How far can you fly with 100 aviation songs? Pilots departing from Nashville, Tennessee, in a typical four-place training aircraft would have enough music to accompany them every minute of the 474-nautical-mile journey to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, with over an hour’s worth of tunes in reserve.
Best of all, you can access the aviation playlist through Pandora, a SiriusXM partner, so it’s easier than ever to share the feeling of flight through music wherever it takes you. The AOPA Top 100 Flying Songs is now available as a Pandora playlist, and you can register for this service at no charge to enjoy these and thousands of other great songs!
A YouTube link to each song below allows you to sample the tunes, and if we missed anything that you think other pilots would enjoy, send us your ideas for more aviation-based music.
1. Time for Me to Fly, a rock ballad by 1970s powerhouse REO Speedwagon, features a catchy tune, a crying guitar solo, and the lyrics, “I make you laugh and you make me cry, I believe it’s time for me to fly.“
3. Learning to Fly by Tom Petty has a catchy refrain that was a favorite with AOPA staff: “I’m learning to fly but I ain’t got wings,” holds special meaning now that the guitar player has “flown west.” An acoustic version with Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks backing him up on vocals inspires fans to sing along during a live concert. Listeners debate whether the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer who died in 2017 was writing about something other than flying an airplane.
4. Aeroplane by the Red Hot Chili Peppers drives a funky beat punctuated by solo guitar and bass riffs that proclaims, “I like pleasure spiked with pain, And music is my aeroplane, It’s my aeroplane.” It was another favorite tune with PrivateFly.com’s Adam Twidell.
5. Leaving on a Jet Plane by pilot John Denver was a near-unanimous favorite with AOPA staff and should probably be in every pilot’s music rotation. Denver told a live audience that the only thing he didn’t like about flying was “when you have to leave somebody that you care for a great deal.” John, you left us too soon.
6. Rocket Man, penned by the songwriting team of Elton John and Bernie Taupin, laments the isolation of space travel during the 1970s Apollo moon explorations. The AOPA staff favorite features the lyrics, “I miss the Earth so much, I miss my wife, It’s lonely out in space, On such a timeless flight.”
7. Space Oddity by David Bowie recalls the dangers of outer-space travel. Major Tom lamented, “For here am I floating in my tin can, far above the world,” but the tune earned Bowie his first Top 40 U.S. hit not long after Apollo 11 landed on the moon in 1969. However, Bowie told Performing Songwriter magazine that the song was actually inspired by the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.
8. The Learn to Fly video by the Foo Fighters is almost as much fun as the song itself, which declares, “I’m looking to the sky to save me, Looking for a sign of life,” and was a big hit with AOPA staff.
9. Learning to Fly by British rockers Pink Floyd is penned by guitarist and pilot David Gilmour. The song sweeps listeners up on an imaginary flight with lyrics straight out of a preflight check, “Friction lock, set. Mixture rich, Propellers fully forward,” and was a popular choice with several AOPA staff. The official video with a hang glider and a low-flying single-engine airplane is a different animal as it accompanies the longing, “Can’t keep my eyes from the circling sky, Tongue-tied and twisted just an earth-bound misfit I.”
10. Red Staggerwing by Emmylou Harris and Dire Straits front man Mark Knopfler is an upbeat country-bluegrass tune offered by AOPA Live This Week® Executive Producer Warren Morningstar. It rocks along at a fast clip before warning listeners, “I’d fly over to your house, baby, Buzz you in your bed.” Guitar, automobile, and motorcycle aficionados also will appreciate the lyrics.
11. Snoopy vs. the Red Baron by The Royal Guardsmen is a classic offered by AOPA Senior Vice President of Media, Communications, and Outreach Tom Haines and refers to World War I ace fighter pilot Baron von Richthofen. The lyrics “Ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, or more, The Bloody Red Baron was rolling up the score,” reminds listeners of von Richthofen and his deadly red Fokker triplane.
