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Sky Pirate

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A ninja's second-worst nightmare.note 

"Take the sky by thunder! (Thu-under!)
It is so wonderful to plunder! (Plu-under!)
When a village needs a pillage. (Ooh-aaah)
Or my pockets need a fillage. (You know what I'm saying?)"

As You Know, The Sky Is an Ocean, so it's only logical that it must have pirates as well. Sky-rates, if you will.

Following all of the tropes applicable to pirates except for using aeroplanes (or better yet, airships, especially cool ones, or even better: flying boats!) instead of boats, Sky Pirates (sometimes referred to as "Air Pirates") were fairly popular in the early days of aviation, though they were soon eclipsed by Space Pirates once aeroplanes became less novel. Nowadays, Sky Pirates are mostly found in the yellowing pages of 1920s and 30s comics and pulp magazines, in modern media intended to evoke that era, and in Steampunk settings. There is another, more contemporary, version of this trope, usually found in more "realistic" settings; these are essentially Ruthless Modern Pirates who use aircraft. No traditional Sky Pirate story is truly complete without at least one Airborne Aircraft Carrier. Huge zeppelins and giant flying boats are par for the course as well, as are other magnificent flying machines. The punishment of walking the plank is especially deadly when it's administered by a sky pirate after a High-Altitude Battle. Sky pirates are naturals for pulling off a Sky Heist.

See also Space Pirates, Pirate.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Castle in the Sky, of course, has Sky Pirates. They readily kidnap and steal, but actively assist two innocent children.
  • Cross Epoch, the official One Piece/Dragon Ball Z crossover one-shot manga, had several sky pirate factions. One led by Vegeta (along with Robin, Trunks, and Usopp), one led by Buggy and Emperor Pilaf (in a ship with an intimidating facade made out of papier mache), and one led by Dr. Gero (only alluded to).
  • Elemental Gelade's main character Coud was one at the beginning of the series.
  • Galilei Donna involves (fish-themed) airships, so this trope was an inevitability. The main one is named Cicinho, and leads the Black Ganymede Troupe.
  • Last Exile's ship Sylvana is more of a one-ship rebellion than a pirate ship, but it's so cool that it's close enough. And then we have the group of sky pirates in the sequel series.
  • Lindbergh by Ahn Dongshik is a manga all about Sky Pirates. A young, spirited boy named Knit joins Shark's Sky Pirate Crew to go on a wondrous adventure.
  • The Magnificent Kotobuki is all about a squadron of mercenary pilots, the Kotobuki Flight Corps, who work as freelance escorts protecting transport zeppelins from air pirates.
  • One Piece itself has a canon movie villain, "Gold Lion" Shiki, that definitely qualifies. Considering his Devil Fruit power essentially gives him near limitless telekinesis, he doesn't have so much a flying ship as a flying armada made of a flying archipelago.
  • Porco Rosso: The plot revolves around an Italian World War I ex-fighter ace, now living as a freelance bounty hunter chasing "air pirates" in the Adriatic Sea
  • Captain Liliana from Queen's Blade Rebellion is an infamous pirate who has laid waste to the Continent's coastal waters. She is the granddaughter of Pirate Queen Artemis, the writer of the "Pirate Aesthetics", a set of rules which Liliana follows.

    Comic Books 
  • In Atomic Robo: The Flying She-Devils of the Pacific, the She-Devils spend much of their time battling sky pirates (and are considered sky pirates themselves by some of their foes).
  • Alexandre LeRoi appears as the main villain of the DC graphic novel Batman: Master of the Future, the sequel to Gotham by Gaslight, as an air pirate who intends to stop Gotham City's 20th Century celebrations, and to keep the looming century's polluting technology from becoming a reality. He keeps a mobile base in a zeppelin-esque airship powered by gas, and controlled by a robot LeRoi calls Antonio.
  • The Blackhawks sometimes faced Sky Pirates, and were treated as such themselves, at least early on. In their second story, an English pilot lashes out at Blackhawk: "Why, you're nothing but air pirates and assassins!"
  • The villains in the 1984 Marvel/Epic miniseries Crash Ryan.
  • The DCU:
    • The Golden Age Green Lantern had a recurring foe called Sky Pirate who embodied this trope.
    • The second Black Condor also fought a foe called Sky Pirate, who was essentially an updated version of the Green Lantern villain.
    • The Golden Age Superman also tangled with sky pirates at least once, who used the surprisingly low key method of using fast armed airplanes to force lumbering airliners into landing in a convenient field before robbing them on the ground.
    • In the Golden Age Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor fought a few sky pirates—such as the husband and wife team of Nifta and "Redbeard" in Volume 1—all of whom operated out of planes which made them fitting foes for the two Ace Pilots.
    • A minor Green Arrow foe was Skylark, a sky pirate who operated out of a blimp.
    • In All Star Western #17, Jenny Freedom of the 19th Century Stormwatch clashes with Smokestack Jack; Steampunk anarchist Mad Scientist based on a Cool Airship.

