47 Best Songs About Flying, Planes and Aviation

Flying is one of the wonders of the modern age. We take it for granted, but it’s still a pretty amazing feat for us humans.

The subject of flying is also something songwriters like to use in songs, whether literally or metaphorically. So, here are some of the best songs about flying ever recorded.

Contents

“Sunset (Bird of Prey)” by Fatboy Slim

Are any fans of The Doors’ Jim Morrison out there? Good. Then you’ll love this one from ‘big beat’ master DJ Fatboy Slim (aka Norman Cook, the bass player from the ’80s indie band, The Housemartins). Here’s an example of when a video takes a song to another level. In the video, a man takes a ‘bubbling substance.’ The next minute, he’s piloting a plane. The music, visuals, and haunting voice of Jim Morrison are breathtaking and feel almost like a flight simulation.

“High Flight” by John Denver (words by John Gillespie Magee)

Flying songs don’t come much better than John Denver’s musical rendition of the poem “High Flight” by John Gillespie Magee, a 21-year-old Canadian Air Force Pilot. Magee wrote this beautiful poem, but tragically, a month later, he died in a plane crash. The poem and the man live on through this song.

“Amelia” by Joni Mitchell

Amelia Earhart was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean in 1932. Five years later (in 1937), she vanished while flying over the Pacific Ocean on a round-the-world attempt. Here, Mitchell sees herself very much like Earhart, alone and striving for “something you must do.” But it’s lonely up there (in many ways, this depicts the artist’s struggle). In a 1997 Los Angeles Times interview, she says, “I was thinking of Amelia Earhart and addressing it from one solo pilot to another.” The lyrics touch on the cost of this obsession.

“Learning to Fly” by Pink Floyd

‘Learning to Fly’ was released on Pink Floyd’s 1987 album A Momentary Lapse Of Reason (the first to be recorded without Roger Waters). It’s a song about breaking free (flying is a metaphor for freedom). There are also plenty of aviation references, probably because songwriter David Gilmour was having flying lessons at the time of writing.

“Jet Airliner” by Steve Miller Band

This rocker was written by blind folk singer Paul Pena, but it was Steve Miller who made it a hit in 1977. This airplane song is notable because it’s one of the earliest instances of the phrase “keep on keepin’ on” used in a piece. We later heard the phrase in Dylan’s ‘Tangled Up in Blue’ and John Lennon’s ‘Old Dirt Road.’

“Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd

Southern rock legend Lynyrd Skynyrd recorded ‘Free Bird’ in 1973. The album version runs at 9:08 (the radio edit was cut down to 4:41). Those extra four minutes are one of the finest extended jams in the history of rock music. The song is about resisting the urge to settle down. “But if I stay here with you, girl / Things just couldn’t be the same.” Tragically, only a few years later, singer Ronnie Van Zant and guitarist Steve Gaines were both killed in a plane crash in 1977.

Recommended: Our curated list of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s greatest songs.

“Come Fly with Me” by Frank Sinatra

The successful songwriter team of Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn wrote this flying high song (Van Heusen, in particular, had a passion for flying and worked as a test pilot during World War II). The song was written with Frank Sinatra in mind to complement his ‘jet setter’ lifestyle. We hear about exotic places (especially back then, when travel was a luxury) like Bombay, Peru, and Acapulco Bay.

This classic has been covered by countless people, including Michael Bublé, Dean Martin and Count Basie.

“Learning to Fly” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

The inspiration for the song came from an interview with a pilot that Petty saw on TV. Flying is easy, the pilot said. The hardest part is coming down. Petty used the analogy of flying for struggles in life, as he’d recently had an arson attack on his home. “You can lay down and let the tragedy overwhelm you, or you can fly above it,” he told ABC News in 1991. The song suggests that while taking a leap of faith and teaching yourself to fly into the unknown is one thing, what goes up must come down, and it’s the coming down that’s the hardest part.