12. Turbulence by rappers Steve Aoki and Laidback Luke, featuring Lil Jon, takes listeners “On a journey all around the world” on “Flight 909” with a hard-driving bass beat, electronic dance music synthesizers, and DJs warning passengers: “I regret to inform you, we might encounter some turbulence, So when it happens, Put your hands up high, Like you on a roller coaster.”
13. Born to Fly by Sara Evans skips along on a country two-step with buttery bass lines and was a favorite of AOPA Senior Director of eMedia and AOPA Live This Week co-host Alyssa Cobb. The song asks, “And how do you keep your feet on the ground, When you know, that you were born, you were born to fly?”
14. Surfin Bird – The Bird is the Word by The Trashmen, the speed ditty made popular in the Robin Williams film Good Morning, Vietnam, is a favorite among AOPA staff members because the unforgettable, simple lyrics, “B-b-b-bird, bird, bird, b-bird’s the word. A-well-a bird, bird, bird, the bird is the word,” get stuck in your head.
15. Wheels Ain’t Coming Down by Slade is a rocker that has wiry guitar solos propelling the hard-driving song down the runway. It was favored by AOPA staff because of airplane jargon including, “Was a 1950s prop job, that had seen much better days, When we came on in to the last approach, saw the runway through the haze.”
16. Airplanes by rapper B.o.B. with vocals by Hayley Williams of Paramore has over 568 million YouTube views. The song asks, “Can we pretend that airplanes, In the night sky, Are like shooting stars? I could really use a wish right now.”
17. Drunk on a Plane by You Can Fly Champion Dierks Bentley explains the alternatives to a wedding gone awry and was offered up by AOPA staff. “Buyin’ drinks for everybody, But the pilot, it’s a party, Got this 737 rocking like a G6” helps the groom forget about the bride who stood him up.
18. Wind Beneath My Wings, a Grammy Award-winning song performed by Bette Midler with AOPA member, Cessna 182 owner, and professional drummer Paul Leim keeping the beat, reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1990 and remains one of his favorites.
19. Up, Up, and Away performed by the Fifth Dimension describes a hot air balloon flight where the pilots rise “Up, up, and away, in my beautiful, my beautiful, balloon.” The hot song rose to the Top 10 on Billboard’s easy listening chart before snagging four 1968 Grammy Awards including Record of the Year and Song of the Year.
20. Fly Me to the Moon, a big-band aviation selection from Frank Sinatra, invites listeners to “Fly me to the moon, Let me play among the stars, Let me see what spring is like on Jupiter and Mars.” Flying Musicians Association co-founder John Zapp said Connie Francis recorded an Italian version in 1963 titled Portami co Te, which became an international bestseller. The jazz standard is closely associated with Sinatra and was played in space during NASA’s Apollo 11 mission when Buzz Aldrin stepped onto the moon on July 20, 1969.
21. In Come Fly with Me “The Chairman of the Board” Frank Sinatra promises, “Once I get you up there where the air is rarified, We’ll just glide starry-eyed.”
22. Learn to Fly, a pop tune by Josh Woodward, topped the playlist for Wisconsin flight instructor Pete Aarsvold. The song encourages individuals to set their sights high in order to achieve greatness. The catchy rhythm includes lyrics for aspiring aviators. “Your wings are going to sprout and you will learn to fly.”
23. This Flight Tonight, made popular by prairie rockers Nazareth and originally performed by Joni Mitchell, is a favorite for Cessna Cardinal RG pilot Kevin Choy. The driving rock beat includes themes about love, the celestial universe, and earth-bound realities. Choy said the song speaks to the “anticipation and internalized excitement so many think about just prior to landing.”
24. The Letter by The Box Tops highlights the advantages of aviation for speeding someone home to see a significant other. St. Simons, Georgia, pilot and musician Chuck Reina suggested the 1967 classic that charted No. 1 on Billboard with the memorable refrain, “Gimme a ticket for an aeroplane, Ain’t got time to take a fast train.”