    Fan Works 
  • The Great Alicorn Hunt: In a rather sudden Genre Shift, chapter 59 gives us an airship crewed by diamond dogs whose mountainous home had little to offer in the mining department.

    Films — Animation 
  • My Little Pony: The Movie (2017) features Captain Celaeno and her crew, a group of pirate harpies. They'd been subjugated into servitude for the Storm King in events prior to the film, but go back to their old ways thanks to the ponies.
  • The Pirate Fairy: Aspiring sky pirates, at least.
  • Treasure Planet falls between this and Space Pirates (the look and tropes of the former, the actual technology and planet-to-planet flying of the latter).
  • Charles Muntz and his dogs from Up could qualify as this, insofar as he is a criminal based on a dirigible. he might better be described as an airborne Evil Poacher.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Filibus: Il misterioso pirata del cielo is a 1915 silent film about a lady thief who operates out of an airship.
  • In Goldfinger Pussy Galore and her team of stunt pilots were recruited by the Big Bad to assist in the robbery of Fort Knox.
  • Mythica: "The Admiral" (a woman) from The Iron Crown leads a group of Sky Pirates in a High Fantasy setting. They have a zeppelin and hang gliders.
  • In the short sci-fi film The Oceanmaker, aircraft are used to mine clouds for water after the oceans have turned to desert. Unfortunately they're not above driving off other cloud-miners by force.
  • Blackbeard and his pirates in the 2015 fantasy film Pan, who use flying sailing ships.
  • The Phantom has Sala and her all-female air pirates.
  • The Sky Pirates from the Australian movie Dakota Harris (1986) who force cargo planes to crash in the Bermuda triangle, and want to steal the MacGuffin that enables the user to travel through time.
  • Captain Shakespeare of Stardust is a more literal example, captaining a flying boat which is powered by lightning. (However, although they dress and act like pirates, they're never seen attacking other boats — if there are any other flying boats — and seem instead to be smugglers.)
  • The Smokers in Waterworld are a gang of pirates operating on a Flooded Future World, and who have a seaplane as well as speedboats and jet skis.

