There in the air
Without a care
I wish I could fly
And see things with a different eye!"
Perhaps one of the oldest wish dreams in existence. Whether it's longing to see things from a bird's perspective, jealousy or inspiration from seeing another do it, or just wanting to feel the sense of freedom of soaring through the sky, a lot of characters dream of flying.
The nature of how they wish to accomplish this varies from building a flying machine to longing for a pair of wings.
Like most cases with dreams, this can sometimes be a case of Be Careful What You Wish For. Other times, it's exactly what the character wanted and their story ends with them happily flying with the birds. Of course, this doesn't just apply to those who can't fly. Animals that are capable of flight but lack the knowledge (usually young ones) often wish to be able to join their fellow species in the sky. In this case, it usually ends with them finally discovering how. Frequently overlaps with Caged Bird Metaphor and Acrophobic Bird.
- A common theme in the works of Hayao Miyazaki - his family were air-plane manufacturers, after all.
- Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind looks deeply at mankind's desire to fly, the freedom it brings and the destruction it can cause.
- Pazu in Castle in the Sky wishes to fly to the floating castle of Laputa, which his father (an aviator) was able to briefly glimpse during a flight.
- Kiki in Kiki's Delivery Service is a trainee witch who uses her broomstick to run a delivery service. Losing the ability to fly is a major problem for her.
- Porco Rosso features the 'flying boatmen' of pre-World War II Italy.
- The Wind Rises is about a short-sighted boy's dreams of flight, and revisits the dichotomy between beauty and destructiveness mentioned under Nausicaa.
- In the episode "Fly Me to the Moon", a Pidgey named Orville dreamed of flying higher then any other Pokemon. Even Meowth was touched by the dream and decided to help him.
- In another episode, "Let Bagons Be Bagons", a Bagon tries to learn how to fly. It eventually does so with a jetpack before evolving into Shelgon.
- The episode "A Test in Paradise" has a Dragonair who wanted to join its fellow 'mon in flying, but didn't know the necessary move to do so. Ash, using some unconventional methods, helps it achieve flight and earns the dragon's gratitude and even catches it.
- In Sword Art Online, what endeared Suguha, Online Alias Leafa, to Alfheim Online was the flight mechanic due to the feeling of freedom it gives her, giving her a form of Escapism from her IRL problems. This comes up in the spin-off game Fatal Bullet, where she finds herself not enjoying GGO as much as her friends due to the lack of a flight mechanic.
- The trio in The Place Promised in Our Early Days dream of building a small aircraft and visiting the tower in Ezo (Hokkaido).
- ElfQuest Volume 2 issue 4, in the Windkin story, it is implied that the "grandfather" has actually flown (as a child, with Windkin providing the means) while his little grandson hopes that he'll one day get to fly too.
- Gagarin: A caterpillar dreams of flight and tries to jump up and join the things it sees flying (first a dragonfly, then a helicopter).
- In Don Bluth's The Pebble and the Penguin, Rocko, the penguin Hubie meets on his journey, wishes this. At the end of the film, in a way that doesn't make sense, he achieves it. Still, despite its illogical nature, it's pretty touching.
- Petrie, a young pteranodon from Don Bluth's The Land Before Time, tries hard to fly, but succeeds only in falling (leading to an ironic fear of heights). During the Final Battle with Sharptooth, he finally manages to in order to save Duckie.
- In the holiday movie, Annabelle's Wish, the title character, a young calf, after seeing Santa's reindeer, wishes to fly like them. However, after bonding with the farmer's grandson Billy, who had lost his voice in a fire, she gives up her dream and her ability to talk on Christmas so that Billy could speak again. Years later, when Annabelle is on her death bed, Santa comes and makes her into one of his reindeer and restores her voice.
- This is the main plot of the movie Rio. Blu is a macaw who has spent his whole life as a pet never learning to fly. When he gets stranded in Rio, he tries to learn how, and eventually does in order to save his true love from falling to her death.
- Wise mentor Cornelius has a dream of flight, which leads him to pen diagrams and construct a scale model of a "Flapper Wingamathing" in Hanna-Barbera's Once Upon a Forest. He doesn't get the chance to build one, though, as the tragic events of the story intervene. Cornelius's three young pupils, however, construct the device out of necessity, and it works. The end credits show Cornelius aboard his invention with the young 'uns operating it.
- In the "Rhapsody in Blue" segment of Fantasia 2000, the main characters watch two skaters and imagine themselves living out their dreams; for the Henpecked Husband John, that means flying like a bird.
- Arthur in The Sword in the Stone mentions wishing he could fly, so Merlin turns him into a bird so he can live out his dream.
- Peter Pan: The song "You Can Fly" is built on this trope.
- Arizona Dream: Elaine is so bent on flying that she enlists the aide of her December-May boyfriend Axel to help her build a series of flying machines which would shame Wile E. Coyote - and they all fail. She's elated when somebody buys her a plane for her birthday.
- The Blue Max begins with the hero Bruno Stracher, then a landser infantryman, looking up from the mud and sludge of the Western Front to track a biplane fighter aircraft in the sky. He realises in this moment that the sort of WW1 he wants to fight involves his transferring to the Imperial German Air Service.
- Test pilot Cliff Secord from Touchstone Pictures' The Rocketeer has flown some developmental aircraft. When Fate delivers a prototype rocket pack unto him, Cliff becomes a literal flying man. The learning curve is much steeper than with fixed-wing aircraft, but Cliff's enthusiasm steadily raises his airworthiness.