25. Glamorous, a Billboard Hot 100 tune by former Black Eyed Peas vocalist Fergie (Stacy Ann Ferguson) with Atlanta rapper Ludacris, recalls a business aviation flight that the Super Bowl halftime performer remembers as glamorous.
26. Flying Sorcery by British folk balladeer Al Stewart pays homage to World War II pilots and groundbreaking female aviator Amy Johnson.
27. The iconic Wild Blue Yonder scores a patriotic tone for retired U.S. Air Force pilot Bob Raskey. The airline transport pilot, general aviation pilot, and aircraft owner also harbors a hankering for Learning to Fly by British rockers Pink Floyd, written by guitarist and fellow pilot David Gilmour.
28. Ready to Fly by Didrick, featuring Adam Young, was suggested by Dan Hall. It’s one of several songs that he enjoys while aviating. The lyrics suggest that it’s OK to “Fall from the stars into my arms if you’re ready to fly.”
29. Sky Pilot by Eric Burdon and the Animals is a favorite of pilots Mark O’Boyle and Kirke Machon. The captivating ballad from the spring of 1968 that includes audio of gunfire, explosions, and airplane engine sound effects belies a deeper meaning that some say casts a critical eye toward the Vietnam War. It asks the question, “How high can you fly? You’ll never, never, never reach the sky.”
30. Peter Pan by country vocalist Kelsea Ballerini references the classic story and adds a modern twist. The Tennessean’s pop video topped two 2016 country music charts and features aerobatics, parachutes, an Extra 300, a motorcycle, a sports car, love, and dramatic scenery. What more can an aviator ask for?
31. Ride of The Valkyries was originally part of an opera composed in 1854. The forlorn background music accompanies a U.S. Army Air Cavalry helicopter attack sequence in the gritty Vietnam War film Apocalypse Now. The opera by composer Richard Wagner pays homage to fallen battle heroes.
32. Drop the Pilot by British artist Joan Armatrading is a fast-paced song driven by keyboards, a popping bass line, and gritty vocals that uses aviation as a metaphor for love. She suggests choosing a different mate if “there’s no smoke, no flame.”
33. Early Morning Rain performed by Elvis Presley plays on a video screen adjacent to the Graceland exhibition of the late rock and roller’s two jets in Memphis, Tennessee. Although the King had his heart set on a Boeing 707 until the deal fell through, a Convair 880 and a Lockheed JetStar called to him instead. Presley’s version of Gordon Lightfoot’s ballad came to our attention during a pilgrimage to Presley’s home.
34. Paper Plane by Status Quo is a hard-driving rocker from the mid-1970s that moves quickly from takeoff to landing with a twangy Fender Telecaster and a Gibson SG dueling it out for superiority. The English boogie band formed in 1962 and has a rabid fan base in the U.K., where its members are recognized for humanitarian outreach.
35. International Smile by pop singer Katy Perry refers to international airline travel. The Super Bowl halftime performer’s lyrics reinforce a jet-setting lifestyle: “From LA, Miami to New York City! That girl’s a trip, A one-way ticket, Takes you miles high, so high, ‘Cause she’s got that one international smile.”
36. Jet from 1974’s “Band on the Run” album by Paul McCartney and Wings thunders from McCartney’s Rickenbacker bass while wife Linda bops along on keyboards during the Top 10 hit. According to The Beatles Bible, the bizarre lyrics refer to either a puppy, a pony, or Linda’s father, depending on McCartney’s recollections. The bottom line: It’s hard to ignore anything from a band named Wings.
37. Draggin’ by Roger McGuinn and offered by AOPA member Richard Factor pays homage to an aerial cross-country drag race in a Boeing 747. A jazzy sax solo augments McGuinn’s stellar guitar work on his first album after splitting from The Byrds as he sings, “Draggin’ draggin’ ‘cross the U.S.A., draggin’, draggin’ from New York to L.A.” Acute listeners can pick out the sounds of skidding tires in the background.