  • In Airborn by Kenneth Oppel the airship Aurora is raided by a notorious criminal named Vikram Szpirglas. His gang of pirates plunder the ship of all valuables and kill the chief wireless officer. The pirates proceed to leave, but both ships are caught in a storm. The pirate vessel crashes with the Aurora and tears the Aurora's hull, seriously depleting its supply of hydrium.
  • Armageddon 2419 A.D. the book that introduced Anthony "Buck" Rogers to the world.
  • Inevitably, sky pirates were among the foes fought by Biggles, though lacking the Airborne Aircraft Carriers or Cool Airships. The plots featuring them usually played out more like an armoured car heist, with either mechanical sabotage or some unemployed war veteran in a surplus fighter forcing an aircraft carrying bullion or other valuables to land, with a gang on the ground waiting to loot it. Gangs pulling off an Armed Blag on land and then using aircraft as getaway vehicles might also fall under this trope, however.
  • In the Steampunk novel Boneshaker by Cherie Priest the theft of an airship (itself recently stolen from the Confederate military) leads to a midair battle between two pirate gangs. Several other books in the Clockwork Century also feature them as protagonists or antagonists.
  • Liesel Schwarz' The Chronicles Of Light And Shadow series features much, much use of airship travel, so of course the third book, Sky Pirates has pirates.
  • Jim Butcher's The Cinder Spires series features a world where humanity lives in mile-tall towers called Spires that are spread around the planet. With the surface being completely inhospitable, travel between Habbles requires airships. One of the main characters, Captain Grimm, is a privateer that commands the Predator.
  • Stephen Hunt's The Court of the Air features airships as the main fighting force of one nation, the sole power with access to the Unobtainium necessary to keep them afloat. Better yet, the eponymous Court of the Air is a secret, ultra-elite, badass organization of magic-wielding One-Man Army types. And their base is a floating fortress that is not only higher into the atmosphere than any airships other than their own can reach, but remains anchored there permanently.
  • Many 1930s pulps, Doc Savage and Operator 5 in particular. (Operator 5 was an early example of the James Bond-style super-agent, complete with 1930s era high-tech gadgets.) Doc Savage twice faced Submarine Pirates as well.
  • The Doctor Who New Adventures novel Sky Pirates! blurs the line between this trope and Space Pirates with its setting being a solar system within a pocket universe which is fully pressurized with a breathable atmosphere. The pirates (and all the other "space" ships) are able to travel in a variety of non-airtight steampunk-esque vessels, some with open decks.
  • Prominently featured in The Edge Chronicles—in six out of the ten books in the series, the protagonist is either a sky pirate, a former sky pirate, or a future sky pirate, and of the four short stories in the series, two of the protagonists are sky pirates.
  • The Alistair Maclean novel Fear Is The Key begins with an aircraft being shot down by a war-surplus fighter plane, in order for The Mafia to get their hands on the precious cargo inside. Unfortunately the plane crashes in an unusually deep marine trench, setting off the events of the main story.
  • The Syndicate of Pirates, who use flying machines (not yet invented at the time of writing) and secret rays to terrorise the adventurers of the Klondike Gold Rush at Alaska in George Griffith's The Great Pirate Syndicate (1899).
  • The Grimnoir Chronicles has the last piece of a super-weapon protected by Southunder, who preys on Imperium ships in the Pacific ocean from his zeppelin.
  • The sky pirates in the John Carter of Mars novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs.
  • Captain Mors, the "Air Pirate", from Der Luftpirat und sein Lenkbares Luftschiff (The Air Pirate and His Steerable Airship); a German dime novel with 165 issues from 1908-1911. Captain Mors is mentioned (by never actual appears) in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
  • Older Than Radio: Jules Verne's Robur the Conqueror, with his huge mega-helicopter vehicle, is the Ur-Example.
  • Skies Unbroken is an After the End (a societal collapse) World in the Sky. It had sky privateers and pirates proper, and some of the main characters actually used to be sky pirates.
  • Sky Pirates of Callisto is the sixth novel of Lin Carter's Callisto series, and a homage to Burroughs.
  • Sundered Lands, which takes place in a Shattered World where travel is only capable via skyboats, has Captain Grizzletusk and his crew. They're all corsairs who constantly chase after the protagonists and Rape, Pillage, and Burn as they please.
  • Tom Swift and a whole host of copycat Boy Inventor heroes.
  • Karl Schroeder's Virga novels are focused on justifying this in a relatively hard science fiction setting.
  • Mack Maloney's Wingman series, being a modern take on pulp fiction, features sky pirates in the Divided States of America. Since this setting doesn't involve the common conventions of Cool Airships or similar "flying towns" to attack, they tend to be more like airborne biker gangs whose activities mainly consist of forcing planes to land for robbery or engaging in air strikes on settlements.

  • Abney Park's "Airship Pirates" pretty much embodies this trope.
    • The entire band embodies this trope, as their main theme involves them being a band of drunken rogue pirates operating off the airship Ophelia. Although, if the lyrics of Airship Pirates and Post-Apocalypse Punk are anything to go by, they're not particularly good at it.
    • This image is further reinforced by the title track from their 2009 album AEther Shanties, which describes the ship as being about one good breeze from collapsing under its own weight, with a crew that's planning mutinies when they're not fighting each other.
  • Alestorm are generally Nautical pirate themed, but a few of their songs have an element of Sky Pirates.
    "We are Heavy Metal Pirates
    We sail across the sky!
    In our battleships of Cosmic Steal
    With a terror up on high!"
  • The Cog Is Dead have Sunset Val the Pirate Queen.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Barney Baxter In The Air was an aviation strip that ran from 1935 to 1950. Sky pirates were amongst the foes battled by the youthful hero.
  • Buck Rogers, of course. Interesting in that he started out fighting Sky Pirates and ended up fighting Space Pirates, all in the space of about 10 years.
  • In Little Nemo in Slumberland the Princess' royal airship is attacked by sky pirates in one issue.
  • Sala and her Amazon Brigade Sky Band in The Phantom.

