05 Mar 2014

Rising Stars: Celebrities with Pilot’s Licenses



Thinking of getting your pilot’s license, but not sure if you can do it? Maybe it would help if you knew Han Solo already has his. That’s right: Harrison Ford, best known for his roles in the Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies, is a certified pilot, with single- and multi-engine ratings as well as his instrument rating. He even has a helicopter license, and we hear he’s done the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs.

This article, presented by Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology, lists some of the many celebrities past and present who have earned their wings.



Angelina Jolie
Angelina Jolie will celebrate ten years as a licensed pilot in 2014. The Academy Award-winning actress mostly flies single-engine Cessnas and Cirruses.

Morgan Freeman
Maybe he wanted a fall-back escape option after breaking out of Shawshank prison, or maybe he just wanted to cross it off his Bucket List. Either way, Morgan Freeman earned his pilot’s license at the relatively late age of 65.

Chuck Norris
“Chuck Norris doesn’t request clearances. He states intentions.” It’s fitting that the ultimate action man would also be a pilot. In fact, Chuck Norris served in the US Air Force in the late 1950s. Today he reportedly flies single-engine planes around his Texas ranch.

John Travolta
Travolta’s love of aviation is probably one of his major passions in life—the man is a fully-certified ATP and has a runway and terminal in the back yard of his Florida home.

Gene Roddenberry
Airspace: the final frontier. Star Trek creator Roddenberry had a long career as a pilot, starting with service in the Pacific theater during WWII. Roddenberry flew 89 missions and received the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal prior to his discharge in July 1945. After the war, he served as a civilian pilot for Pan American World Airways, taking writing classes in his spare time. He would also serve with the LAPD before breaking in to TV writing.

Gisele Bundchen
Here’s a Victoria’s Secret Angel who actually has wings. Well, rotors: supermodel Bundchen (also known as Mrs. Tom Brady) qualified as a helicopter pilot in 2009, as part of her role as a United Nations special ambassador.

Fred “Mister” Rogers
Let’s fly away to the Neighborhood of Make-Believe! In addition to being a public television superstar and ordained Presbyterian minister, Fred Rogers was also a private pilot (rumors that he served in the military are just that—rumors). He reported that his adopted brother George, who was a flight instructor for the Tuskegee Airmen, taught him to fly.

Tom Cruise
Tom Cruise reportedly enjoyed pretending to be a Navy aviator so much during the filming of Top Gun that he actually became a certified pilot. The action superstar flies single and multi-engine planes between his homes.

Hilary Swank
Like Cruise, Hilary Swank caught the aviation bug while pretending to be a pilot on screen. In her case, it was her role as Amelia Earhart that motivated Swank to earn her wings.

Ed Dickerson of Iron Maiden
Here’s one band that has upgraded from a tour bus to a tour jet—and their frontman is the pilot. Ed Dickerson is a fully-certified commercial pilot who has flown his band around the world in a chartered Boeing 757.

Jimmy Stewart
Cinema legend Jimmy Stewart began flying in the 1930s, qualifying as a commercial pilot in 1938. When the U.S. entered WWII in 1941, he already had several hundred hours of flying time. However, when he tried to enlist in the Army Air Corps in 1941, he was five pounds under the minimum weight requirement. Special dispensation was granted, and Stewart was on his way, as the first major movie star to don a uniform.

During WWII, he had to fight to be allowed to face actual combat instead of performing PR stunts to boost enlistment numbers. In 1943, he was finally assigned to the 445th Bomb Group to carry out missions over Europe. Over the course of his career during the war, he would fly dozens of missions, rise from private to Colonel, and earn the Distinguished Flying Cross twice, along with the Air Medal and the French Croix de Guerre in recognition of his service. He would ultimately rise to the rank of Brigadier General in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, even flying as an observer during a Vietnam mission before retiring in 1968.

Oh, and his first film after WWII ended? It’s a Wonderful Life.