38. Flying by The Beatles is one of the Fab Four’s few instrumental songs, released on “Magical Mystery Tour” during the summer of love in 1967. The liquid tune opens with Paul McCartney’s thumping bass and bounces along with Ringo Starr’s simple drum rhythm. John Lennon and George Harrison float in with guitar fills, keyboards, and background humming in a compilation that listeners either love or loathe.
39. Spirit in the Sky by Norman Greenbaum is a 1970s ballad about death with religious overtones that AOPA member Dan Gibson says makes him feel “energized by the spirit in the sky, whatever that is, when I’m flying.” Greenbaum was a folk musician and he was Jewish, so the rock song with a fuzzy Fender Telecaster and a reference to Jesus was somewhat unusual. Greenbaum told The New York Times that he penned the ballad after inspiration by gospel great and country musician Porter Wagoner.
40. Believe it or Not, the introduction to the TV show The Greatest American Hero, was composed by Mike Post and Pete Carpenter, the kings of 1970s and 1980s TV theme music. They also wrote memorable intros for the A Team, CHiPS, Magnum P.I., and others. A high school teacher (played by William Katt) was presented with a red flight suit that gave him secret superhero flying powers that he applied to 1980s crime-stopping sprees. Melissa Whitehouse, AOPA eMedia Production Specialist and student pilot, said she was inspired by the song’s lyrics and catchy melody.
41. Sky Bo by Merle Haggard introduces a new word into pilots’ aviation vocabulary. The country musician sang about a “sky-bo” and described a professional pilot as a “new kind of hobo for planes” who loses his “blues in the sky.” Slipstream Aviation chief mechanic Kyle Stewart, of Dallas, offered up the catchy tune.
42. Airwolf’s theme music by Sylvester Levay is a synthesizer-driven instrumental that rises in crescendo and dips into musical valleys, much like the TV show’s top-secret helicopter and crew who battled evil with a heavily armed Bell 222. The stealthy chopper steals the show with help from stunt pilots Peter McKernan and his son Peter McKernan Jr. The series starred veteran actor Ernest Borgnine, with Jean Bruce Scott, Alex Cord, and former heartthrob Jan-Michael Vincent. The Airwolf background music changed weekly depending on the plot.
43. Somewhere in the Sky by the Portland-based Christian band Kutless begins with an opening verse that will resonate with any pilot, and “sums up what we as pilots feel on a sunny morning,” said AOPA member Wayne Walker, who recommended the hard-driving rock tune.
44. Watching Airplanes by Gary Allan starts with the country musician parked near an airport under a colorful sunset as he thinks about his significant other. He laments that he’s “just sittin’ out here watching airplanes, take off and fly, tryin’ to figure out which one you might be on.”
45. A Sky Full of Stars by British rockers Coldplay starts out soft and soars into the sky with a pleasing piano and a pounding bass that transforms the easy listening piece into a danceable song. The band is most known for headlining the Super Bowl 50 halftime show with Bruno Mars and Beyoncé.
46. Flying by Cody Fry begins as light as a cloud with peaceful piano work and a falsetto by the Nashville-based pop rocker who says it’s his favorite song on the album. The tune builds into an orchestra-driven performance with violins, French horns, and strings as he asks and then answers, “Where did my wings go?”
47. Back in the U.S.S.R. by the Beatles begins with jet noises as they recall how they “Flew in from Miami Beach B.O.A.C” and “didn’t get to bed last night” because their Sic-Sacs were on their knees during an apparently “dreadful flight.” The surf music-inspired tune opens the band’s White Album, and SongFacts.com reported that Mike Love of the Beach Boys helped inspire the lyrics and the bouncy composition.
48. The Aviators by Helen Jane Long is an instrumental that honors pioneering aviators as it builds into a crescendo, and it’s sometimes played to honor graduates during Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University commencement ceremonies. AOPA eMedia Production Assistant Elizabeth Linares says the British Airways advertisement featuring this song was “one of the best commercials, ever.” The visuals of early propeller aircraft transitioning to wide-body jets and the composition’s contrasting lightness stir powerful emotions for the instrument-rated private pilot that cause her to “still tear up watching it.”