  • Dice Funk features the antagonistic Blackhearts, a group of pirates flying an airship dubbed the Zavala.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • In WWE NXT, the team of "The Pirate Princess" Kairi Sane and "The Genius of the Sky" Io Shirai is called the Sky Pirates.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Abney Park recently came out with a tabletop RPG called Airship Pirates. They also have a board game in the same setting, Terror Of The Skies.
  • All over the place in Castle Falkenstein. They're most numerous in America, where most of them were Confederate Army airship crews who went rogue after the war.
  • Crimson Skies, later made into several video games. In an Alternate History setting where the United States of America broke up early in the 30s, and no interstate road or rail network, freight is instead delivered by air cargo services operating massive cargo zeppelins; these are in turn preyed upon by air pirates.
  • Sky pirates operate out of the Rocky Mountains in Deadlands: Hell on Earth.
  • Troll from Earthdawn are eight and a half foot tall Sky Pirates in flying stone longboats.
  • Captain Gyrfalcon from Exalted, who — mainly out of greed and an old grudge — harasses the airships of the Haslanti League, who are the only significant power with a meaningful air force in the entire North. He dresses like a classic pirate, and sports a sidearm (which is actually a small flamethrower, not a gun, but whatever).
  • Sundered Skies is set in a World in the Sky, so there is little choice but to travel by airship; so there is obviously the odd pirate.
  • Indie game Swashbucklers Of The 7 Skies is a fully original setting, of sky pirates in flying ships battling across a world where islands float in the sky.
  • In the After the End Diesel Punk setting of The Day After Ragnarok, sky pirates operating out of the Sahara raid shipping across French Africa (whats left of it). These groups sometimes have the patronage of local governors and other politicians, with lettres deputée that supposedly grant them quasi-military authority.
  • Warhammer: Age of Sigmar features Barak-Mhornar, an entire city of these, as a playable subfaction for the steampunk-themed Kharadron Overlords.

