Flying an Airplane

James Bond, The Pilot?

Ian’s Fleming’s gentleman secret agent did not know how to fly an airplane, but the cinematic incarnation of James Bond is definitely a pilot. Though, it took many years before Bond’s piloting skills became apparent. In the early days, anytime we saw James Bond at the controls of an airplane, he was usually crashing it. But with each new film, and with his increasingly supernatural ability to do just about anything, James Bond’s skills as a pilot would become unmistakable.

Lockheed VC-140B – Goldfinger: The first time we see James Bond grab the controls of an airplane is in Goldfinger. When a loose Smith & Wesson causes the cabin to depressurize, Bond races into the cockpit of the Lockheed VC-140B, which is already angled in a steep nosedive. He wrestles with the controls, but to no avail, and Bond and his companion parachute to safety just before the airplane plunges into the ocean.
Meyers 200A – You Only Live Twice: In You Only Live Twice, James Bond faces a familiar situation, but this time, it’s his female companion who sabotages the airplane (courtesy of a smoke grenade disguised as a lipstick). Bond manages to reach the yoke of the Meyers 200A, only to crash-land the plane just before it explodes. It’s unclear if the plane crashes because it’s been damaged, or because Bond just can’t fly. In any event, Sean Connery’s James Bond seemed to have an ill-fated relationship with airplanes.
Cessna 172 – Live and Let Die: Roger Moore’s James Bond certainly hadn’t developed his piloting skills, even when he visits The Bleeker Flying School in Live and Let Die. It looks like Bond is attempting an airborne escape as he jumps into a Cessna 172 with student pilot, Mrs. Bell, already waiting for her lesson. But, the Cessna never gets off the ground, and the airplane takes a severe beating in the process, as do poor Mrs. Bell’s nerves.
Republic RC-3 Seabee – The Man With the Golden Gun: Perhaps these aerial mishaps had finally convinced James Bond to develop his piloting skills once and for all. In The Man With the Golden Gun, James Bond flies a Republic RC-3 Seabee solo through the spectacular cliffs of Thailand’s s Phang Na Bay for a showdown with the high-priced assassin, Scaramanga, proving once and for all that James Bond does know his way around the controls of an airplane.
Bell 206 JetRanger – For Your Eyes Only: Not to be limited to fixed-wing aircraft, James Bond is the passenger in a Bell 206 JetRanger helicopter, in For Your Eyes Only, until the pilot is done in by an arch-villain, forcing Bond to perform some aerial acrobatics outside the helicopter, while making his way to the controls. Having recaptured the aircraft, Bond demonstrates his amazing piloting skills by apprehending the villain with the JetRanger’s landing skid.
Acrostar Jet – Octopussy: With the most appearances as James Bond, Roger Moore also had the most experiences behind the throttle. In the pre-title sequence of Octopussy, Bond uses an Acrostar Jet (I won’t mention where he keeps it hidden) to escape a heat-seeking missile, complete the mission, and make his escape. By this point, it was getting downright common to see James Bond piloting an airplane.
Lockheed Hercules – The Living Daylights: Never a stranger to airborne escapes, Timothy Dalton’s James Bond uses a Cessna 185 seaplane to take off with five million dollars of Sanchez’s drug money in License to Kill. But, it’s in The Living Daylights that 007 takes it up a notch. This time he escapes from Afghanistan in the massive, four-engine, Lockheed Hercules, proving that his piloting skills go well beyond single- and twin-prop airplanes.
Cessna 172 Skyhawk – Goldeneye: Right from the start, Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond seemed like a natural behind the wheel of an airplane. In Goldeneye, we see him piloting two separate airplanes; a Pilatus PC-6, which he skydives into, in order to escape a chemical weapons facility in Russia, and a Cessna 172 Skyhawk, which he flies into Cuba in search of the Goldeneye installation.
Soviet L39 Albatross – Tomorrow Never Dies:Still not convinced that James Bond can fly just about anything with wings? Leave it to Brosnan’s Bond to take his piloting skills to the extreme, as he commandeers a Soviet L39 Albatross to simultaneously destroy an international arms bazaar, dodge nuclear missiles in a dogfight, and make a miraculous escape in Tomorrow Never Dies.
Douglas DC-3 – Quantum of Solace: Daniel Craig’s Bond seems to have come full circle in Quantum of Solace, having returned to his roots of ill-fated relationships with airplanes. James Bond acquires a Douglas DC-3, but it’s not long before the plane is under attack by enemy fighters, and James Bond and his female companion are forced to evacuate the plane, sharing a single parachute.

Do you think his luck with flying will improve in the next film? With a name like Skyfall, things aren’t looking good for James Bond’s relationships with aircraft.

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