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Sky Heist

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Car theft rates in Tokyo are reaching new heights.

A visually spectacular (if impractical) way of stealing something, this technique involves flying over the target and then using a hook or a magnet to snag it and carry it off into the sky. Most commonly the aircraft used is a helicopter due to its maneuverability, but it can be done with a suitably slow moving plane, or even a Cool Airship.

Often overlaps with Steal the Surroundings. Compare High-Speed Hijack when somebody steals the vehicle itself without stopping it.

Aliens Steal Cattle is a specific Sub-Trope where aliens uses spaceships to steal livestock. The perpetrators are likely to be Sky Pirates.

Note: This trope is not about hijacking aircraft. It is about using an aircraft to steal something and flying away with the object dangling from the aircraft.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Fate/Apocrypha, the Black Faction is secure in its knowledge that it has the Greater Grail inside its fortified castle, preventing stealing and tampering. In response, the Red Faction led by Shirou Kotomine simply flies Semiramis' Hanging Gardens of Babylon over it to magically levitate it into their grasp. This forces Vlad III to leave the safety of his Home Field Advantage, drastically weakening him in the process.
  • Franchise.Lupin III:
    • Lupin III: Part II:
      • "Guns, Buns, and Fun in the Sun": Lupin and gang hide the money they stole this episode inside of the Cristo Redentor. At the end, they tie the enormous statue up to a helicopter and yank it out and away, but the damage means the money falls out and they only get away with the statue, who mocks them.
      • "Hell Toupee": Lupin's current problems were caused when he attempted to steal a medal from the chest of the Supreme Leader of Gehenia, Hutler (a Hitler parody). He had used a fishing pole from a helicopter, and accidently stole Hutler's toupee. A humiliated Hutler orders Hess and the army to fire on Lupin's copter; they're hit and crash down in a field.
      • "Christmas at Tiffany's": Lupin is coerced into stealing from a Tiffany & Company's jewelry store in New York City. With Zenigata's preparations, the gang cannot set foot in the building without setting off the alarms. So instead they sit on the roof of a nearby building and use laser fishing rods to collect the jewelry, instead.
    • Legend of the Gold of Babylon: At the end of the film, an alien ship shows up in an attempt to retrieve Babylon, which is an entire city underneath New York City. Lupin messes up their Tractor Beam, and the entire golden city breaks apart and falls back to the ground.
    • Lupin III: Bye-Bye Liberty Crisis!: The big heist for this film is Lupin stealing the Statue of Liberty in order to have plenty of time searching it for a large diamond called the Super Egg. To take the statue, Lupin and Jigen use a helicopter and ropes.
    • Lupin III: Stolen Lupin: During this film's opening heist, the truck with the treasure is on a bridge when Lupin forces it to stop, and turns his fake body doll disguise into a balloon to escape with all the treasure. Unfortunately for him, the semi-trailer was a cage in disguise and he loses all the jewels.
  • Steamboy is riding in a railroad car when Elite Mooks attempt to kidnap him using a giant claw lowered from a dirigible. It succeeds in crushing the middle of the car, and almost derails the entire train. The mooks use a Net Gun on the boy, capturing him and the steam ball before being lifted along with the claw aboard the dirigible.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman: Colonel Blimp commanded a small army, with whom he built several dirigibles capable of lifting battleships from the sea and captured several of these, holding the Navy officers inside for ransom.
  • In G.I.Joe: Special Missions #1, the Joes trick their Russian counterparts the Oktober Guard into taking a would-be defector out to sea. They then use a Skyhook system (see Real Life examples below) to snatch him off the deck of the Russian ship with a low-flying plane..
  • JSA: In All-Star Comics #41, the Icicle uses his Cool Airship to carry away a stadium full of people to act as judges for the Injustice Society of America's crime contest.

    Comic Strips 
  • Dick Tracy: When Mr. Bribery learns that his assassin Nah Tay is planning to kill him, he pays test pilot Maay to dispose of Nah Tay. Maay 'borrows' a flying space coupe from his employer Diet Smith and uses it to abduct Nah Tay by hoisting his car off the road. After killing Nah Tay, he uses the coupe to dump his body in orbit before returning the stolen vehicle.