    Video Games 
  • Because Academagia takes place on a World in the Sky where the surface (and its oceans) are present but unreachable, they are usually referred to as simply "pirates". Like the legitimate sailors of Elumia, the pirates mostly use wind-powered flying ships that are either specifically enchanted or made with of a rare wood that "naturally" floats in the air. Although there are some mundane lighter-than-aircraft. Pirates are practically the default villain in this game, since they are the most prevalent antagonists in events and adventures, even eclipsing the local Thieves' Guild.
  • Sophia has an unfortunate run-in with a band of these, led by a giant talking minotaur, in the playable epilogue of Awakening: The Skyward Castle.
  • The basic premise of at least one of the classes in the semi-Steampunk flash game Battle Stations.
  • The Captain in Cargo! The Quest for Gravity pilots an airship and at least looks and talks like a pirate, though he doesn't actually seem to engage in piracy.
  • The Sky Raiders of City of Heroes. Complete with a named boss who is a Captain Ersatz of TaleSpin's Don Karnage.
    Captain Castillo: The breaking of into the base was of no great difficulty for one such as I am. You may all count yourselves as blessed for to be seeing my skills in such operation.
  • Crimson Skies: The game is set in an alternate history of the 1930s in which the United States has fragmented into a number of smaller sovereignties, and in which air travel has become the primary mode of transportation in North America. The game centers on Nathan Zachary, an adventurous air pirate seeking to rob the affluent of their wealth and power.[4] Throughout the campaign, Zachary leads his gang of air pirates, the Fortune Hunters, on a quest to gain fame and riches.
  • Several examples from the Final Fantasy series:
    • Setzer in Final Fantasy VI. It's never explicitly stated, but he's a law-evading free spirit in an airship with a penchant for kidnapping beautiful women, whose "business" has taken a hit since the Empire started capturing more and more cities. All the trappings are there, anyway. He also happens to be the only man with an airship.
    • Final Fantasy XII, especially Revenant Wings, features them. Balthier and Fran start as them, and it's Vaan's dream to become one in the original game. It's also Balthier's class when he cameos in the rerelease of Final Fantasy Tactics, but Ramza laughs at him when he identifies himself as one, since airships are a thing of the past by that point. This is also a Vaan-only Job Class in Final Fantasy Tactics A2.
  • Freedom Wings takes place on an alternate Earth in an era resembling the 1940’s. Air Pirates have taken to the skies and have placed fear into the hearts of others world wide. The player assumes the role of a nameless, faceless pilot whose parents were murdered by air pirates, motivating the character to join the Air Patrol Association (APA), a squadron of mercenary pilots hired to clear the skies of Air Pirate activity.
  • If you own an armed aircraft in Grand Theft Auto V, you pretty much become one of these by default. Numerous missions involve using your own aircraft, or one you've stolen, to destroy or loot other vehicles. Standout examples include "The Merryweather Heist", "Minor Turbulence", and the "Smuggler's Run" DLC.
  • The Aetherblade of Guild Wars 2 are a massive faction of these, using airships stolen from the Pact and technical support from the Inquest. They were created by Scarlet Briar as part of her lengthy preparation to awaken an Elder Dragon.
  • The Jellyfish Air Pirates of Guilty Gear.
  • Guns of Icarus is all about defending your own airship from Sky Pirates.
  • Lance Banson from Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure.
  • Klonoa 2: Lunatea's Veil features a former trainee priestess turned sky pirate as the main antagonist. At one point, she turns into a giant robotic chicken, and you have to fight her. She comes with a Non-Human Sidekick in the form of Tat, a sort of cat creature with the skin tone of Lokai and Bele. (For non-Trekkies, that's black on one side and white on the other. Turns out Tat can split into black and white forms.)
  • The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky: The Capua Family are a deconstruction of the usual glamorized depiction in an RPG. In a country with a monopoly on commercialized air travel, their Erebonian airship sticks out like a sore thumb and they have to take care in hiding it from Liberl intelligence. The kingdom keeps strict border security and monitors air traffic with a healthy trade economy, which means there's not much the Capuas could profit from, even if the risks outweighed the reward. The one time they highjack a civilian aircraft for ransom, the Bracer Guild and the military are quick to respond and ultimately arrest them. When they're eventually pardoned by the queen, they end up far more successful as a legitimate delivery company.
  • The Legend of Spyro: The Eternal Night: The Skavengers a fleet of eyepatch-, bicorne- and bandanna-wearing buccaneers who conduct their operations from a large fleet of flying galleons and ride on flying owl-like monsters.
  • Pirate101 has this since it takes place in the Spiral, a Shattered World with few large bodies of water. (Yes, that's the same Spiral as in Wizard101.) It's currently assumed that the ships fly due to the magic from a wizard.
  • Power Strike II for the Sega Master System has pirates menacing Italian skies in the early 1930s, a premise suspiciously similar to Porco Rosso.
  • Captain Homard and his crew of incredibly annoying cats fly the Escargot in Nippon Ichi's La Pucelle.
  • Rise of Legends, the Vinci sub-faction called the Pirata are the source of all fliers for that side.
  • In Septerra Core, travelers between the World Shells are often preyed on by pirates from Shell 6.
  • Skies of Arcadia. Strangely, they are still called Air Pirates despite the lack of any other kind of pirates or seas, in a world composed entirely of floating continents. It also draws a distinct line between idealized pirates and real ones: real pirates are called, appropriately, Black Pirates. Blue Rogues, on the other hand, are generally adventurers and explorers who only attack The Empire's ships and Black Pirates.
  • Sky Nations has this as its whole shtick. Well, that and a potential deity in disguise dimension hopping cat.
  • The Flash MMOG Skyrates is set in a world recovering from an apocalyptic war which reduced the remaining viable landmass to a collection of scattered islands. Ripped from the ground and cast adrift in the sky through the use of Unobtainium, these Skylands carried with them the last remnants of civilization. Now split into several color-coded factions, the descendants of these survivors travel and trade between the Skylands and are preyed upon en route by air pirates operating from smaller, unmapped "skylets".
  • Steam Bandits Outpost is a free-to-play game centering on steampunk sky pirates.
  • The main enemies in Tail Concerto, the somewhat Darker and Edgier sequel Solatorobo: Red the Hunter treats them as a joke, mostly appearing in side quests.
  • Terraria: The Pirates might be this, as their flagship is a flying pirate ship called the Flying Dutchman.
  • The setting of the Air Buccaneers mod for Unreal Tournament 2003 is heavily pirate-influenced. The weapons are blunderbusses and old-style-fuse cannons, the clothing is straight out of a pirate film and although the gameplay does not involve actual piracy in the strict sense of the word, the taking of enemy airships to be used against your foe is a common occurrence.
  • The Bonnes in the Mega Man Legends are a family of sky pirates consisting of three siblings and forty adorable Servbots. They even have a metal skull for a logo. Granted in this setting everyone uses airships for transport even though there's water everywhere, so they're just called pirates. The Misadventures of Tron Bonne shows what kind of illegal activities they get into: treasure hunting, cargo stealing, animal rustling, and straight up bank robbery.


