Flying is a subject that has long been the topic of songs, poems, and books. People’s fascination with flying can be traced back to as early as the 9th century. There are countless songs about flying by air. Some of these subjects have been explored through the millennia, from ancient Greece and Egypt to the modern world. Here are the best songs about flying of all time.
1. “Eight Miles High” – The Byrds
While this song is most commonly associated with the band’s lead singer David Crosby, the lyrics were written by his bandmate Roger McGuinn. The Byrds released it in 1966, and Eight Miles High reached No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100. The surrealistic lyrics of Eight Miles High effectively summed up a drug trip that took place during a flight to London that year. The song is also the title track of The Byrds’ 1967 album of the same name. Often mistaken for a drug song, the lyrics reflect the band’s youthful ignorance of the subject matter’s true meaning.
2. “Leaving on a Jet Plane” – Peter, Paul & Mary
This song was written by Peter, Paul & Mary in 1962 and is one of the most well-known songs about flying. Despite its simple melody, the song has become a staple at sporting events and celebrations. It was also performed by Harry Connick Jr. at the 50th Academy Awards in 2000 and won an Oscar for Best Original Song. Many artists perform the song, but the original version is by Peter, Paul & Mary. It was also one of the first times anyone had heard of songwriter John Denver, who penned the track.
3. “To Live is to Fly” – Townes van Zandt
This song was written by Townes van Zandt in an interesting story. It first came to public attention when it was covered by its performer Steve Earle on his 1996 album I Feel Alright. This song is a fantastic piece of music, especially considering that Van Zandt wrote the words and music. Van Zandt predeceased the song, though they often sang it at his funeral. The song was released as a single in November 1997 and reached No. 42 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks.
4. “Amelia” – Joni Mitchell
In terms of aviation, Joni Mitchell is one of the most important and influential musicians. Her song Amelia became one of her many classic songs on flying. Mitchell wrote the song for fellow Canadian aviator Amelia Earhart, who disappeared in July 1937 while circumnavigating the globe. The song is also found on the album hissing of Summer Lawns, released in 1975. It featured in the movie “Gone Girl-2014”. The singer doesn’t leave the ground in this song but instead expresses the desire to fly with her. When AC/DC covered the song a few years later, they changed “fly away” in the title to “run away.”
5. “Fly By Night” – Rush
Rush released this song in 1975, the first track on Fly by Night. The lyrics of Fly by Night are a cautionary tale, warning listeners of the dangers of flying without a safety harness. The song was inspired by the accidental death of singer-songwriter Jim Croce, who died in a plane crash after performing at a concert in Texas. The song’s narrator is flying without a safety harness. And is featured in the movie Dazed and Confused. It symbolizes the life of a teenager. This upbeat song about venturing out into the world and flying on an airplane brings together the theme of leaving home and exploring life. Several singers have covered the song, including The Rentals and Ozzy Osbourne, with whom it was referred to as “the kid in the airplane song.”
6. “The Best Way to Travel” – The Moody Blues
This song was part of the band’s 1967 Days of Future Passed. The Best Way to Travel describes what it is like to fly around the globe, visiting exotic places like China, Japan, and Africa. In 2011, the song was featured in a commercial for Emirates Airlines. The song was selected to be played on the Space Station Mir in 1991 and also plays in the opening titles of the movie “Rudderless.” It symbolizes the changing atmosphere in the sky. In Search of the Lost Chord explores acid and the meaning of life. Many of the lyrics are inspired by LSD, depicting the different effects on people who take it.
7. “I’m Mandy Fly Me” – 10cc
This song on flying called I’m Mandy Fly Me from the band 10cc, released in 1976 on their album of the same name. The song is about an airline pilot who jumps into a lover’s arms before flying off. It was also featured as the theme music for the 1980-1981 television series Airport 1980. The song was initially written in 1975 by the band’s lead singer, Graham Gouldman, who was inspired by airline stewardess Mandy Smith. It has been featured in Airplane II: The Sequel and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. It symbolizes a form of unrequited love, but it also suggests an attitude of casualness towards life.
8. The Guess Who – Orly
This song called The Guess Who is a song by Orly. It was supposed to be a tribute to a pilot who died tragically in an airplane crash. The song describes how he was flying over the desert and becoming disoriented because he could not see the ground. The pilot ended up crashing and dying. The song Orly is written in honor of the pilot and raises awareness about the importance of flight instruments when flying.
9. The Box Tops – The Letter
The Box Tops released The Letter in 1967 and described what it is like to be a pilot. The song uses imagery to explain how flying can be exhilarating and dangerous because the pilot cannot know below. The song became a No. 1 hit in the United States and Canada, and they included it on the band’s 1968 album The Letter. And on the soundtrack of the 1971 film Harold and Maude. It symbolizes a woman’s love for a man and is also a symbol of her ambition.
10. “Wheels Ain’t Coming Down” – Slade
Slade released Wheels Ain’t Coming Down in 1975, but they wrote the song in an English pub during a St. Patrick’s Day party. The song describes the pilot, and he may not know where he is going, but the wheels don’t come down. The song was featured in the 2002 film Scrooged and performed by former New Kids on the Block singer Jordan Knight on ABC’s The Bachelor in 2012.
11. “Big Bird” – Eddie Floyd
Eddie Floyd released the song Big Bird in 1972 on the album Knock on Wood. The song is about the dangers of flying and that pilots have to focus on reaching their destination safely. The song takes its name from the giant spool of cable used to reel in a plane. It symbolizes how pilots have to stay in control of the plane even when they are out of control.
