How’s your cross-country playlist looking? If that flying soundtrack has gotten a little old and boring, consider this song list your refresh inspiration. We’ve included our picks for the 25 best aviation/flying songs, and they’re not limited to just one genre or time frame either. Our list gives you a taste of everything from heavy metal and rock to modern and classic pop plus some easy listening, with the oldest song on the list dating back to 1910. No matter what kind of music you listen to, there’s a song here for you.
Stick around to the end for a chance to share your favorites plus tell us which other songs are on your own pilot playlist.
We’ll kick the list off with a classic, and one of the first songs that comes to all our minds when we think “airplane songs.” The lyrics paint a vivid and relatable picture of the reality of life as a pilot or frequent flyer who often must leave their lover or family behind at home. Being married to a pilot isn’t always easy. Which of us haven’t wanted to say to our significant other, “Kiss me and smile for me. Tell me that you’ll wait for me. Hold me like you’ll never let me go,” before heading out the door and leaving on a jet plane?
Denver was only a 23-year-old relatively unknown singer when he penned the lyrics to what would become one of his best-known songs. Peter, Paul, and Mary’s version of the song hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Ironically, John’s lyrics about leaving on a plane came true in a twisted way as he left this world by dying in a plane crash in 1997.
Perhaps the most relatable portion of the lyrics to this song, and the section that hits home for any of us who have ever sprinted to a gate trying to catch a connecting flight is: “So airplane, airplane, sorry I’m late. I’m on my way, so don’t close that gate.”
The chorus reminds us of sitting at a darkened gate waiting for a night flight, watching all the other planes taking off while indulging in an introspective moment of thinking about our lives. Haven’t we all at one point or another wished “somebody take me back to the days before this was a job, before I got paid, before it ever mattered what I had in my bank.”
So, the next time you watch a night sky filled with planes, go ahead and “pretend that airplanes in the night sky are like shooting stars” because we could all “really use a wish right now.”
Pro Tip: If you liked the original, remember to check out Airplanes, Pt. 2 with B.o.B., Eminem, and Hayley Williams.
The emotions of anyone who has ever watched birds and planes while dreaming of soaring “above the planet on a wing and a prayer” are captured in this Pink Floyd song. Bonus points for the spoken word portion of the song that runs down the final section of a pre-flight checklist. “Throttle friction lock—set. Mixtures—rich. Propellers—fully forward.”
We can’t all take our lover out for a ride on our own personal “big jet plane” like singer Angus Stone dreamed of doing with the dream girl he met at a summer music festival, but we too can sing about it. Plus, as pilots, we can at least take him or her on a ride in our “small GA plane” even if it doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. Either way, this song captures the nostalgia of summer attraction and the desire to fly away with the one you love.
Wanderlust interweaves with elements of aviation history in Joni Mitchell’s song bearing the title of famous female pilot Amelia Earhart. The song includes segments about Earhart’s disappearance while chasing her love of flight saying, “a ghost of aviation, she was swallowed by the sky or by the sea.” Other lyrics follow Mitchell chasing a love of her own in the form of a man who eventually breaks her heart as she realizes “maybe I’ve never really loved, I guess that is the truth. I’ve spent my whole life in clouds at icy altitude.” Melancholy, yet easy to listen to, this song embodies the pain of a dream that becomes “just a false alarm.”
Coming of age excitement and angst take flight in this song about flying away from home to chase your dreams while filled with mixed feelings about leaving the ones you love and the possibility of losing yourself. “Goodbye to people I’ve trusted. I’ve got to go out to make my way” the singers acknowledge while reminding themselves to stay grounded, “Oh, oh, big ol’ jet airliner don’t carry me too far away ‘cause it’s here that I’ve got to stay.” Add this song to the heading off to college or moving across country for that first big job playlist.
Coinciding with the summer of the first moon landing, David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” marks a time when the general public was as nearly as emotionally invested in and excited about flight as the pilots and astronauts stepping aboard space capsules. Mixed with the anticipation was concern about all that could go terribly wrong as it does to Bowie’s fictional Major Tom. “Ground Control to Major Tom, your circuit’s dead there’s something wrong. Can you hear me, Major Tom? Can you hear me, Major Tom?”