    Western Animation 
  • A three-episode mini-arc in The Adventures of Puss in Boots featured a band of pirates in a flying galleon called the Queen James. Puss asks how the ship flies, but doesn't get an answer.
  • Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines: Set in World War I, Dick Dastardly, his dog Muttley, and the rest of the Vulture Squadron are bent on capturing Yankee Doodle Pigeon to prevent him from delivering his messages to the enemies. Aboard their many crazy aircraft, Dastardly and Muttley devise nefarious plans to stop the pigeon. Their motivation is the possibility of earning a medal or maybe even a 30 day furlough. The only problem is, that crafty pigeon always seems to be one step ahead.
  • Two episodes of Dragon Tales involved the main characters teaming up with a pirate who flew across Dragon Land on a giant blimp.
  • The "Pirate of the Airways" in Goldie Gold and Action Jack is very clear in its title. Some air pirates are causing trouble, and Goldie and Jack have to stop them.
  • Maximilian Dragna in The New Adventures of Jonny Quest episode "Warlord of the Sky." He's basically an Expy of Jules Verne's Robur, specifically the more explicitly villainous version of him in Master of the World.
  • The main antagonists of Mao Mao: Heroes of Pure Heart are a group of rogues led by a sky pirate named Orangusnake. Though in the first episode the heroes destroy his ship's power source and crash it into the ground (along with sending most of the crew overboard), so one of his goals from then on is to get it airborne again.
  • An episode of Max Steel involved a young inventor who built a gigantic aircraft that literally swallowed planes. When the titular character's Voice with an Internet Connection is captured by the crew, the first thing he does is give a long list of scientific reasons why such a thing cannot possibly exist.
  • Metajets: Cane and his caravan in "Pirates of the Sky," although they only target rich tourists. In "Night of the Living Carrier," they've given up their pirating ways and have limited themselves to scavenging through wrecks for parts.
  • In Mysticons Kitty Boon leads a group of sky pirates called the Pink Skulls. Main character Zarya used to run with this particular group of pirates. There's also Captain Kaos, the sky pirate who kidnapped Zarya and Kitty from their village when they were young.
  • Ninjago: A crew of 'em are season 6's Arc Villain, and boy do they play up the Fantasy Kitchen Sink setting for all it's worth. The main crew include a Djinn, a human, a mechanical monkey, a Serpentine, an enormous female samurai ogre, and what appears to be an oni with two faces.
  • The title of one of George Pal's European Puppetoons. Due to it being a Lost Episode with fragments only available in a documentary, we don't know for sure what it was about, but it appears to be about pirates who harass an air force using airplanes, until the said air force drinks Horlick's and defeats them.
  • In one episode of Rupert, he and Bill must do battle with a Cloud Pirate who has kidnapped the Four Winds as part of his dastardly plan to control the world’s weather.
  • Skyland: The Skyland is ruled by the Sphere: an organization which controls the water supplies, and maintains its power by Guardians, Seijins indoctrinated and trained from childhood. This dictatorship is fought by pirates.
  • Storm Hawks: "Terra Deep" features the Murk Raiders, a vicious band of sky pirates who raid airships and plunder their supplies and crew.
  • Turmoil from SWAT Kats. A villainous she-kat that wants to conquer Megakat City by controlling the airspace, with the help of her flying fortress, the Sky-Lion, and her squadron of female pilots, if the citizens of Megakat City don't pay her due first.
  • Don Karnage and his men in Disney's TaleSpin are pirates based in a Airborne Aircraft Carrier called the Iron Vulture, who frequently swarm Baloo's plane to steal whatever his cargo is.
  • Don Karnage makes an appearance in DuckTales (2017), where he and his pirate crew do a song and dance number distracting Scrooge and his family while they make off with their treasure. He'll also throw anybody overboard who questions his decisions.
  • Laser Pirate from Teamo Supremo. He is the only pirate that doesn't like water due to a college incident that ruined his invention. His hideout is a skyscraper that flies around.
  • Tigtone: The titular Tigtone tangles with the Sky Wine Pirates, who use hooks to rip the "wineyards" out of the ground and carry them away, causing a wine famine in the kingdom of Propecia. To solve the problem, Tigtone turns them into vampires. Normally this would be a bad situation gone worse but the people don't care; they're not drinking their precious wine anymore!