49. That’s Alright Mama by the Australian hard rock band Jet is a tribute to The King of rock and roll Elvis Presley, who released it as his debut single in 1954. The performance by brothers Nic and Chris Cester with a distorted guitar driving the beat transforms the classic into a head-bopping tune.
50. Treetop Flyer by Stephen Stills was a crowd pleaser for AOPA members Dale Bramer, Jesse Petton, and Todd Bohon. Folk rock aficionados recognize his guitar work as a musical driving force that highlighted his fluid harmonies with David Crosby, Graham Nash, and occasionally Neil Young. Bohon said, “For myself and many of my pilot friends, this is an absolute requirement for our playlists.” We concur.
51. Expecting to Fly by Buffalo Springfield was written by Neil Young. The lyrics take on different meanings depending on your personal experiences. No matter what the song really means, Young’s syrupy guitar and lyrics float along the psychedelic soft-rock classic like a “feather, expecting to fly.”
52. Last Train to Kitty Hawk by Balsam Range was recommended by Sun ‘n Fun Aerospace Expo technology and audio/visual specialist David McQueary. The song about progress and change honors the Wright brothers’ invention. It has standout steel guitar and bluegrass banjo picking with the upbeat message, “Yesterday is taking off and tomorrow’s gonna fly … don’t get left behind.”
53. Squawk by David Grissom on the CD 10,000 feet ” was offered up by Kyle Stewart, the chief mechanic at Slipstream Aviation in Dallas. The instrumental background is a blues rocker with exceptional guitar work. His credits include playing with John Mellencamp and the Allman Brothers Band, and musical directing of the Chicks. We can easily see how this tune would inspire other A&Ps.
54. We Can Fly by the Cowsills struck a chord for John Klimas, who played it “prior to flying with my significant other for the first time.” The family band tune from 1967 has a mean trumpet solo covered later by horn master Al Hirt. Klimas complimented the group’s great harmony, which was augmented by double-tracking in the studio decades before digital production simplified the process.
55. Spicks and Specks by the Bee Gees was recorded in 1966, and a whimsical black-and-white video was produced at an Australian airfield. The trio of Gibb brothers takes turns participating in a preflight checklist in a six-seat Cessna before disembarking and walking past a hangar of shiny new aircraft.
56. Danger Zone by Kenny Loggins from Tom Cruise’s Top Gunanswers James Tomas’s question via Facebook: “No Danger Zone?” With more than 6 million views on YouTube, we can’t argue. The high-energy, high-octane movie is responsible for attracting scores of Navy pilots to the skies.
57. Fly by Night recognizes the genius of Rush drummer and writer Neil Peart, who died of cancer in January 2020. Bassist Geddy Lee sings Peart’s poignant lyrics, “Fly by night, away from here, Change my life again, Fly by night, goodbye my dear, My ship isn’t coming and I just can’t pretend.”
58. Fly Away by Lenny Kravitz is a go-to for pilot Todd Williams, who said he couldn’t believe the tune wasn’t on our playlist. The catchy blues beat is pushed by overdriven guitar, appealing lyrics, and music breaks that tease listeners.
59. Planes Fly by Angel Haze begins with a piano introduction leading into a rap about flying with lyrics that describe flying “high enough to take us anywhere” in a journey that leads “closer to the stars.”
60. To Live Is to Fly by Townes Van Zandt was suggested by Piper Comanche 260C owner Kenneth Shaffer, who identified the Texas-born artist as one of his favorites. Shaffer said Van Zandt’s melodic spoken-word lyrics “influenced just about everybody,” including Bob Dylan, the Cowboy Junkies, and Merle Haggard.
61.Still I Fly by Spencer Lee from the Disney movie Planes: Fire and Rescue is a favorite for commercial pilot and Montana hot air balloon operator Colin Graham, who said the song is “freaking awesome.” The tune begins softly before building into a driving force that speaks to courage and facing new horizons. We agree, Colin!
