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Tropes on a Plane

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Tropers and tropesses, this is your captain speaking. We are currently cruising at an immeasurable altitude, and will be unexpectedly forced to make an emergency crash landing in approximately three and a half hours. The fasten seatbelts light has been switched off, so you may feel free to murder your fellow passengers under mysterious circumstances, but please be aware that drama dictates there be a Great Detective on board at all times. Our impossibly glamorous cabin crew will soon be along to provide you with Fanservice with a Smile, and in the meantime, please enjoy our fine selection of tropes related to aircraft and air travel.



  • Ace Pilot: A top-class, badass pilot who can get several kills (if military) or overcome aircraft failures and save lives while piloting (if civilian).
  • Airborne Aircraft Carrier: A mobile floating airport and oftentimes fortress.
  • Airplane of Love: An airplane (or bird) flying over someone's head to symbolize unrequited love.
  • Airships: A Useful Notes page on airships, how they work, their history, and their applications.
  • Airstrike Impossible: A pilot demonstrates their Improbable Piloting Skills by flying through extremely tight or otherwise less-than-optimal flying spaces.
  • Air Voyance: Characters standing outside an airport always know exactly which plane has their loved one on it.
  • Always Know a Pilot: A pilot's skills are useful or necessary in the story.
  • Belly-Scraping Flight: An aircraft (or flying creature) brushes the ground or a terrestrial obstacle in a close call.
  • Black Helicopter: The go-to aircraft for government agencies.
  • Buzzing the Deck: A pilot (or someone who can fly somehow) makes a fast pass very low to the ground or close to a target, usually with the intent to startle or frighten.
  • Clip Its Wings: A flying target's wings are its most vulnerable spot, so attacking or damaging those wings can cause the target to no longer be capable of flight; applies to both planes and winged people/animals.
  • Coming in Hot: A barely controllable, if even that, aircraft comes in for what ground and air crews are convinced is an inevitable crash landing.
  • Cool Airship: An exceptionally cool and often luxurious airship which is owned by a major character, or otherwise play a prominent role in the story.
  • Cool Plane: An exceptionally cool plane, helicopter, or glider plane which is typically either luxurious or highly technologically advanced.
  • Crash Course Landing: The pilot of a plane is somehow incapacitated, and a civilian with no (or outdated) pilot training must land it safely.
  • Danger Deadpan: A pilot who always keeps their cool; may also apply to non-pilots.
  • Death in the Clouds: A stock murder mystery plot which takes place on an airplane.
  • Disposable Pilot: The driver of a vehicle, in this case the pilot of the plane, has been incapacitated and cannot drive, spelling chaos for the passengers.
  • Ejection Seat: A character's plane has an ejection seat, which they use to get rid of an undesirable, or to facilitate escape.
  • Episode on a Plane: An episode that takes place on an airplane.
  • Every Helicopter Is a Huey: Helicopters from the Bell Huey family showing up as a generic helicopter, often in place of other more logical choices.
  • Fighter-Launching Sequence: Rule of Cool insists that when a bunch of fighters (planes, spaceships, etc.) go into battle, you always have to see them taking off first.
  • Future Copter: Impossibly cool, futuristic, tiltrotor aircraft.
  • Giant Flyer: Large flying creatures in fantasy works.
  • Gunship Rescue: The heroes are saved from a Bolivian Army Ending by the arrival of one or several combat vehicles, or combat aircraft in this case.
  • Hammerspace Parachute: A character pulls out a parachute from Hammerspace.
  • Helicopter Blender: Using a helicopter's rotor blades as a weapon.
  • Helicopter Flyswatter: A monster or character so big they can swat low-flying aircraft, oftentimes helicopters, with ease.
  • Hellish Copter: Helicopters disproportionately crash in media, even when it's not necessarily expected.
  • Improbable Piloting Skills: Good piloting lets vehicles outperform others of the same model, or even break the laws of physics.
  • Just for the Heli of It: When someone uses or suggests to use a helicopter to get somewhere, another character criticizes or ridicules this use.
  • Just Plane Wrong: Artistic License — Aviation.
  • Landing Gear Shot: A quick shot of a plane landing on a runway as shorthand for a change in geographical location to the other side of the country or the globe.
  • Look Ma, No Plane!: A character who can fly without a plane can will fly very close to an aircraft, then either annoy or scare the living daylights out of the passengers.
  • Midair Collision: One aircraft is damaged enough to cause it to veer off course and crash into another aircraft.
  • Midair Repair: Repairing the aircraft (or spacecraft) in the middle of the flight.
  • Mile-High Club: Two or more characters have sex on a plane, usually in the bathroom.
  • Missing Man Formation: A ceremonial incomplete fighter jet formation to honor a fallen teammate.
  • Oceanic Airlines: If there's a fictional aircraft disaster, chances are, the airline involved is called this.
  • Offscreen Airplane Pull-up: An aircraft pulls up out of a fall at the last second and out of view.
  • Old-School Dogfight: Aircraft (and spacecraft) behaving like pre-Cold War planes in situations where they shouldn't.
  • Overly Long Airplane Banner Gag: A really long banner is attached to an airplane.
  • Parachute in a Tree: Someone with a parachute snags onto something just before hitting the ground, leaving the owner dangling in the air.
  • Pardo Push: A pilot uses their aircraft to push a damaged aircraft so they can land safely.
  • Plane Awful Flight: Plane flights are uncomfortable or even downright miserable to sit through.
  • Plane Spotting: A Useful Notes page on tracking the movement of aircraft as a hobby.
  • Planes, Trains, and Imbeciles: Airport workers being painfully unhelpful, if not outright abusive.
  • Screaming Plane Baby: If a character is riding a plane (or public transportation), a baby will inevitably start crying.
  • Sexy Stewardess: Female flight attendants are portrayed as Ms. Fanservice.
  • Short-Lived Aerial Escape: A group, usually the bad guys, try to escape the scene on an aircraft, only for the enemy to take it down before it gets far.
  • Sky-Consuming Dogfight: A large-scale battle sequence where many aircraft shoot at each other in close proximity.
  • Sky Heist: Using an aircraft to steal something, then flying away with the object dangling from the aircraft.
  • Space Plane: A spaceship that looks and works like an airplane.
  • Standard Hollywood Strafing Procedure: Attacking from the air with a heaping dose of Rule of Cool and Rule of Drama.
  • Stuka Scream: When something falls at high speed, it somehow always plays the Ju-87 "Stuka" siren, i.e. it sounds like a World War II German dive bomber.
  • Superior Firepower: Bombers: A Useful Notes page on bomber planes.
  • Those Magnificent Flying Machines: Flying machines in fiction are weird and have a steampunk aesthetic.
  • Turbine Blender: When a living entity flies into a jet engine, things get messy.
  • Wingman: The guy flying the other warplane beside the hero.
  • Wrong Parachute Gag: A character grabs a bag and jumps from a great height, mistaking it for a parachute, when it actually contains something else.
  • Zeppelins from Another World: The prominence of Zeppelin airships are the first sign that you are in a parallel universe.

That's it! I've had it with these time-consuming tropes on this time-consuming plane! Strap yourselves in, I'm gonna open some webpages!