    Film — Animated 
  • In Batman: Soul of the Dragon, Schlangenfaust escapes with the sword after his car is picked up by a helicopter with a large electromagnet attached to it.
  • The opening scene of Despicable Me 2 features an entire research lab being stolen by a massive aircraft.

    Film — Live Action 
  • The A-Team: The A-Team completes their seizure of printer plates for American dollars from an ex-Iraqi Army gang by hooking their cargo container to the underside of a V-22 Osprey piloted by Murdoch and flying away with it—with B.A. conveniently locked in the container so he can't kill them all over his fear of flying.
  • In Batman Forever, Two-Face baits Batman into a high-rise bank vault, before shutting it behind him and dragging the whole thing into the sky with a helicopter, while it fills with "boiling acid". (Why Two-Face felt the helicopter was necessary in a murder attempt is unknown, but presumably the whole thing can be chalked up to Rule of Cool.)
  • Attempted in Cannonball Run II. One of Tony's and Caesar's attempts to kidnap the Sheik involves using a helicopter with a magnet on the bottom to pick up his Rolls-Royce. After they make contact, they're unable to pick up the car. (Apparently, the helicopter isn't strong enough.) They're still trying to figure out what's wrong when they enter a tunnel and get knocked off the car's roof. The Sheik never notices something is amiss beyond an odd noise.
  • In Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Baron Bomburst's spies kidnap Grandpa Potts after mistaking him for his son Caractacus by hooking his shed from their airship and flying off with the entire shed, with Grandpa still inside.
  • In The Dark Knight, Batman kidnaps the Chinese mob boss Mr. Lau from his Hong Kong skyscraper using a skyhook - after blowing out one of the skyscraper's windows, he trails a cable out of the window that catches the underside of a cargo plane piloted by his allies, dragging him and Mr. Lau out of the building.
  • James Bond:
    • You Only Live Twice: In the scene that is the Trope Codifier (and inspiration for many other examples) Bond and Aki are being pursued by a carload of gun wielding thugs. Aki called Tiger Tanaka for help. Straight after the call for help a large helicopter hovers over the gunmen's car and picked it up with a very large electromagnet, lifts the car into the sky and dumps it into the waters of Tokyo Bay.
    Bond: Just a drop in the ocean.
  • In The Losers, the eponymous team attack a Vulnerable Convoy, bringing it to a halt in the middle of the street. While the armoured car is stopped, they fly over it in a helicopter, lower an electromagnet on to the roof, and then fly off with the truck suspended below them.
  • In Ocean's Thirteen, a secure case full of diamond necklaces is hauled out of a casino's roof via helicopter.
  • Once Upon a Spy: In a scene lifted directly from You Only Live Twice (see above), Big Bad Marcus Valorium kidnaps physicist Dr. Webster by having a helicopter fly over Webster's car and snatch it with an electromagnet.
  • In Solo: A Star Wars Story, the plan is to steal some train carriages by loading them in the space ship.
  • Swordfish: During the climatic bank robbery, Gabriel Shear arranges for his crew and hostages to be transported to an airport in a bus he prepared, but the destination is just a misdirection. His real escape strategy is to have a helicopter fly over the bus while it is driving, hook its cables to the bus's modified frame, and lift the whole thing away from the police convoy (unfortunately the flight gets complicated when the cables start breaking...).

  • In the Alex Rider book Never Say Die, the villains mount a kidnap plot in this way by snatching a school bus of children from an exclusive private school whilst it's on a motorway, using a helicopter with a magnetic hoist.