Get swept up on the wings of the Golden Age of air travel. “Come fly with me. Let’s fly, let’s fly away,” Sinatra swoons as he entices us all to once again marvel at the truly impressive wonder that is human flight. Bombay, Peru, Acapulco Bay and more await. Take your lover for a weekend date or “flying honeymoon” and set the mood with Sinatra singing, “Pack up, let’s fly away!” and “Once I get you up there, I’ll be holding you so near you may hear angels cheer ‘cause we’re together.”
Jump right into the cockpit with WWII British Royal Airforce (RAF) pilots as the flying aces do battle with the German Luftwaffe in the 1940 Battle of Britain. The lyrics embrace both the thoughts and emotions of the pilot as they “run, live to fly. Fly to live, do or die.” They also depict the maneuvers and actions pilots take to shoot down the enemy while avoiding disaster themselves: “running, scrambling, flying, rolling, turning, diving, going in again.” This intense high-energy song is perfect for a workout or as an alarm tone if you’re a really sound sleeping pilot who needs to make sure you wake up on time to get to the airport for your next flight.
Return to the early days of aviation as a dashing young man sings of taking his girlfriend Josephine up for a date in his “flying machine.” The lighthearted lyrics of this 1910 song capture the turn-of-the-century exuberance surrounding innovations like air travel. “Oh joy, what a feeling. Where, boy? In the ceiling. Ho, High, Hoopla we fly to the sky so high.”
Aviation/Movie Trivia: If you’re like most of us, you have probably heard a snippet of this song before without realizing it. Think back to the 1997 movie Titanic. As Rose is lying on the piece of wreckage after the sinking, she quietly sings a small portion of this song. A full-length version is included on the Titanic soundtrack, and in one of the deleted scenes, Jack and Rose are seen laughing and singing the popular song together as they walk the deck.
This hit single was made legendary by its inclusion in the original Top Gun movie. With the recent release of Top Gun: Maverick, “Danger Zone” is enjoying the spotlight once again. Another high energy pilot song, this piece is sure to put you in the mood for your next flight (or your next hardcore gym circuit). Just don’t actually “ride into the danger zone.”
This classic sad country love song is nearly universally relatable to all of us who have ever gone through a breakup even if we weren’t literally “sittin’ out here watching airplanes take off and fly, trying to figure out which one you might be on and why you don’t love me anymore.” Add the sad tune to your break-up playlist or the ‘think about the ones that got away’ soundtrack.
This heavy metal ballad was inspired by the real-life Great Northeast Blackout of 1965 when planes were diverted as they approached to land at airports that had lost power. The lyrics envision multiple 747 aircraft as “strangers in the night going nowhere” as they attempt to navigate the dark.
The lyrics are few, but the message is memorable. Add this 1979 theme from the hit movie Rocky to both your flight and workout playlists. The big band background and memory of Rocky’s training montage will push you to also achieve greatness. “Gonna fly now. Flyin’ high now.”
Are you stuck at work counting down the hours or days until you can sneak in your next flight? Are you saying to yourself, “I wish that I could fly into the sky so very high…Oh, I want to get away. I want to fly away”? If so, this is the theme song for you.
The classic lost love lament lifts off in Dionne Warwick’s 1966 song about a lover who left, never to return because “trains and boats and planes took you away.” If you have ever loved someone who moved far away, ending the relationship, you may relate to wishing and praying that “the trains and the boats and plane will bring [them] back, back home.”
Embrace young, innocent, exuberant love with an easy, breezy upbeat retro song about a perfect sunny day flight with the one you love. Pull that person close and serenade them with the unapologetically cheesy lyrics “Baby it’s so funny, how can I feel so sunny? When you’re beside me we can fly, oh we can fly.”
Rarely do pilots fly through extreme weather and then release a song about the experience, but that’s exactly what happened for Mike Oldfield. According to Genius, in August of 1980, Goldfield was caught in a thunderstorm while piloting a Piper Navajo over the Spanish Pyrenees Mountain range.
