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The Joy of First Flight

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Outside of small, "ultralight" powered aircraft,note  man has yet to unlock the power of personal flight. It may never do so, and that rubs a lot of people the wrong way. Flight is one of mankind's greatest fantasies; as such, when a human in a fantasy or science fiction work learns how to fly, it's not just treated as another normal occurrence, but is given great fanfare and spectacle.

Flying, especially for the first time, is seen as empowering and cathartic. Often, the first flight will be savored by characters and given a lot of screen time and maybe even a song—subsequent flights just don't capture the magic of first taking off.

Possibly due to their place as an emotional high point, they are prone to getting interrupted.

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Standard trope for any character becoming the Dragon Rider.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Dragon Ball: Goku's first flight on the Nimbus.
  • Howl's Moving Castle has a scene where Howl takes Sophie out on a "stroll through the sky," which fills her with wonder and amazement at his powers.
  • Inuyashiki: Subverted. Ichiro's scared out of his mind the first time he accesses his flight powers, only keeping himself afloat with his Astro Boy nostalgia and the knowledge that he's doing it to save someone else. He adjusts after a few times, though.
  • Rinne no Lagrange: Subverted. Naval carrier commander inquires on main heroine Madoka's status, what's with her clueless self just having been launched on autopilot in an aircraft-mode transforming robot, as practically a last resort against an attack. His subordinate answers that Madoka is "agitated", and brings up a muted feed of emotional Madoka in robot's cockpit, asking whether sound should be patched through. Commander, with mild disgust, says there's no need to.
  • Spirited Away: Haku transporting Chihiro to the bathhouse is the first flight in the movie to show hope and liberation, as during it, Chihiro remembers Haku's true name, freeing him.
  • Strike Witches: Eponymous heroines' job is hunting the airborne baddies, by attacking with firearms (less often, melee) and using magic for shield defence and wild aerial manoeuvers. Main heroine Yoshika has to tackle her first time flying with sole prior experience being see another witch fly. She nearly falls off the carrier into the ocean when trying to take off, but manages not to, excitedly shouting "I'm flying!" The soundtrack in anime employs a triumphant piece for the first time in the one-sided clash with the enemy ambush that frames the event. She manages to help stall the aggression long enough for The Cavalry to arrive, then faints from exertion.
  • Subverted in Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid when Kobayashi rides Tohru for the first time due to been late for work, with her reaction been a mix of terror from the speed of their flight and agony due to her lower back pain. After a few more times, however, she appears to enjoy it without much issue - actively asking to ride Tohru on the night of Christmas Eve in the anime and expressing great joy during the flight.

    Comic Books 
  • When Karolina from Runaways finds out she can fly, her shock at finding out she's an alien quickly turns to joy.
    Karolina: "I wish we'd never learned about any of this! I was much happier being kept in the dark! I...I hope our parents do kill us now! I...I...I can fly? Oh, my God! I CAN FLY!"
  • Superman:
    • In Superman: Secret Origin, Clark Kent figures out he can fly as saving Lana Lang from a tornado. At the beginning, he's too shocked to do anything but try to land safely, but he's bursting with joy afterwards.
      Jonathan Kent: "You really did it, son? You flew?"
      Clark Kent: "I flew, Pa! Up, up and away! It was incredible!"
    • In Action Comics #252, Supergirl sports a radiant smile when she takes off and soars through the skies for the first time. Later origin stories subverted this, though, making Kara look more shocked and scared than joyous.
  • Subverted in Legion of Super-Heroes story The Great Darkness Saga. Most of Legionnaires love flying, but Invisible Kid can't wait to land after being forced to fly from California to London during his first mission.
    Invisible Kid: "And if you would, please— Could we not land first? I think my stomach has flown enough for its first day with a Flight Ring!"