    Live Action TV 
  • Doctor Who: In "Day of the Doctor", UNIT sends a helicopter to pick the TARDIS up from Trafalgar Square and deliver it to the Tower of London. What they didn't know was that the Doctor and Clara were still inside it at the time.
  • Firefly: "The Train Job" uses this technique to extract cargo from a moving train.
  • MacGyver (1985): In the opening gambit to "Thief of Budapest", MacGyver's mission is to retrieve a very valuable horse from Arabian tribesmen who stole it. After a wild horse chase along a beach, a helicopter airlifts him and the horse away to safety.
  • Watchmen: Although you don't actually see the aircraft, this is employed against Angela Abar/Sister Night's car by Lady Trieu in order to extract her prisoner. They later drop the car right in front of Laurie Blake, who finds it hilarious.

  • CBS Radio Mystery Theater: in "King Bankrobber", the thieves fly off the entire bank and relocate it to the top floor of the robber's mansion.
  • In The Goon Show episode "The Great Bank Robbery", the robbers steal the entire bank, airlifting it away with a zeppelin.

    Video Games 
  • Grand Theft Auto IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony: One of the missions for Yusuf Amir involves stealing a subway train car with help of a transport helicopter.
  • Grand Theft Auto V: the three protagoniss can choose for some heists to use choppers to carry the loot.
    • Trevor can choose to use a Cargobob, earlier stolen from the military, to steal a submersible from Merryweather.
    • Likewise, for the final heist in the game, the trio can choose to use a chopper to carry the gold from a bank and drop it off on a train. If this approach is chosen, one of the missions to prepare for the heist involves stealing the train with help of a transport helicopter.
    • The first heist in the online game ends with players making their getaway with the aid of a helicopter pilot using an electromagnet to airlift the getaway car. One of the setups for the Diamond Casino heist also entails using a helicopter, this time to steal an EMP device.
  • Grand Theft Auto Online: In the "Do You Even Lift?" mission, the players have to acquire one or more Cargobob helicopters, and use them to steal four vehicles by airlifting them out of their driveways and delivering them to the top of a multistorey car park in Pillbox Hill.
  • Mercenaries Playground Of Destruction: Several side missions, most for the Russian Mafia, involve using a helicopter to grab vehicles with a magnetic grapple and transport them to a target zone. There's even one where you race to see how many North Korean jeeps you can drop into the cooling tower of a nuclear power plant. You can also do the same thing in normal gameplay if you want, for example, to bring a specific truck on a mission and don't feel like driving it to the mission zone.
  • Both PAYDAY: The Heist and PAYDAY 2 frequently have the loot of the robberies extracted by air, separate to the gang's escape route. Their most dramatic attempts include the following:
    • "Panic Room" has the gang Cutting the Knot concerning a vault secured in an apartment by sawing the beams it's bolted to, blowing a hole in the roof, and then getting a helicopter overtop to lift it out of the wreckage.
    • "Green Bridge" has a rescued prisoner taken to the top of a bridge, where a harness is used to pluck the man to safety via a passing plane.
  • Saints Row: The Third
    • The opening mission has the Saints robbing a bank vault. When their Plan A doesn't work, they activate Plan B - blowing up the upper floors of the bank, then having a helicopter with a crane attachment lift the entire vault out of the wreckage.
    • One mission tasks you with recovering a shipping crate of prostitutes who are about to be sent out. The method of rescuing them is lifting up the container with a helicopter and flying back to safety. Along the way, the Boss has to protect the helicopter, all the while the prostitutes hang on for dear life when it opens up mid-flight.
  • Sonic The Hedgehog:
    • In Sonic's storyline in Sonic and Knuckles, after Sonic defeats Knuckles in Hidden Palace Zone, Knuckles rushes over to the Master Emerald Shrine to discover that Dr. Eggman had tricked him into thinking that Sonic is his enemy to distract him so that he could steal the Master Emerald and use it to power the Death Egg. Dr. Eggman uses the claw from his Eggmobile to snatch the Master Emerald so he can fly away with it. Knuckles tries to stop him by latching onto the Master Emerald, but Dr. Eggman electrocutes Knuckles to keep him from taking it back.
    • In Sonic Pocket Adventure, after Sonic defeats Knuckles at the end of Aquatic Relix Zone, Knuckles drops the Purple Chaos Emerald, which is the only emerald Sonic doesn't get from the Special Stages. When Sonic tries to give the emerald back to Knuckles to show him he has no hard feelings, Dr. Eggman flies down in his Eggmobile, snatches it from them, and flies away. Knuckles gives Sonic a Megaton Punch to launch him into the air so Sonic can land on Tails' plane, the Tornado, and pursue Eggman to get the emerald back.
    • In Sonic Adventure 2, Knuckles and Rouge's introductory cutscene (which is shared in both the Hero and Dark storylines) depicts Dr. Eggman attempting to steal the Master Emerald with the claw of his Eggmobile and take it back to his base. Knuckles jumps into the air and breaks the Master Emerald, apparently not wanting to get electrocuted again. Rouge is shocked when she sees this happen, but Knuckles tells her that if the Emerald is in pieces, he can restore it once he finds them all.
    • In Knuckles' storyline in Sonic Mania, when Knuckles returns to the Master Emerald shrine, Heavy King flies down on the claw of the Egg Mobile in an attempt to steal the Master Emerald. Knuckles, having remembered getting electrocuted the last time someone tried to steal the Master Emerald from him, knocks the Emerald out of the claw. After Knuckles defeats Heavy King, Heavy King flies away on the claw.