Any pilot who has experienced danger in the cockpit and needed to perform at their best to survive the ordeal will relate to the words running through Oldfield’s head: “Just hold your heading true. Got to get your finest out.”
He even speaks to the sense of fear and dread he experienced while being tossed around in the volatile air currents. “You’re a prisoner of the dark sky. The propeller blades are still! And the evil eye of the hurricane’s coming in now for the kill.”
By now we all know that “Rocket Man” wasn’t really just about an astronaut blasting off on a lunar mission. There’s another layer to those lyrics that reflects Elton John’s personal struggles with substance abuse. Still, this song deserves a place on our list if for nothing else than the imagery of a lonely astronaut heading into space and missing his family back at home. “I miss the earth so much, I miss my wife. It’s lonely out in space.”
Before she became Lana del Rey, the singer whose legal name is Elizabeth Grant went by May Jailer. An unreleased (but leaked) pre-Lana-era record included a song that all student pilots whose families are less than supportive will relate to. May sings, “Do you think I’m crazy for considering aviation? I’m a fan of flying,” as she tells her parents, “So I’m going into aviation, yeah, Mom. I’m going into aviation, yeah, Dad.”
The tiny aviators in the back seat will sing along with Spencer Lee’s “Still I Fly” from the Disney movie Planes: Fire & Rescue. The lyrics remind them to build their confidence and to fight to make their biggest dreams come true as they take to the skies like the planes in the animated feature. “Never letting go. Gotta learn to grow. Watch me as I touch the sky. Still I fly.”
John Denver earns a second slot on our best pilot playlist songs with his musical rendition of the famous aviator’s poem “High Flight” written by 21-year-old Canadian Air Force Pilot John Gillespie Magee just a month before he died in a World War II plane crash. The poem was written after Magee soared to 33,000 feet in his Spitfire Mk1. This experience was so profoundly moving that Magee, who had previously won prizes for his poetry, sought to translate the emotions into words.
Magee’s poem coupled with John Denver’s melody help us all to feel as if we “have slipped the surly bonds of earth and danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings.” It captures the ethereal, reverent feeling of traversing “the high untrespassed sanctity of space” where the poet says “[I] put out my hand, and touched the face of God.”
Yes, the verses of the song are about love and heartbreak in southern California, but the chorus alone makes this song an add for your sky-diving playlist. Get ready for that next jump as you sing along to the lyrics, “I’m gonna free fall out into nothin’. Gonna leave this world for a while. Now I’m free fallin.”
In the Golden Age of Aviation, air travel was romantic, exciting, and worth writing songs about. This Fred Astaire song written for a movie by the same name puts us in the seat of a small prop plane as Astaire swoons, “Hey feller, twirl that old propeller. Got to get to Rio and we’ve got to make time. You’ll love it, soaring high above it. Looking down on Rio from a heaven of blue.” Replace “Rio” with your destination of choice and you have the perfect cross country flight song. (Or you could always decide to go international and actually fly down to Rio yourself).
Add this song to your morning flight playlist, then give it a listen both on the way to the airfield and once you reach your cruise altitude. The lyrics remind us to savor each moment and never take for granted or lose sight of the joy of aviation. “The freedom to be in the moment. The reason for making a memory. Never wasting all that comes my way as I take in what I see.”
Student pilots will also love singing along to the chorus “There’s nothing that I’ve ever felt like learning how to fly. I’m learning how to fly.”
Pro Tip: All your favorite songs sound better when played on a quality headset. Upgrade to a Bluetooth ANR pilot headset for the best sound quality and clarity plus easy switching between your tunes and important radio communication. Want to take your equipment up another notch? Listen to SiriusXM radio plus get weather info and ADS-B receive capabilities with the Garmin GDL 52. This receiver is portable so you can take it with you if you fly multiple aircraft.
It’s your turn
Which of these aviation songs made the cut for your personal pilot playlist? What are your other must-have tunes for in-flight entertainment?