    Eastern European Animation 
  • Gagarin: Although the main character is afraid to join its fellows in flight, the other caterpillars are pretty happy about growing wings when they become butterflies.
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    Fan Works 
  • Blood and Revolution:
    • Despite the depressing and Serious Business circumstances, Aoshi describes the first time he and Kenshin fly on a dragon "incredible". Subverted for Saitou and Hana, who both discover theretofor-unknown fears of heights.
    • Similarly the first time Kenshin flies unaided is a re-establishing character moment (in the joy he finds in it), and the first time he takes any of his family with him is a bonding moment every time.
  • Intercom: Riley experiences this in Chapter 14 when she realizes that she can make herself fly in Imagination Land. She later realizes she can fly in any part of her Mind World (or at least Long Term Memory), not just Imagination Land.
  • Trainee witch Rebecka Smith-Rhodes learns to fly in the tale Strandpiel by A.A. Pessimal. Her overjoyed reaction to - at last - being allowed on a broomstick is tempered by the instructor sitting behind her who tersely says we aren't up here for sight-seeing, and that was a bloody awful take-off.
  • In Superman and Man, Christopher Reeve switches bodies with Superman for one day. When he takes off for the first time, it's an absolutely exhilarant moment.
    "Good Lord," he breathed. He looked below him. Nothing there. Like a Warner Brothers' cartoon character, standing on nothing without harm. Better not visualize that too much, because they always started to fall when they figured out where they were.
    Straighten out and fly right, Superman.
    He corrected the image to place himself at a parallel track to the ground. At once, his upper body dipped a bit, his legs came up, straightened, and there he was, flying in a horizontal manner.
    So this was how it was done. So this was the manner in which a man could fly.
    A woman sunbathing on a building roof looked up and waved at him. He waved back, grinning.
    This was fantastic.
    He yelled incoherently at the Earth, at all the people in the world, at God, even, if He was listening. And how could He not be?
  • In Superman of 2499: The Great Confrontation, Katherine de Ka'an, a descendant of the first Supergirl, flew for the first time when she was six. She loved it, and flight quickly became her favorite power.
    Katherine: "I, well, when I was six years old, I had my mother make me a Supergirl costume, and when we were alone, just the family, with nobody else and no spyrays or anything around, I'd just jump into the air, wearing it, and holler, 'Up, up, and away from me!' And I, oh, I didn't go very far up, not high enough to be visible from a great distance, but it was so much fun. Being a little six-year-old Supergirl. Not to have to fight bad guys, or to show off my strength. Just to be able to fly."
  • In Superwomen of Eva 2: Lone Heir of Krypton, Asuka accidentally finds out she can fly when she jumps higher than she intended, crashes through a building, and doesn't come down. Her shock swiftly gives way to overwhelming joy, and she remains up in the clouds for a long time.
    And as if that wasn't shocking enough by itself, she was now floating in midair just outside the hole she'd made in the decrepit tower. Asuka looked down at the street far below, naked disbelief written all over her features. Part of mind dimly worried about people looking up her dress, even though she knew she was far too high up for anyone to see anything.
    All of a sudden, her shock collapsed, and she again broke out into a broad smile. Throwing one arm up above her head, the Second Child suddenly took off, rocketing up into the sky.
    "This is even better than the running!" she exclaimed as she broke through the cloud layer.
    Once above the clouds, she allowed herself to hover for a few moments, just looking down at the world far below her and soaking in the unobstructed light of the sun. Asuka could feel that the air was cold up at this high elevation, but it didn't bother her in the slightest. Everything was silent save for the sound of the wind, giving her an almost profound feeling, as though she were in a cathedral or some other sacred place.
    After a few moments, Asuka began to soar through the clouds again, and she remained up in the sky for a long, long time.
  • Worm: More Than Meets the Eye: Twice even. First when Taylor rides Predaqueen and again later after she builds Dive Bomb (who transforms into a jetpack).
  • New Beginnings (Smallville): In the second chapter, Clark Kent tries to fly for the first time. Smiling witfully, he takes off upwards rapidly, and then he lets himself float among the clouds.
    Clark finally opened his eyes to realize he was floating comfortably in the air, the image of Lois fixed firmly in his mind.
    "Get out of your head Kal-El. Let go and just fly, it's freedom," said Kara, a wistful smile on her face as she remembered the feeling.
    Clark shot upwards rapidly, completely unburdened by the future or the past. His mind focused on Lois because she was his freedom. He smiled contentedly as he soared higher. […]
    Clark finally stopped his ascent a few miles above ground. This was the freedom Kara had talked about. Clark closed his eyes and allowed himself a chance to just float wherever the high winds took him.
  • The Weaver Option: Taylor's reaction when she flies after gaining her Saint Wings. She has try not to giggle in joy of the novelty of being able to fly under her own power.
  • In A Very Kara Christmas, Linda oozes boundless joy as she practices her newfound flying powers.
    Flying. She was flying.
    Rao, she loved to fly. Both hands stuck out in front of her balled in fists, air scraping into her face so fast she could feel its heat, smell its sizzle, hear its roar in her long-since-popped ears, the cape flapping behind her like a flag in a high wind, it felt triumphant, she felt triumphant. Not just some lame bird trying to play a role in a house of parentless children, but an unbeatable goddess (dare she think that? Not a real goddess, just a mythical one) with the speed of lightning and the force of a tornado on overtime.
    She wanted to shriek in joy, but Kal had told her not to. Somehow, somewhere, someone might hear it. So she just grinned and rocketed into the night sky.
  • In Dial, Pepper Potts feels exultant when she flies alongside Iron Man after getting used to her armor.