    Western Animation 
  • In the DuckTales (1987) episode "Top Duck", the Beagle Boys steal a new Cool Plane that Scrooge is introducing and plan to use it to vacuum up the contents of the Money Bin. The plan went awry because they happened to act while Launchpad's family was visiting.
  • The Josie and the Pussycats episode "Chili Today, Hot Tamale" has The Scorpion's mooks succeed in lowering a large horseshoe magnet to capture the Pussycats' dune buggy. Their boss wants the uranium pellets hidden within Melody's big bass drum. Josie, Alan and Alexandra get dumped out of the vehicle in the process.
  • TaleSpin:
    • Don Karnage and his Sky Pirates routinely intercept cargo planes, seize control of them via grappling hooks, board the cargo plane in mid-air, and abscond with its goodies. Karnage prefers to leave the pilot alive and the plane functional so that the two can "bring me more treasures and knickety-knacks, yes?" To judge by the pilot episode "Plunder and Lightning," the air pirates are fearsomely good at airborne piracy.
    • "In Search of Ancient Blunders". Baloo, Wildcat, and an archaeologist discover a lost pyramid, but end up leading the Sky Pirates to it. When the archaeologist voices her concern about the pirates, Baloo dismissively says "What are they going to do? Take the whole pyramid?". Just as they find their way out, they see the Iron Vulture above using strong cables to tote the entire pyramid out of the ground.
  • Thunderbirds Are Go: In "Up from the Depths - Part 2", the Mechanic uses the stolen TV-21 to to steal a GDF vault containing the world's supply of iridium, with Ned Tedford inside, and then sends his ship into space.
  • From the Transformers: Prime episode "Legacy": Megatron's solution to the Excalibur Expy that is the Star Saber being wedged in a cliff face and impossible to pull out? Cut a chunk of the cliff face off and take the whole thing with him using his warship.

    Real Life 
  • It wasn't for the purpose of stealing anything, but the film capsules from early spy satellites were recovered this way. Because letting the film land in the ocean was considered too risky, the capsule would instead be snatched out of the air by an airplane or helicopter as it descended on a parachute.
  • The Fulton Surface-to-Air recovery system was developed in the 1950's as a means for aircraft to pick up things, including people, from the ground without needing to land and be manually loaded. A close pass over the target zone, to engage a special hook to a towing line raised on a balloon attached to the object to be lifted, meant the cargo could be picked up and winched aboard the aircraft. In service, this was known as the Skyhook system. James Bond is picked up by one in Thunderball.
    • This, in turn, was developed from a technique for recovering military gliders during World War II. The glider's tow cable was mounted between two tall poles, so a cargo plane trailing a long hook would snag it and pull the glider back up into the air.