62. Beautiful Day by multiplatinum Irish rockers U2 pushed by Adam Clayton’s driving bass, Edge’s melodic guitar riffs, and Bono’s eerie vocals is one of the band’s biggest hits. Bono sings, “See the world in green and blue … It’s a beautiful day … take me to that other place.” An accompanying video showcases a commercial airport terminal and runway as an added bonus.
63. Fly Away feat. Anjulie by TheFatRat is an electronic dance music beat that invites listeners to “come and fly away with me” to experience “a thousand views.” The video has more than 140 million views on YouTube.
64. Steve McQueen by Sheryl Crow is a favorite for AOPA Editor at Large Dave Hirschman, although he says it has little to do with aviation. NASCAR great Dale Earnhardt Jr. street races a Chevrolet Camaro against a McQueen Bullitt replica Ford Mustang during a must-watch accompanying music video.
65. Against the Wind by Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band taunted AOPA Senior Director of eMedia Alyssa Cobb during a Piper Super Cub ferry flight with AOPA Editor at Hirschman from Oklahoma to Maryland. The song played from a SiriusXM aviation weather device as they battled stiff headwinds from the east. “That was cruel,” recalled Hirschman.
66. 747 (Strangers in the Night) by Saxon is a heavy metal song about a jetliner crew dealing with an emergency. “There’s a 747 goin’ into the night, There’s no power they don’t know why, They’ve no fuel they gotta land soon, They can’t land by the light of the moon.” Will they get down in time?
67. Outro by M83 was offered by John Miendorf. He heard the song in the trailer for the film Living in the Age of Airplanes by Brian Terwilliger and “was immediately blown away by it. The music is pure raw emotion and power, and it hits you at the most instinctive level. You don’t have to try to hunt for specific ‘flying’ words … to experience the effect of the song.”
68. Moonlight by British brothers Howard and Guy Lawrence of Disclosure is an electronic jazz instrumental with Latin roots that takes listeners on a dreamy journey that Rolling Stone magazine called “hypnotic.”
69. Floating by the Moody Blues “brings back lots of great memories,” wrote Georgia Nelsen, who fondly remembers the ballad from a 1970s Civil Air Patrol flying squadron summer camp.
70. Turbulence by Bowling for Soup from the album Fishin’ for Woos is a spiritual rock ballad with lyrics that celebrate family, dreams, and perseverance.
71. Dreams by Van Halen, an up-tempo tune recommended by AOPA eMedia Production Specialist Melissa Whitehouse, reminds her of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels because the demonstration team was featured during a performance on a music video TV channel. The aviation-inspired lyrics also hold special meaning for the student pilot. “We’ll get higher and higher, Straight up we’ll climb, Higher and higher, Leave it all behind, We’ll get higher and higher, Who knows what we’ll find?”
72. It’s My Life by Bon Jovi is a favorite of “Zen Pilot” Robert DeLaurentis, who drew inspiration from the hard-driving rocker’s lyrics during flights over the South and North poles. DeLaurentis mastered challenges during the 2019 through 2020 flights that threatened to derail missions, but he stayed on track. “It’s my life, it’s now or never, I ain’t gonna live forever, I just want to live while I’m alive.”
73. High Flight, an aviation poem by John Gillespie Magee Jr., is set to music and performed by pilot and balladeer John Denver. The performance pushes Magee’s ode to flying into a new dimension.
74. Smooth Sailin’ by Leon Bridges is a traveling song with slinky guitar work punctuated by jazz saxophone solos that can evoke memories of a smooth flight when everything clicks, said Dave Hubner, who recently earned his private pilot certificate.
