes in handy when Reese finds himself on a very troubled jetliner that is suddenly lacking in pilots. Finch being miles away isn't a problem, nor is it much of a problem that he has only ever flown small planes. But Finch is clearly not comfortable with the arrangement.
  • Something is Out There. Jack Breslin and Ta'Ra want to locate the Monster of the Week by flying over the city and scanning for him, so Jack tries to convince a friend who flies a police helicopter to give his 'cousin' a joyride. Naturally he refuses as he's accountable for fuel and such, until Ta'Ra reads his mind and finds out he's looking for someone to go to a particular concert with him. She pretends to be a fan and suddenly he's a lot more eager to do Favors for the Sexy when he can get a date out of it.

    Video Games 
  • In Deus Ex, J.C. Denton can befriend a pilot who turns out to be his chopper pilot. He can die, or J.C. can deliver the narmiest line ever.
  • Mass Effect's Joker, who saves you from certain death on half the missions.
  • Mega Man X5: if you opt the launch the Shuttle to stop the Colony Drop, Zero (one of the playable characters) reveals that he can pilot the thing, so he volunteers for it. This ability is never mentioned in prev. games, nor any title after that. It's mostly as a justification (read: plot mandate) for Zero turning bad with the effect of the Colony Drop (that is, if your effort to stop it fails).
  • In the Payday series, you're frequently going to require extraction by air, so Bain has two pilots, Alex and Bile, always at the ready.
  • In Tales of the Abyss you get a pretty useful pilot, Noelle. She may join you after you save her brother, but oddly enough, you can wait out the timer and let him die, and this doesn't effect whether she joins you.
  • Just Shapes & Beats: One of the companions you meet over the course of the story is a sentient helicopter who guides you through the non-level parts of one segment of the story.

    Web Original 
  • Can You Spare a Quarter?: Graham knows Dave, the pilot who flies between the city and Valdez Island, personally and relies on him a couple of time to resolve an issue.

    Western Animation 
  • An example that overlaps with Contrived Coincidence: In Archie's Weird Mysteries, In order to stop a giant pudding monster from growing out of hand, Archie and his friends need to drop a rain formula from the sky by someone who has a plane and can fly it. It just so happens that Reggie's uncle has a plane and Pop Tate has an aviator's license.
  • This is the main reason why DuckTales has Launchpad McQuack; since Scrooge's adventures take them all around the world (and beyond), having a dedicated pilot around was just common sense. Launchpad is also a natural at operating most other vehicles that may be called into use (rocket ships, submarines, cars, time machines), so they wouldn't need additional specialists. Of course, the fact that his true talent lies not in operating vehicles but crashing them is a bit of an issue...
  • Family Guy's Glenn Quagmire serves as this, being the series' resident Ace Pilot. Though it's downplayed in that, as an airline pilot, he's portrayed working his normal profession far more times than he's needed in times of adventure.
  • Franklin. A downplayed variation of this appears in "Franklin and Snail's Dream," in which Snail's dream is to fly, but many different attempts by Franklin prove futile, that is until Mr. Turtle calls on a pilot friend of his, who just happens to also be a snail, and flies around in her own snail-sized plane, to make Snail's dream come true.
  • This trope was played for laughs in Kim Possible. She would get rides from people who would always say, "Oh, this little favor is nothing compared to..." and list some sort of Noodle Incident that she helped them out with.
  • The Simpsons: Mel Gibson sneaks into town to check on the progress of his film preview.
    Hannah: [a marketing person] How'd you get here from L. A. so fast?
    Gibson: John Travolta flew me in his jet. Now I have to help him move next weekend. He deliberately waited until we were in the air to ask me.
Later, Gibson presses Travolta into service again, turning the plane around so he can go back & find Homer, the one person who didn't like the film.
Travolta: Ahh, but you promised to help me move!
  • Deputy mayor Calico Briggs can summon the SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron with a distress beacon in her purse. More than once, T-Bone and Razor have flown to her rescue in the Turbokat. Sometimes, it's Commander Feral's niece Felina that saves Ms. Briggs.

    Real Life