The Situation: I don’t really like to fly. Unlike most people with a similar distaste for air travel, this has nothing to do with a fear that the plane will crash. Actually, I have complete and total faith in the science of flight, believing that physics will get me where I’m going alive and well. I just don’t like being cooped up in a tiny space for three, four, five, or six hours at a time. But, if any of these four were at the controls, I might re-evaluate my misgivings.
The Criteria: There are a lot of pretty cool pilots floating around the annals of pop culture (stop giggling…I said “ANNALS”). And each and every one of them could have been on this list. But, I had to pick four. And, being the geek that I am, I had to pick these four. That doesn’t mean that I don’t respect what Maverick and Goose did in Top Gun, or that Ted Striker single-handedly landed that 707 in Airplane!, or the flying that Steven Hiller and Russel Casse did in Independence Day.
1. Hoban “Wash” Washburne
He might be a spastic, plastic-dinosaur-loving goofball most of the time, but put Wash behind the controls of Serenity (or anything, for that matter) and he really is “a leaf on the wind.” Wash is always ready to do the right thing, even if it means leaving the safety of the cockpit and shooting a tiny little handgun. Plus, the fact that he’s married to an Amazon like Zoe gives hope to spastic, plastic-dinosaur-loving goofballs everywhere.
2. Han Solo
Everyone makes a big deal about Luke Skywalker blowing up the Death Star. But, Han Solo’s flown through an asteroid field, played chicken with Imperial Star Destroyers, and made the Kessel Run in under twelve parsecs, all without the benefit of Luke’s reliance on “hokey religions.” Given the choice, I’d rather trust my life to Han’s skill and experience than to Luke’s abilities with the Force.
3. H.M. “Howling Mad” Murdock
Since most of the A-Team’s jobs didn’t take place more than a day or two’s drive from Los Angeles, it’s easy to forget that Murdock was a pilot. In fact, on more than one occasion, Hannibal called him the best chopper pilot in ‘Nam. Whether he was actually insane, or just really good at faking it, Murdock was an Ace in the air, and it didn’t matter if he was flying a chopper, a biplane, or a Cessna.
4. Kara “Starbuck” Thrace
Sure, she has commitment issues and, probably, a bit of a death wish, but Starbuck is a damned good Viper pilot, and she’s relentless in a dogfight. Plus, I’m such a sucker for a dame who can out-fight, out-swear, and out-drink any man in the room. The fact that this dame happens to be a stogie-chomping blonde is a bonus.