“The Zephyr Song” by Red Hot Chili Peppers

A ‘Zephyr’ is a gentle breeze or breeze from the west, named after the Greek god of the west wind, Zephyrus. Lead singer Anthony Kiedis invites you to fly away on his “Zephyr” – I’ll leave that one to your imagination.

“Jet” by Paul McCartney and Wings

Paul McCartney and his late wife Linda apparently owned a black pony they called Jet. In the song, Paul recounts the look ‘on their funny faces’ when Linda told her father-in-law (‘Major Tom’) that they planned to marry. He urges her to “climb on the back, and we’ll go for a ride in the sky.”

“Eight Miles High” by The Byrds

The story goes that, during a flight, singer Gene Clark asked guitarist Roger McGuinn how high up they were. “Six miles high,” he answered. The idea for the song was borne, although ‘eight’ was used rather than ‘six.’ This song is considered a staple of the psychedelic rock scene of the mid to late 1960s. The genre was characterized by distorted guitars, long improvised jams, and ‘trippy’ lyrics.

“Learning to Fly” by Foo Fighters

In the hilarious video, Jack Black and Kyle Gass appear as cleaners who mistakenly spike the coffee, leaving the band to manage the safe descent of the plane. Dave Grohl also appears in various disguises, including an obese woman and a flight attendant. In Italy, a 1000-strong group of musicians (labeled “the biggest rock band in the world”) came together to play this in a bid to get Foo Fighters to go and play in Cesena, Italy. It worked! The video supposedly made Dave Grohl cry the first time he saw it, and the band went and played a concert there in appreciation.

‘Fly Me to the Moon’ by Frank Sinatra

This standard was written by Bart Howard in 1954 and has been covered plenty of times (Nat King Cole, Tony Bennett, etc.). However, Frank Sinatra’s rendition of the song with the Count Basie Orchestra became the definitive version. It’s one of the best flying songs ever made.

“Flight 505” by The Rolling Stones

Here’s a reminder to be grateful for what you have. Amid a mid-life crisis, the protagonist decides to book a seat on Flight 505 to escape his meaningless existence. The plane, however, ends up crashing into the sea. Bassist Bill Wyman uses a fuzz bass tone here to great effect.

“747 (Strangers in the Night)” by Saxon

From the English heavy metal band ’80s album Wheels of Steel, this track is about a power outage in 1965 that caused a blackout over a significant area of Canada and North America (known as ‘The Great Northeast Blackout’). Like a scene from the movie Die Hard 2, the power cut forced planes in New York City to remain in ascent. Scandinavian Airlines 911 was one of those planes and managed to make a safe landing in the dark at John F. Kennedy Airport, with its crew and 89 passengers aboard.

“Airplanes” by B.o.B. feat. Hayley Williams

In “Airplanes”, we’re encouraged to imagine planes in the night sky to be shooting stars, and to make a wish.

“Leaving on a Jet Plane” by John Denver

As the child of a military family, John Denver moved around a lot. When he became a full-time musician, his nomadic existence continued. The thing about traveling so much is that it’s hard to hold down relationships. This song deals with the subject and his longing for a permanent home. Denver’s wife, Annie, was the one person who finally grounded him in his life. Peter, Paul, and Mary also had a hit with the song.

Recommended: Check out more classics on our pick of the best John Denver songs.

“Jet Boy” by The New York Dolls

The closing track on The New York Dolls’ self-titled album, this song is about a hedonistic guy “flying about New York” in the fast lane, overindulging himself. Rolling Stone called it “Marvel comics meets the Lower East Side.”

“The Best Way To Travel” by The Moody Blues

Prog rockers The Moody Blues released this in 1968, as part of their In Search of the Lost Chord album. The references to getting ‘high as a kite’ suggest it’s about certain substance use.

“Given to Fly” by Pearl Jam

‘Given to Fly’ was the first single from their 1998 offering, Yield. “It’s a children’s story,” Eddie Vedder said about the song. “I imagined a line on each page and a picture to go with it,” he said. “It’s a fable, that’s all. The music almost gives you this feeling of flight,” he told Rolling Stone.