12. “Flying High Again” – Ozzy Osbourne
Ozzy’s career took off after the release of this song, which he wrote in 1980. Flying High Again describes how great life is when a person’s dreams come true. A person can travel the world and even fly at high altitudes. However, Osbourne also warns that a person cannot fly too high, saying: Only Satan can make you lose your soul. They also used the song in the video game Guitar Hero II. The funny thing about this fight song is that Ozzy Ozzy was accused of killing off the nation’s youth. Few people thought to mention that he’d also written on April 7, 1989, the song “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which is about a guy doing a loop-the-loop.
13. “Space Oddity” – David Bowie
This song is about the fictional astronaut Major Tom who launches into space. The lyrics describe how he is orbiting Earth and how people on Earth are looking up to the sky in hopes of seeing him. The song was inspired by an actual astronaut, Major Tom Stafford, the first human to be launched into outer space. He had written a song for his wife about leaving for the stars. The song became popular, and They remade it twice. It became well known as the song Space Oddity by David Bowie after covering it in 1969.
14. “The Zephyr Song” – Red Hot Chili Peppers
The Red Hot Chili Peppers released The Zephyr Song in 2000 on their album Californication. The lyrics start with the pilot passing over his hometown and longing for love. A plane landing is a breeze that comes in and out of his life, bringing him a new love. It symbolizes that he has been successful and is enjoying life, but he wishes it could last forever. The song is about the love of his life and how being away from her makes him feel. It features one of Anthony Kiedis’ most restrained vocals.
15. “Promised Land” – Chuck Berry
Chucks Berry released the song Promised Land in 1971. The lyrics describe how a pilot can land safely as long as there is a clear view of the ground. The song also has a catchy beat and is arguably one of the best songs on flying. The song was also featured in a documentary about Berry’s life, titled Hail! Hail! Rock’ n’ Roll. It symbolizes everything people loved about Chuck Berry, as he always said that rock’ n’ roll was “the promised land.” The lyric is full of vivid imagery, including the genius phrase: “I’d be a rambling roamer.”
16. “Mr. Airplane Man” – Howlin’ Wolf
Howlin’ Wolf wrote Mr. Airplane Man in 1960, and he released How Many More Years. The song describes a man dressed as an airplane and is flying around the world looking for trouble to take care of. The song also features the lyrics: Airplanes are made for walking. It’s no place to stay. If my wings get tired, I’ll fold them up and walk. Mr. Airplane Man is so good that a Northeast garage-blues duo named themselves after it.
17. Watching Airplanes – Gary Allan
Gary Allan released the song Watching Airplanes in 2001. The song uses a metaphor to describe how people watch planes fly over as they are sad because they want to be up there. Airplanes symbolize long-lasting love, as the singer says: “You’re a jet plane flying by my window; I wanna go where you are going.” The music video for this song is one of Allan’s most beautifully shot and most heartbreaking. The song is about how a person wants his long-distance lover to come back. After the heartbreak of watching airplanes, Allan gets on a plane, flies back to his lover, and they fall in love all over again. It symbolizes the tremendous love that people have.
18. Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going to Be a Long, Long Time) – Elton John
Elton John wrote this song in 1972 and it has been widely covered over the years. The lyrics tell about a person’s loneliness who is flying without a destination or staying on Earth. The song was later used in commercials for Chrysler cars and has been part of a theme song for the television series CSI: Miami. The song was also used as a travel song for the Canadian airline WestJet. It fits this category because it is about a pilot traveling the universe, longing to Land.
19. “Learning to Fly” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers released the song learning to fly in 1984, and it became the first single from their album Runnin’ Down a Dream. The song describes how a person can learn to fly when they want to. The song became the third single from their album Runnin’ Down a Dream. The song describes how a person can learn to fly when they want to. In Tom Petty’s case, it’s about overcoming self-doubt, but the song can also be about overcoming self-doubt and wanting to achieve your dreams.
20. Learning to Fly – Pink Floyd
This song was written by David Gilmour, Nick Mason, and Roger Waters. It was released on Pink Floyd’s 1987 album A Momentary Lapse of Reason. The song describes how a pilot can learn to fly when he wants to do it and is also featured on the soundtrack of the film Three Kings in 1999. The song was later included in the film Invincible in 2001. It was also the theme song for Fox’s film The Perfect Man. Pink Floyd was another album-opener after a short overture that expressed self-doubt in poetic terms.
21. Come Fly with Me – Frank Sinatra
This song was released in 1956 and became part of Come Fly with Me. The lyrics describe how pilots can fly worldwide and tell how flying can be lonely. The song was also included on Frank Sinatra’s 100th A Centennial Tribute, and Bocelli performed it. They also used the song in commercials for American Airlines. It fits this category because it is a song that talks about being in the air. It was primarily inspired by leading writer Gene Clark’s successful flying career, and the title may have been inspired by the 1952 film Come Fly with Me.
There are a lot of songs about flying, but it seems there is not much symbolism in all of them. This list includes some popular ones and some songs about achieving your dreams. The extensive list of songs about pilots was a difficult task to create, but we hope you found it helpful. Did we miss any songs? Let us know by contacting us today.
As the Head Editor at Music Grotto, Liam edits content produced from over 30 professional music/media journalists and contributing writers. He works closely with journalists and other staff to format and publish music content for the Music Grotto website. Liam is also the founding member of Music Grotto and is passionate in disseminating editorial content to its readers.