    Films — Animation 
  • Arthur Christmas: The first time Arthur gets to fly on the old Santa sled, Eve, through the North pole underneath he aurora borealis.
  • In Barbie in Princess Power, after gaining the power of flight, Kara takes a joyful flight through the clouds. The music video for "Soaring" focuses on this scene.
    Just like a dream come true/Such an amazing view
  • In Big Hero 6, Hiro takes Baymax out for a test drive after outfitting him with jets, and when they reach the top of the city, Hiro is overcome with awe.
  • In How to Train Your Dragon, just about every time Hiccup flies on Toothless, there is swelling, excited music on the soundtrack and both characters look absolutely exhilarated. Hiccup does indeed go "Woo!" at one point and pumps his arms in the air.
    • There's also Astrid's reaction when Hiccup and Toothless take her flying to convince her that Toothless isn't just a monster (after he initially scares the hell out of her with stomach-churning stunt flying until she apologises) which doubles as a Flight of Romance for her and Hiccup, set to the soaring but beautiful tune of "Romantic Flight" to really convey the beauty of being able to touch the clouds with your fingers.
  • Quasimodo from Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame encourages a young, tremulous bird to take its first flight. When the bird discovers that it can indeed remain airborne, it's ecstatic and goes soaring off to join other birds in riding the wind. This scene demonstrates that Quasimodo is kindly and compassionate, even though he himself is kept bottled up in the cathedral's belltower.
  • Near the end of The Iron Giant, the titular robot enables its jet thrusters for the first time to fly away with Hogarth, who is amazed that he can fly.
  • The Darling children have Faith and Trust in Peter Pan but still cannot fly. That is, not until Pan remembers to add pixie dust. Poor Tinkerbell gets the jiggling of a lifetime, but the Darling children get to go zooming over London with fearless abandon.
  • Twice earlier when Buzz Lightyear from Pixar's Toy Story attempted to fly, he failed. The second failure also served as his Break the Cutie moment. However, when Buzz deployed his wings to break free of the doomed rocket, he discovered that he could indeed fly... or at least glide well. This even gave him the chance to chide Sheriff Woody with an Ironic Echo: "This isn't flying; this is falling, with style."
  • The Rescuers Down Under: Pretty early in the movie, after Cody frees Marahute but accidently gets knocked off a cliff by her, she catches him and takes the boy for the flight of a lifetime. The scene easily qualifies as one big Moment of Awesome.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Avatar - Jake's first flight on a Banshee / Ikran fills him with joy.
    • Earlier on, the first time in his Avatar form, he relishes the feeling of being able to walk after years of being wheelchair-bound, swiftly followed by running all around the complex with childlike abandon.
  • The main characters in Chronicle are in ecstasy over being able to fly.
  • Once Johnny Storm in Fantastic Four (2005) discovers that his power to control heat and flames also entail flight as Required Secondary Powers, he's ecstatic, and goes zooming around New York like a flying, flaming loon.
  • Tony Stark in Iron Man was gasping in thrilled ecstasy when he first took up flight with his Mk. 2 armor.