“Like a Bird” By Nelly Furtado

The song describes a woman who feels torn between her love for her partner and her desire for freedom, often comparing herself to a bird. She cannot promise to settle down and may eventually leave, as birds always do – she is still searching for where she truly belongs, despite her love for her partner.

“Wind Beneath My Wings” By Bette Midler

This famous Better Midler tune it about being thankful for the love and support of someone who has been there through difficult times. This other person is literally “wind beneath my wings.” Most people have someone in their life who has helped them through the good and bad times.

“Fly Away” By Lenny Kravitz

This Kravitz original imagines life as a dragonfly with the freedom of the spirit to fly anywhere, even into space. Unlike many songs about flying, which often symbolize leaving a relationship, “Fly Away” is a love song inviting a lover to join in the flight.

“Drunk On A Plane” By Dierks Bentley

In this comical song, the protagonist finds himself flying to Cancun for a honeymoon that his bride has stood him up for. He decides to make the most of the situation by buying drinks for the other passengers and starting a “Mardi Gras up in the clouds.”

“Watching Airplanes” By Gary Allan

In this poignant tale of heartbreak and longing, we find the protagonist at an airport, reminiscing about the day his lover left him and wondering which plane she might be on. The song is relatable to anyone who has experienced a breakup, even if they haven’t literally watched their former lover’s plane take off.

“Up, Up And Away” By The 5th Dimension

This song uses the metaphor of flying in a hot air balloon for life.

“Fly By Night” By Rush

Rush’s “Fly By Night” is about the magic of flying and exploring new places, and why its important to step out of your comfort zone. The song encourages listeners to embrace uncertainty and venture out into the world.

“Gonna Fly Now” (Theme from Rocky) by Bill Conti

The few lyrics of the song “Gonna Fly Now” from the Oscar-winning movie Rocky convey a powerful message of resilience and determination, encouraging listeners to prepare themselves for their next battles, regardless of the size of their adversary.

“Turbulence” By Bowling For Soup

“Turbulence” uses the metaphor of air travel and turbulence to depict life’s challenges. The song suggests that like passengers on a plane, people may be headed in the same direction but take different paths. The music video reinforces this message, showing people at various stages of life enduring hardships and seeking better times.

“Fly With Me” by Jonas Brothers

This song explores the pain of knowing a relationship has no future. The singer uses the metaphor of Peter Pan and Wendy, who were separated but “turned out fine,” to express his longing to be with his lover. Despite understanding they can’t be together long-term, he invites her to “fly with him,” choosing to live in the present moment with her.

“Big Jet Plane” by Angus and Julia Stone

This romantic number captures the excitement of new love and the desire to always be by their side. Singer Angus Stone wants to take his dream girl on a ride on his “big jet plane.”

“Iron Maiden” by Aces High

In this tribute to the British Royal Air Force and their role in the Battle of Britain (the first battle to take place exclusively in the air), this song captures the thoughts and emotions of the pilots as they engage in intense aerial combat with the German Luftwaffe.

“Back in the USSR” by The Beatles

Begining with the screech of a plane landing, this Beatles track from the White album celebrates, among other things, Russian women (“you don’t know how lucky you are, boys”) and getting queasy on the flight (“On the way the paper bag was on my knee
/ Man, I had a dreadful flight”.)

“Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins

The iconic song from the Top Gun soundtrack is a high octane, fist pumping 80s classic. “You’ll never know what you can do / Until you get it up as high as you can go.”

Recommended: Relive the magic of the movie in our Top Gun soundtrack special.

“Airplane” by Plain White T’s

Here, the singer longs for an airplane to take him to a place where he can start anew and leave behind past mistakes. The song reflects the bittersweet side of growing up and the transition to adulthood. “Airplane, airplane, don’t you go down today, take me away / Off to a better place, you know, just where I’d like to go.”