75. Take You Higher by Australian band Goodwill & Hook N Sling thumps through a heavy bass beat with alternating keyboards and unpredictable stops that push and pull the dreamy tune while asking, “Can I take you, take you higher? (hey, hey, hey, hey)”
76. Free Bird by Lynyrd Skynyrd, an enduring anthem and frequent encore request, features syrupy guitar riffs that give way to a raucous Southern rock performance that remains popular more than 40 years after an epic 1976 live performance recorded in Atlanta’s Fox Theatre. Listen for vocalist Ronnie Van Zant’s “Play it pretty for Atlanta” clue—and get your smartphone flashlight ready.
77. (Don’t Fear) the Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult is somewhat controversial because of various interpretations of the song’s lyrics, but the melodic minor key and the refrain “Baby take my hand … We’ll be able to fly” appeal to AOPA member Quest Richlife. He said the ‘70s anthem evokes a “dream-like imagery of being able to take off and fly through the air without the need for a vehicle of any type. It’s just the sort of thing that almost all of us have had dreams about at one time or another in our lives.”
78. Say You Do by Dierks Bentley is notable for the video that features the AOPA You Can Fly Champion piloting his favorite aircraft—a 1946 Piper Super Cub floatplane—into a Canadian wilderness lake before hopping on a classic Norton Commando motorcycle in the ballad about lost love.
79. American Pie by Don McLean is the 1971 ode to musicians Buddy Holly, J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, and Ritchie Valens, who all died in an airplane accident during a February snowstorm in 1959. AOPA contributor Dr. Ken Stahl recently analyzed the accident chain of events that led to pilot Roger Peterson’s decision to fly the musicians from Iowa to North Dakota in a Beechcraft Bonanza for a concert. I can’t believe we missed this one until now.
80. Given to Fly by Pearl Jam was volunteered by AOPA Copy Editor Kristy O’Malley. Fans say the building crescendo by guitarist Mike McCready and lyrics about flight by vocalist Eddie Vedder help evoke the meaning of freedom.
81. Fly Over States by country musician Jason Aldean evokes imagery during a commercial jetliner journey from New York to Los Angles and an appreciation for the diversity of the landscape below.
82. Wrong Way by the Sagamores is a driving rock song about a traveler who mistakenly takes a wrong turn but manages to find the destination. “Wrong way, where you going now? North, south, east or west? You don’t know,” sings lead vocalist Dimitrios Hondroulis. Let’s face it, who hasn’t taken a wrong turn or gotten lost, especially over unfamiliar territory? “It could happen to anybody,” said Hondroulis.
83. Coming Home by Leon Bridges is a blues ballad that Dave Hubner credits with helping him relax after studying videos for his private pilot checkride. Good call, Dave!
84. Fly is a hard rocking debut about life and the afterlife from Canadian band Nickelback that appeared on the album “Curb” in 1996.
85. Goodnight Saigon by Billy Joel begins with insects chirping and leads to audio from helicopter rotor blades that gets louder and louder before the music begins. The piano ballad recognizes the plight of soldiers dispatched to military service in southeast Asia.
86. Can’t Keep a Good Man Down by Alabama highlights the life an agricultural pilot and was brought to our attention by longtime ag pilot Chuck Lewer of Minnesota, who appreciated the accompanying video imagery of a Grumman Ag Cat airplane.
87. Gypsy by the Moody Blues is an ode to astronauts and space travel that was released in 1969 at the height of the space race on the British band’s “To Our Children’s Children’s Children” album. The song was inspired by the July 29 Apollo 11 lunar landing and the album was played in space (on cassette) by the Apollo 15 crew in 1971.
88. Sky Trucker by Big City Brian Wright details the latest chapter of the CFI, corporate/airline/ferry pilot, and country musician’s life hauling cargo in a Boeing 757/767. “I love flying as much as I love making music,” said Wright. “I never figured out how to excel at one or the other, so I do both the best I can.” The intro features a Nashville air traffic controller that pilots might find familiar.
89. Radio Ga Ga by Queen highlights the incomparable vocals of Freddie Mercury fronting an early version of electronic dance music style. The accompanying video features George Jetson-like aerial commuters, science experiments, and concerts. The selection was contributed by AOPA Air Safety Institute User Experience Designer Claire Urban.
