Forget your image of lazy celebrities who just spend their days posing for paparazzi, spending their money, and lounging by the pool in their mansions. Some celebrities spend their free time performing amazing hobbies and jobs that require plenty of skill, such as piloting a plane. Here are some unexpected celebrity pilots.
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Why would someone who has everything they could ever want become a pilot? The celebrities on this list have many different reasons. Some have passions for aviation, while others were inspired by their family.
Some became pilots because they had to. Many of the people on this list served in the military or worked as commercial pilots.
Here is the list of popular celebrities who are pilots, including actors, musicians, and even royalty.
15. Kris Kristofferson
Country Hall-of-Famer Kris Kristofferson is one of the most famous singer-songwriters in the country and one of the leading figures in the movement that was popularly known as “Outlaw Country.”
Many of the celebrities on this list learned to pilot a plane after they became wealthy and bought their own private jet, but Kristofferson learned under more high-pressure circumstances. As a young man, Kris Kristofferson joined the Army and was a helicopter pilot, even completing the notoriously intense Ranger School.
Kristofferson has led several lives in addition to his music career. In his youth, he was a famous athlete and a Rhodes Scholar.
14. Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson’s drive isn’t just present on the golf course. The pro golfer with decades of experience at the top is also a pilot in his spare time after his love of the air drove him to get a pilot’s license.
Like Kristofferson, Phil Mickelson was inspired by his father who was a pilot in the military. Although Mickelson never served, he decided to get his pilot’s license in the mid-90s as part of his tribute to his father.
For a while, Phil Mickelson was known as one of the most prolific celebrity pilots. He would pilot himself across the country to golf events and family gatherings. For the most part, Mickelson sticks to smaller planes and lets the professionals pilot his larger private jet.
13. Jimmy Buffett
Learning lines for the return of Frank Bama, chopper pilot for when the going gets rough. Hawaii Five-0 look out! pic.twitter.com/LWZnwkwXnn— Jimmy Buffett (@jimmybuffett) January 16, 2015
Getting to Margaritaville is easy when you can fly there yourself. Although he is most famous for his easy-listening tunes, Jimmy Buffett has several hidden talents, including one as a pilot. His website even has a section dedicated to his passion for aviation!
While many celebrities content themselves with being amateur aviation enthusiasts with licenses for private planes, Jimmy Buffett is one of the few who actually has a Commercial Pilot License. If Buffett World or his musical empire doesn’t work out, he could always fly passenger jets.
The aviation world recognizes and appreciates Buffett’s talent and passion for flying. Proof of this is the BUFIT ONE Departure, a special take-off procedure named after him!
12. Kurt Russell
Kurt Russell is famous for playing swashbuckling action stars and brooding Western cowboys, and it looks as if he is just as much of a lover of adventure in real life. Not content with staying on the ground, the star has his own pilot’s license.
Like many of the others on this list, Russell was inspired by a family member to become a pilot. His grandfather was an aerobatic pilot who also worked for TWA. As an adult, Russell regretted not being closer to his grandfather and spending more time learning about his passion, so he got his FAA pilot license in part as a tribute. Now, he owns several planes, including a Piaggio Avanti 180. Not content with the simplest of training, he is also IFR-certified to fly in foggy conditions.
Kurt Russell also has a very bizarre place in airplane history. In 1997, an unknown pilot reported the “Phoenix Lights,” a strange V-formation of lights over the Phoenix airport that to this day is one of the most famous UFO sightings in modern history. A few years ago, Russell revealed in an interview that he was the anonymous pilot who brought this incident to the world’s attention!
11. Tim McGraw
There seems to be something that connects country superstars and a love of flying. Tim McGraw is yet another crooner on this list who takes to the skies regularly thanks to his pilot’s license. The country singer is not content with reaching heights on the country charts (10 of his albums have reached number one) but also wants to reach physical heights.
Unlike many of the celebrity pilots on this list, Tim McGraw prefers to keep it small. He flies a Cirrus Vision SF50, also known as the vision jet, a lightweight American-produced sports airplane. McGraw frequently uses it to jet around the country and perform at different venues.
All forms of flying are a bit romantic, but McGraw takes it to the next level. His plane allegedly has a sticker on the window that says “Faith” in honor of his wife, fellow musician Faith Hill.
10. Hilary Swank
Many actors take the challenge of embodying their characters very seriously. One of those artists who took it to the next level is Hilary Swank. For the movie Amelia, where she played celebrated pilot Amelia Earhart, Swank actually learned to fly a plane.
The idea to learn how to fly a plane actually came from the producers of the movie, who wanted Swank to look comfortable enough in the cockpit to make movie scenes look believable. However, they never intended for Swank to get her full pilot’s license, as that was outside the bounds of the movie’s insurance.
Swank continued flying after the movie ended and eventually got her pilot’s license. That’s taking the character seriously!
9. Gisele Bündchen
Gisele getting her helicopter license while pregnant. pic.twitter.com/H9pb8CepP8— GiseleBundchenOnline (@GiseleB_Online) July 30, 2022
Everybody who knows a little bit about Gisele Bündchen knows that the supermodel is so much more than a pretty face. She’s also a shrewd businesswoman and philanthropist who collaborates with big organizations such as the United Nations. However, even some of the model’s superfans don’t know that she has a pilot’s license.