“We Can Fly” by The Cowsills

Capturing the romantic optimism of the 60s, The Cowsills’ “We Can Fly” express a youthful, exuberant love and the joy of spending a perfect sunny day with a loved one. “Baby, it’s funny / How I can feel so sunny / When you’re beside me.”

“To Live is to Fly” by Townes van Zandt

Here’s a truly beautiful song from one of popular music’s finest songwriters. In the lyrics, he suggests that life is “mostly wasting time”, and that you have to accept all the ups and downs. “To live is to fly / Low and high / So shake the dust off of your wings / And the sleep out of your eyes”.

Recommended: Our curated pick of Townes van Zandt’s most important recordings.

“Drop the Pilot” by Joan Armatrading

In this track, Joan Armatrading is trying to lure someone away from a relationship with a pilot. “Drop the pilot”, she suggests, and “try my balloon.”

“Five Miles Out” by Mike Oldfield

Here we find the protagonist in a sticky situation while flying his plane. “The storm is closing in now”. His thoughts are with getting back to base, as his “Number 1” (partner) is counting on him.

“The Letter” by The Box Tops

With what must be one of the most soulful voices ever, the late Alex Chilton rejoices about the letter he’s received from a long-lost love who wants him back. He can’t get there soon enough. “Gimme a ticket for an aeroplane / Ain’t got time to take a fast train.”

“Space Oddity” by David Bowie

Not a flying song per se, but whenever there’s an opportunity to include Space Oddity in a list, we’ll take it. The protagonist, Major Tom, is “sitting in a tin can, far above the world,” feeling rather helpless. The countdown sequence at the top of the song perfectly captures the excitement of lift off.

“Promised Land” by Chuck Berry

The “promised land” is California, and Berry is desperate to get out his hometown of Norfolk, Virginia to make it there. His journey doesn’t really go to the plan, but eventually he’s “Workin’ on a T-bone steak a la carte / Flying over to the Golden State.” When he arrives, he calls back home, “Tell the folks back home this is the promised land callin’ / And the poor boy’s on the line.”

Recommended: More songs about the sunshine state of California.

“Big Bird” by Eddie Floyd

No, we’re not talking Sesame Street. This big bird is an aeroplane that will take the singer back to the one he loves. “Open up the sky / Cause I’m coming up to you / So send down your wings / And let ’em bring me to you”

“Mr. Airplane Man” by Howlin’ Wolf

Here, a suspicious Howlin’ Wolf pleads with a pilot to check up on his girl in Jackson. “Mr. Airplane man, will you fly to Jackson for me?”, he asks. His girl “might be visitin’, at the next door neighbor’s you know.”

“Rocket Man” by Elton John

Inspired by a Ray Bradbury short story about an astronaut heading to Mars, this Elton John classic is about the highs and lows of substance abuse. “I’m going to be high as a kite by then.”

“Come Josephine in My Flying Machine” by Spike Jones and His City Slickers

This song captures the excitement and exuberence of early aviation at the turn of the century. In it, the protagonist sings about taking his girlfriend on a date in his flying machine. You may remember the song from the movie Titanic. Kate Winslet’s character Rose sings a bit of it while lying on a piece of wreckage after the ship sank.

“Aviation” by May Jailer (Lana Del Ray)

Lana del Rey used to use the stage name “May Jailer.” In this song from that period, she tells her parents about her decision to go into aviation. “Have a big degree in philosophy”
she tells them, “But I don’t know what I want to be”. “So I’m going into aviation, yeah, mom
/ I’m going into aviation, yeah, dad.”

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About Ged Richardson

Ged Richardson is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of ZingInstruments.com. He has been featured in Entrepreneur, PremierGuitar, Hallmark, Wanderlust, CreativeLive, and other major publications. As an avid music fan, he spends his time researching and writing about new and old music, as well as testing and reviewing music-related products. He's played guitar in various bands, from rock to gypsy jazz. Be sure to check out his YouTube channel, where he geeks out about his favorite bands.

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