  • When Superman learns to fly in Man of Steel, it is treated with great gravitas, as it's one of the last of his superpowers he learns.
  • The Neverending Story provides the page's picture. Bastian explodes with joy and pumps one fist upwards as riding Falcor at the end.
  • Once The Mole Neville Sinclair from The Rocketeer gets his hands on Cliff's jetpack, he straps it on and goes zooming around the Nazi dirigible, cackling with exhilaration. Then Karmic Death kicks in, demonstrating why jetpacks tend to be problematic devices. Nonetheless, he had that moment.
  • In Disney's Sky High: the trope is subverted. Will Stronghold is in the middle of a fight and has to stop the school from falling on some helpless Muggles. He doesn't have a chance to stop and be overtaken with wonder that he can fly.
  • While it's not flying per se, in Spider-Man when Peter first learns how to web sling, he's hooting and hollering as he swings through New York.
  • One of Neo's powers in The Matrix trilogy is flight, which is depicted as just as awesome and indeed godlike as one might expect. Lampshaded in the second film in the series, when Link refers to this ability as Neo "doing his Superman thing".
  • In the infamously bad Puma Man, when the protagonist first tries his flight power, it's accompanied by joyful music meant to evoke the wonder... of some of the worst Chroma Key in the history of mankind. The MST3K episode had tons of fun with it.
    Mike: Help, I'm falling at a 60 degree angle breaking all the laws of physics!
  • In Supergirl, Supergirl's first flight is treated like a ballet. It's one of the prettiest scenes in the film.
  • E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial: When E.T. and Elliot go to send the signal to E.T.'s home they go on a bike ride through the woods, until E.T. causes them to go over a cliff at which point they start flying. Elliot is at first yelling for them not to go too high, but soon after relaxes and begins to enjoy himself, culminating in the iconic shot of them flying across the moon, and all of it set to John William's unforgettable score.
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: While in the book Harry's first flight with Buckbeak is brief and rather unpleasant (Harry much prefers a broom to Hippogryph), the movie makes it into an entire sequence of the two of them flying around, at one point showing Harry spreading his arms as though he were the one flying.
  • In X-Men: First Class, Banshee has several failed attempts at harnessing his screaming powers to flight. The first time he flies (rather than fall), he gives out a classic "woo hoo!", which he immediately has to stop - in order to give another scream that will keep him flying.
  • Santa Claus: The Movie:
    • Santa Claus's first Christmas takeoff and journey is a colossal celebration for him and everyone else at the North Pole.
    • Joe's first ride with Santa in the sleigh over New York City is a similarly joyous occasion for the boy.
    • Patch's initial flight in the Patchmobile is presented in a similar manner to Santa's first flight, just with a smaller crowd of B.Z. and his underlings cheering him on.
    • Much of humanity gets to feel this when they find out what makes Patch's lollipops so special. The first person seen experiencing it is Miss Tucker, Cornelia's sourpuss nanny, who only takes a bite because the girl doesn't want it. She laughs delightedly upon floating up, adding "I feel just like Mary Poppins!"