- High Flight is a sonnet by John G. Magee, a Canadian Air Force pilot. He said he started the poem at 30,000 and finished it on the ground. (Sadly, he died in a mid-air collision three months later.)
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of EarthAnd danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;— First linesAnd, while with silent lifting mind I've trodThe high untrespassed sanctity of space,Put out my hand, and touched the face of God— Final lines
- Inverted in The Little Prince - the narrator wanted to be an artist, but was pushed to become a pilot instead.
- In the first part of T. H. White's The Once and Future King, Arthur expresses to Merlin a wish to fly, so Merlin turns him into a bird of prey (a merlin, naturally), and puts him in with the castle's hunting falcons.
- The U.S. Air Force Song (creatively titled The U.S. Air Force Song) is best known for the first verse (the only part usually sung) which consists of a Badass Boast. The second and third verses are more this trope, about the people who love flying. The fourth and final verse, however, includes an allusion to the dangers of flying and aerial combat:
If you'd live to be a grey-haired wonder
Keep the nose out of the blue!
- The 1980 Eurovision Song Contest entry "Papa Pingouin" is, unsurprisingly, about a penguin who dreams of flying. In this case he ultimately ends up giving up his dream in favor of staying with his family.
- Marin from The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening wishes she was a seagull so she could fly off the island and sing to various people. She gets her wish if you finish the game without dying.
- Pokémon invokes this trope with Bagon, a little dragon introduced in Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire whose aspirations to fly fail causing it to fall and hit its head so hard and so often that it becomes tempered. However, its later evolutions see its dream realized, eventually evolving into a giant winged, flying Salamence.
- Pit from Kid Icarus: Uprising mentions he would like to be able to fly by himself so he doesn't have to rely on his patron goddess Palutena to do so. The other characters also constantly mock him for being the only angel who can't fly, and the one time Palutena doesn't make some kind of disapproving remark over his desire to be able to fly on his own is when he rescues Dark Pit, at the cost of his wings burning away because he forced Viridi to keep giving him the power of flight after its time limit expired.
- Urki from Far Cry Primal wants to fly like a bird, as Player Character Takkar finds out when visiting his tent, where he's throwing birds at the walls to find out how they fly (answer- not very well, because he's just spun them around in his hand before throwing them at the wall). Urki then sends Takkar on a Fetch Quest to obtain supplies with which Urki can build wings. Problem is, they're in prehistoric Europe, and Urki's not the cleverest caveman, so when Takkar brings him the supplies, he tries flying by sprinting off a wooden ramp holding only two handfuls of plumage. Sure enough, Urki falls like a brick, and only a convenient mound of hay cushions his fall. Miraculously, he survives falling, but from that point on, Urki never tries to fly again- instead, he tries other ideas that don't work out for him either.
- In Atelier Shallie: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea, Shallotte Elminus (one of the titular Shallies) wants to learn how to fly after resident Cute Witch Wilbell uses her Flying Broomstick to rescue her. Unfortunately, Shallotte is not a witch, so as much as she tries, broom-based flight is unattainable for her. Eventually, she comes up with the Flying Board, a device powered by alchemy which allows her to finally fulfill her dream.
- Celeste from Animal Crossing is a Funny Animal owl who, despite her efforts, has never been able to learn how to fly. She explains in Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer that she became an astrologist in order to be closer to the sky.
- In The Wuzzles episode "Eleroo's Wishday", Eleroo wishes that he could fly, but when Croc and his cronies threaten the other Wuzzles, Eleroo uses his final wish to sacrifice his newfound abilities of flight and to save his friends.
- The Garfield and Friends episode "Airborne Odie" saw Odie wishing to fly, which comes true after finding a magic lamp at the beach that contained a genie (voiced by Buddy Hackett). After using up two of his wishes to fly more properly, Odie uses his final wish to save Garfield from a shark.
- An episode of The Garfield Show also depicts Odie longing to fly, although it kept twisting around whether or not It Was All Just A Dream.
- The Lost Episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, "The Sponge Who Could Fly", depicts SpongeBob longing to fly with jellyfish. After a few failed attempts at building a flying machine, SpongeBob gains the ability to fly by accidentally inflating his pants. Unfortunately, everyone takes advantage of his flight which leads to his pants being destroyed. However, SpongeBob gets his wish when the jellyfish give him a ride.
- One episode of Yogi Bear featured Yogi helping a baby eagle who couldn't fly. After many attempts, the young eagle finally succeeds when he saves Yogi who fell off a cliff.
- In A Wish for Wings That Work, Opus the penguin really wants to fly - that's his christmas wish - and dreams about it; albeit in his dream he's a pilot aboard the crashing airplane from Lost Horizon.
- In one episode of House of Mouse featuring all the characters that can fly, flightless Donald longs be able to do the same. Thanks to Tinker Bell, he's able to live it out.
- The classic WWII short Sky Trooper had Donald wanting to fly in the Air Force.
- Kit Cloudkicker from Disney Television's Talespin series admires his mentor, Baloo, and hopes to become a remarkable pilot some day. The few times that Kit has taken the controls have overwhelmed him, though. However, as far as riding an airfoil goes, Kit takes to "cloudsurfing" like a bird to the sky.
- This is Yankee Doodle Pigeon's raison d'être on Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines. A comic book story even expresses that Yankee Doodle would love his job if it weren't for the two villains.
- In one episode of Adventures of the Gummi Bears, after hearing stories of being who flew called the Aerials, Cubbi desired to fly, and used a gummiberry juice-powered jet pack to give himself the boost to get into the air. He eventually gave up on flying after he learned that the Aerials were more jerkish than the stories let on, including abducting the other Gummis.