90. Broken Wings by Mr. Mister struck a chord with George Hall. The song is carried along by Richard Page’s simple but unforgettable bass hook and the lyrics, “Take these broken wings, And learn to fly again, Learn to live so free …” Some speculate that that the lyrics are an introspective metaphor about relationships, while others think it might refer to the band’s battle with drugs.
91. To the Moon and Back by Savage Garden is another favorite of George Hall’s and with good reason. A soft opening gives way to stellar rhythm and a smooth beat that could be danceable even in a cramped cockpit. Bonus points for a woman “Waiting for the right kind of pilot to come” along.
92. Flying, a dreamy electronic dance tune written and performed by pilot and musician Timothy Tyran, was licensed to the Boeing Co. when it was initially released. “I am flying, in my dreams, You are with me, I believe,” the chief safety officer for the Maryland Transit Administration sings on the iTunes album Triple Threat, recorded as Bunker Soldier.
93. You Can’t Catch Me by Chuck Berry is a fast-paced rockabilly pushed by skillful guitar work during a 1956 performance with disc jockey Alan Freed. AOPA Web Editor Jim Moore offered the speedy tune and says if you listen closely, “you’ll hear a phrase that inspired a release by the ‘Fab Four’ a decade later.”
94. Free Fallin’ by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers inspires spin specialist and AOPA contributor Catherine Cavagnaro when she takes to the Tennessee sky in a Cessna 152 Aerobat named Wilbur. “It’s not necessarily aviation related but I love to listen to Free Falling by Tom Petty while I spin,” she confided. Who wouldn’t?
95. Steam Powered Aereo Plane by John Hartford on his classic “Aereo Plain” album was suggested by FAA writer and former United Press International correspondent Eliot Brenner, a bluegrass aficionado who was “distressed” that we missed the whimsical acoustic ode to aviation.
96. The Red Baron by Sabaton from the Album “The Great War” recounts the story of German World War I pilot Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen, who became known as The Red Baron. The electronic track is a favorite of student pilot Anthony Stagnito, who often accompanies his father, AOPA Vice President of Publications/Editor Kollin Stagnito on flights in their restored Cessna 140 taildragger.
97. Air Born by British progressive rock quartet Camel on the album “Moonmadness” describes the motions of something in the air, “the characteristics of which must surely be those of a glider or sailplane,” commented AOPA member and sailplane enthusiast Quest Richlife. “When I first played this song on my stereo as a nineteen-year-old back in 1976 the crescendo after the flute intro gave me goosebumps. Even now, 44 years later, I still get them when I play it.”
98. La Bamba by Ritchie Valens remembers the talented young performer who was making his mark on music when he died at age 17 during a 1959 airplane crash with Buddy Holly
and “The Big Bopper” J.P. Richardson Jr. Other notable Valens tunes are Donna and
Come On, Let’s Go.
99. Headlong Flight by Rush from the album “Clockwork Angels” is a hard rock tune suggested by multiengine CFI, Civil Air Patrol member, and Southwest Airlines agent David Sullivan. The song pays homage to aviation with lyrics about stoking the “fire on the big Steel wheels” that “Steer the airship right across the stars.
100. Silver Wings by country music crooner Merle Haggard slows things down a bit, but AOPA member Theo de Haan says it’s one of his favorites and he promises “no aviation song list would be complete” without it.
Spotify aficionados can also access the AOPA Top 100 Flying Songs, minus a few “deep cuts” that are not currently available on that platform. If iTunes is your music platform of choice, you’ll need to search for the individual songs listed here and assemble your own playlist.
Special bonus track
Here’s one more aviation-inspired song that’s only available via AOPA Live’s YouTube channel.
Runways, wings, and gasoline was composed by pilot and musician Nick Hoffman on the spot while he perched on the main gear of a 2006 Cessna 182T for an AOPA Pilot Lounge video interview. Although you can’t download the song through your favorite music app, you can listen to it here. Hoffman is the TV host of Nick’s Wild Ride.