    Light Novels 
  • The Irregular at Magic High School: Main character Tatsuya's brilliancy in handling—and development (as only a handful of characters ever know)—of cutting edge magitek, bears novel fruit: the flying device. Onscreen events include him showing the prototype to his prodigy little sister Miyuki, followed by Miyuki's test flight. Later, Tatsuya's closely collaborating thinktank laboratory testers use small batch of devices. Next comes a very public display by Miyuki in major event of Nine-School Competition arc without prior announcement. Making it three revelations of one device, with increasing in-universe audience each time.
  • In Sword Art Online, a key part of video game ALfheim Online's appeal is that it lets characters fly—which means, being as it's a virtual reality game, that the players get to experience flight for themselves. When Kirito first gets the hang of the flight controls in ALO, he takes a minute to have fun being able to fly, momentarily forgetting about his very serious mission.

    Literature 
  • Animorphs: More like the joy of every flight- according to every member of the team in just about every book, the thrill of flying never gets old. If anything, all other experiences pale before it: Jake mentions a roller coaster that's just sad compared to pulling a 200 mph dive as a peregrine falcon.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: Daenerys Targaryen is exhilarated by her first flight on the back of her dragon Drogon, despite being somewhat in shock from the events that led to it.
  • Accel World: Male protagonist, upon getting his bearings in the secretive new-fad virtual world high-stakes game, is revealed to have "flight" innate ability on his avatar. Simply unheard of and treated accordingly.
  • The Belgariad: Both Beldin and Polgara have a mix of joy and awe to their first flights.
  • Harry Potter:
    • More downplayed then most examples, since the guys was dealing with some bullies at the time, but the first time Harry gets on a broom, he reacts with shocked amazement, reflecting that it's the first time he's ever been so naturally talented at something. When he later tries to conjure up a happy memory, he remembers the first time he flew on a broomstick. It wasn't strong enough to repel the Boggart in the form of a Dementor.
    • Averted in the book Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban when Harry first flies on the back of Buckbeak. While he's very comfortable on a broom, he doesn't enjoy flying on the back of a giant beast. Played straight in the movie; as he flies around the Hogwarts castle, he opens his arms and cheers (and the background music is very upbeat).
  • In Life, the Universe and Everything, Arthur Dent certainly experiences exhilaration (as well as a healthy dose of fear) when he first learns to fly. He doesn't really get into it, though, until So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish, when he discovers that Love Interest Fenchurch has the same ability. They are quick to exploit the Power Perversion Potential by joining the Mile-High Club without mechanical assistance.
  • Learning to fly is one of the first magical skills which Skeeve from Myth Adventures finds really enjoyable.

    Live-Action Television 
  • Heroes downplays this a little in a moment in episode 2 where Peter argues with Nathan on a rooftop and unwittingly copies his power to fly causing him to hover. His reaction upon realizing this (with Nathan's help) is sheer amazement.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Classical Mythology: Tragically subverted when Daedalus and his son Icarus constructed wings from feathers and wax to escape the mad king of Crete. Icarus found such delight in flying that he ignored his father's warnings and flew too high. The warm sun melted the wax, wrecking Icarus' wings, causing him to plummet to his doom.

    Visual Novels 
  • If My Heart Had Wings features this explicitly; the initial flight of the Club's glider is not only astounding for Aoi, but for everyone who sees it.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • Young Clark Kent is understandably distraught when his Puberty Superpowers kick in and his adopted parents reveal that he is an alien in Superman: The Animated Series. Learning that his alien heritage includes the ability of flight, however, goes a long way to calming him down and starting him on the road to coming to terms.
  • Tom Cat dons a lady's corset in such a way as to mimic bat's wings and gains the ability to fly in the Tom and Jerry cartoon "The Flying Cat." After a wobbly start, Tom gets the hang of it, and leers triumphantly ... then crashes into a mailbox.
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