Becoming a Pilot

10 high-flying celebrity pilots

You’d be surprised just how many people have been bitten by the flying bug. There are lots of famous faces out there whom we associate with other things, whom you might be surprised to learn are qualified pilots in their free time. From those who enjoy simply bimbling around the countryside, to those who fly their own business jets from A to B, there are plenty of celebrities to take inspiration from if you’re thinking of going flying. Here are ten of our favourite famous flyers.

1. Harrison Ford

Indiana Jones actor Harrison Ford’s love of flying has been in the news recently, as he’s joined various UK flying clubs while he’s been over here filming the latest Star Wars film. Arriving at the controls of his own private jet, Harrison has also been seen flying light aircraft in Shropshire, among other places in the UK. But the talented actor can fly helicopters too, appearing in the news on numerous occasions for his helicopter-based search and rescues of stranded hikers.

2. Angelina Jolie

Angelina Jolie in pilot mode (image labelled for reuse from

Is there anything this incredible woman can’t do? In addition to her hugely successful acting career and her campaigning, Angelina Jolie has been a qualified pilot for nearly a decade. Her plane is at the top of our wishlist here at Air Experiences… it’s a Cirrus SR22.

3. Brad Pitt

Word on the street is that Angelina’s husband, the equally famous Brad Pitt, is also an accomplished pilot. Having mastered the more common or garden aircraft, he’s now bought a Spitfire – as you do – and he’s learning to fly it at an airfield near Oxford. Apparently the purchase was inspired by Fury, the World War Two action film he was shooting at the time.

4. Morgan Freeman

Just when you thought Morgan Freeman couldn’t get any cooler! He’s got one of the most memorable voices in the world, but there’s a lot more to this amazing actor than his dulcet tones and acting talent. Proving that you’re never too old, he got his pilot’s licence aged 65. He didn’t rest on his laurels with light aircraft, either, as he’s qualified to fly his whole fleet of aircraft, which includes a Cessna Citation 501 business jet and others like it.

5. Lord Sugar

The opening sequence of The Apprentice shows Lord Sugar being ferried about in a very fancy helicopter, but with 30 years’ piloting experience, this high-flying businessman is quite capable of flying himself around. Like Angelina Jolie, he flies a Cirrus SR22.

6. Carol Vorderman


We spotted Carol in her Diamond DA40 plane at Gloucester Airport over the summer

Maths geek, Countdown Queen and all-round lovely lady Carol Vorderman has taken up flying relatively recently, and by all accounts seems to be absolutely loving it. In her own little plane, she’s been whizzing up and down the country and tweeting great pics from her airborne jaunts. But her plans for next year are more ambitious: she’s off on a solo flight around the world, following the route of pioneering aviator Amelia Earhart. She’s currently in the process of gaining her Airline Transport Pilot’s Licence (ATPL), which she’ll need to complete this epic journey.

7. Gisele Bundchen

Proving that she’s definitely not just a pretty face, international supermodel, philanthropist and UN Goodwill Ambassador Gisele Bundchen can fly helicopters. She even learned to fly whilst she was pregnant!

8. Bruce Dickinson

We photographed the Eclipse 550, the small business jet flown by Bruce Dickinson with Aeris Aviation, at Wellesbourne in June

We photographed the Eclipse 550, the small business jet flown by Bruce Dickinson with Aeris Aviation, at Wellesbourne in June

We’re not quite sure how he does it, but Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson somehow finds the time to be an enormously successful heavy metal star and a qualified airline pilot at the same time. Having regularly flown Boeing 757s in the past, his latest aviation collaboration is with a UK-based business jet company called Aeris Aviation.

9. John Travolta

The cockpit of a Boeing 707, one of the aircraft flown by John Travolta (from Wikimedia Commons)

The cockpit of a Boeing 707, one of the aircraft flown by John Travolta (from Wikimedia Commons)

Grease star John Travolta is famously also a highly qualified pilot, owning a fleet of his own aircraft including a Boeing 707 decked out in Quantas livery (he’s an ambassador for the airline). He’s so into flying that his house has built-in hangars and a taxiway leading right up to them. We’re not jealous or anything…

10. Tom Cruise

Unsurprisingly, Top Gun star Tom Cruise – aka ‘Maverick’ – has had a pilot’s licence since the mid-90s, and although he may not fly fighter jets, he is qualified to fly business jets (he owns several). Apparently he also owns a World War II Mustang.

Flying definitely isn’t just for the stars, so if these high-flying celebs have inspired you to take to the skies, why not book a flight in a light aircraft or try your hand at flying a helicopter? You could even go the whole hog and get your Private Pilot’s Licence


Basic radio communications – or how pilots communicate

On your first flight, your instructor will explain all the aircraft noises and the controls, but one thing that you’ll hear that you may not have been expecting is radio communication with ATC (air traffic control).tower

At most airfields there is an air traffic control tower. This ensures that all the aircraft and vehicles around the airfield operate safely without causing conflict to each other. In the air the controller will be passing information to the pilots to help them with decisions on such things as where on the airfield to land.

Once your instructor has started the engine, and before he moves the aircraft, he’ll need permission to taxi. You may hear:

Pilot: ‘Elstree Information G-DEFS’ (this will be said as ‘Golf Delta Echo Foxtrot Sierra’)

Controller: ‘G-DEFS, Elstree Information pass your message’

Pilot: ‘G-DEFS is a PA-28 with 2 PoB for a local west, request airfield information and taxi’.

The pilot here is stating the aircraft callsign (G-DEFS) then the number of persons on board (2 ‘PoB’) and where he is flying to (‘local west’) this will be a local flight to the west of the airfield. Once he has passed the basic information of his intended flight, he then requests permission to move the aircraft and asks which runway is in use (airfield information).

Controller: ‘G-DEFS, runway in use is 26, QNH is 1012’

Pilot: ‘Runway 26, QNH 1012, G-DEFS’

Here the controller has told the pilot which runway is in use and then the altimeter pressure setting; all messages must be repeated to ensure they have been understood.altimeter0

Every aircraft has an altimeter, which shows the pilot the height of the aircraft above a point on the surface. The ‘1012’ you heard on the radio is the local barometric pressure, which when set on the altimeter will show the height of the aircraft above sea level.

control tower

Airfield control tower

Once the aircraft has taxied to the start of the runway, you will hear the pilot saying:

Pilot: ‘G-FS holding short of runway 26, ready for departure’

Controller: ‘G-FS, surface wind 250 degrees at 10 knots, take off at your discretion’

So, here the pilot told the controller where he is and that his ready to take off, and the controller then tells the pilot the wind direction (250 degrees at 10 knots) and that he can take off when he’s happy. Notice that the aircraft callsign has been abbreviated to G-FS.

During your first flight you will hear lots of new sounds, all of which are perfectly normal. Radio communications are essential for the safe operation of aircraft, allowing important information to be passed between air and ground. It’s something that all pilots learn about and take exams in when they’re in the process of working towards their Private Pilot’s Licence.

Once in flight you will hear lots of other pilots talking to the control tower, and from this point on your pilot will only say a few things on the radio letting the controller know where you’re going (‘G-FS clear to the west’) – and when you’re returning to the airfield (‘G-FS 10 miles to the west for rejoin’).

If you’d like to hear all this for yourself, Air Experiences offers a range of flights from airfields across the country. Why not treat a friend or even yourself for a birthday, anniversary or special occasion. Click here to see our range of light aircraft flights starting at £50.