    Real Life 
  • In legal terms, the phrase "air piracy" just means the hijacking or theft of an aircraft. However, there's at least one instance that really does call this trope to mind. In April 1917, in the midst of World War I, the Imperial German Zeppelin L23 that was on sea patrol came across an honest-to-goodness wooden sailing ship from a non-combatant country that was transporting a non-war related cargo. It was the Norwegian schooner Royal, and was a holdover from a different era of shipping. The Captain of the Zeppelin then gave an order said to be unique in aircraft history: "Gentlemen, prepare to board our prize!" Unfortunately, as the boat from the Zeppelin was being lowered, the rough seas caused them to lose their machine gun overboard. So instead, the Zeppelin crew bluffed the schooner into submission with a flare gun. They sailed the schooner all the way back to Germany! These boardings weren't all that unusual, either: Zeppelins sometimes boarded sea vessels to check their papers and cargo holds, but this was the only time they actually pirated a vessel.
  • Privateer vessels are essentially private vessels given permission by their government to pirate vessels of other nations, or even conduct naval combat and raids on foreign military vessels. Although extremely obscure, the U.S. Constitution provides for the issuing of Letters of Marque—documents permitting piracy—by Congress. Congress exercised this power during the War of 1812, and while it never actually received a Letter of Marque, operating instead like an armed merchant vessel, the last U.S. vessel to operate as a privateer was the Goodyear blimp named Resolute, which engaged in anti-submarine patrols in 1941 and 1942, armed only with a rifle.
  • When US Navy pilot (and future Senator and Presidential candidate) John McCain was shot down and captured by the North Vietnamese, he was tortured into making false confessions of war crimes for a propaganda video. One of the ways he tried to subvert the propaganda was declaring himself an "air pirate" during the confession.
  • The Miss Macao Incident was an attempt at this that ended very, very badly for both the perpetrators and the victims. Four armed men attempted to rob a Catalina seaplane carrying gold from Macau to Hong Kong. During the resulting fight, the pilot was shot, and when his body fell on the controls it sent the plane crashing into the Pearl River. Ironically, the only survivor was one of the would-be "pirates", who was never tried because the crime took place while flying over a country over which the court had no jurisdiction.
  • In 1995, a MiG-21 fighter operated by Taliban rebel forces attacked and forced down a civilian Il-76 cargo plane that had been contracted to ship weapons to the government of Afghanistan (this was long before the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, mind you). The cargo plane's crew of seven were held prisoner in Afghanistan for over a year before managing to overpower their captors and escape with their plane. Their cargo, however, ended up in the possession of the Taliban.
  • As far as using aircraft to commit theft goes, it's hard to top the exploits of Gerald Blanchard. An accomplished jewel thief, he stole the Star of Empress Sisi (a diamond hair ornament that once belonged to the titular Empress Elisabeth of Austria) by parachuting out of an airplane onto the grounds of the museum where the Star was on display.
  • For a natural world variant, we have the frigatebird, often nicknamed the "pirate bird"; these birds are infamous for two things: The male's weird red throat pouch and the species overall tendency to plunder food and nesting material from other birds mid-flight.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Sky Pirates


Don Karnage's Lightning Gun

Using the electricity-generating stone stolen from Sher Khan, the Sky Pirates build a weapon to enable them to get past the blockade into Cape Suezette.

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