While many previous figures on this list were inspired to pilot by their family or by their careers, Bündchen’s need was far more immediate. The supermodel once said that she was worried about what would happen if she was on the plane and something happened to the pilot. She learned to become a pilot, so she could help herself and her family if a tragedy occurred.
Making her pilot certification even more impressive, Bündchen apparently got her license while heavily pregnant, showing that nothing can stop this model once she puts her mind to it.
8. Clint Eastwood
Clint Eastwood is known for being a man of action. The iconic star of Westerns and action movies got his big break playing a cowboy, but one of his hobbies is decidedly more modern. An aviation enthusiast, Eastwood has his own license.
Not content with flying much more stable planes, Eastwood actually has his own helicopter license (helicopters are notoriously more difficult to fly because they have less stability). He enjoys flying helicopters because of the solitude that flying gives him, a welcome respite after decades as a world-famous star.
Eastwood’s love of flying is even more impressive considering that his encounters with the air got off to a rough start. During his army days, in 1951, Eastwood nearly died in a helicopter crash in the Pacific Ocean. Luckily, both Eastwood and the pilot survived.
7. Angelina Jolie
Angelina Jolie is one of the most multi-faceted celebrities active today. Not only is she an actress, but she is also a world-famous philanthropist and humanitarian. It’s hard to keep track of Jolie’s many hidden talents, including the fact that she is a pilot.
Jolie was also inspired by family to learn how to fly. When her son Maddox expressed interest in planes, she decided to get her pilot’s license in 2004. Since then, she’s bought her own planes and even piloted planes on-screen for her role in a few documentaries. In a move that brings the family full circle, Maddox is now old enough to learn to pilot on his own.
The high-flying actress was briefly grounded in 2013 when her license was temporarily suspended after she forgot to renew her plane’s registration. Happens to the best of us!
6. Morgan Freeman
Of course, the voice of God (from the 2007 comedy Evan Almighty) can do everything, including pilot a plane. Morgan Freeman is one of the several celebrities who has a pilot’s license.
Morgan Freeman almost did not become an actor as a young man. Instead, he joined the Air Force as a radar technician and hoped to make his way up to becoming a fighter pilot but left the Air Force to become an actor.
However, Freeman never gave up the dream of flying. In 2002, he started taking flight lessons when he was already in his sixties and got his license, showing that you’re never too old to dream.
5. Tom Cruise
The face behind Top Gun is not just an ace pilot on-screen. In real life, Tom Cruise may not be as daring as Maverick, but he is one of the many celebrities with their own pilot’s licenses.
Cruise has been a pilot almost as long as he’s been a blockbuster movie star. He first got his pilot’s license in 1994.
In the sequel to the original Top Gun, Top Gun: Maverick, Cruise actually flew several helicopters and a plane, although professional Navy pilots had to do the main aerial stunts for safety reasons.
4. Harrison Ford
Harrison Ford is another actor who made his name playing a famous pilot, although his on-screen pilot experience was more fantastical than Cruise’s. However, it turns out that the man behind Han Solo is a licensed pilot himself.
Ford has been a lifelong lover of aviation and even saved up money to take lessons as a teenager but sadly couldn’t afford to achieve his dream back then. He was able to finish training for his pilot’s license in his fifties.
Ford’s flying career has been marred with a bit of controversy after he crashed on a golf course in 2015 and nearly crashed into a passenger jet in 2017.
3. Bruce Dickinson
For many of the celebrities on this list, being a pilot is a side hobby while they focus on their main career that makes them money. For Bruce Dickinson, the lead singer of Iron Maiden, aviation is his second career.
Dickinson learned to fly in the 1990s and became a pilot for Astraeus Airlines, a charter airline based in Britain. When Astraeus went belly-up in 2011 and fired its employees, including Dickinson, he started his own aviation company called Cardiff Aviation.
Dickinson is also known to fly Iron Maiden’s plane when they go on tour.
2. John Travolta
For a long time, John Travolta and Tom Cruise were Hollywood’s leading men, both known for their roles in action movies. The two share another similarity—they are both celebrity pilots.
Travolta developed a passion for aviation at a very young age and began taking flying lessons at the ripe old age of 15. By his early twenties, he was a licensed pilot.
Even after decades of experience, Travolta still enjoys pushing his career as a pilot to new limits. In early 2022, he announced that he finally got a license to pilot a Boeing 737, after already having a 747 and 707 license. Travolta pursues his love of aviation in other ways, such as being an ambassador for Qantas.
1. King Willem-Alexander
Even in this modern day, there’s no bigger celebrity than a monarch. Imagine the surprise many KLM passengers had when they found out that they were potentially on a flight piloted by Dutch King Willem-Alexander!
King Willem-Alexander developed a passion for aviation at a very young age. He got his first pilot’s license in 1985 and became commercially certified in 2001.
For years, the king flew the Dutch royal family on their state visits and occasionally stepped in as a part-time pilot for KLM, where he prefers to stay anonymous.