One of the reasons why so many people love aviation is that there are so many good stories to tell about airplanes. Aviation is adrenaline-fueled, dramatic at times, and a wonderful act—who could ever believe that people could fly? Here are some of the best TV shows that tell the amazing story of aviation.
When you think about it, there are so many stories within the world of aviation that people can tell. Showrunners can talk about the drama of plane crashes and how pilots and survivors survive in the face of tough times. Audiences will also devour gritty storylines about military pilots who put it all on the line. That’s not to say there isn’t fodder for lighthearted airplane-related entertainment, including cartoons and workplace comedies set at airports and airlines.
However, the world of aviation is seriously underrated when it comes to TV. How come we don’t have a historical TV show about the early days of aviation, when daredevils such as Bessie Coleman, Charles Lindbergh, and Amelia Earhart captivated the nation? What about more documentary series about the best airplanes or the most daring flights?
There’s always room for more TV shows about airplanes, but until then, here are some of the best TV series we could find that talk about everything aviation and airplanes. From drama to documentary, this list has something for everyone.
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16. Jay Jay the Jet Plane
Some of the world’s biggest aviation fans are also the world’s youngest people. It’s no wonder that one of the best TV shows about airplanes, Jay Jay the Jet Plane, is aimed at kids.
Jay Jay the Jet Plane was a show that mixed CGI animation and live-action segments while following the adventures of a young jet plane, Jay Jay, and his friends who include other planes and vehicles such as a tow truck. Together, the young vehicles learn about transportation and important life lessons.
Jay Jay the Jet Plane may be a bit of a controversial inclusion on this list because modern-day critics deride it, making fun of the old-fashioned animation and airplanes with human faces attached. However, it is undeniable that it was the first introduction to aviation for many young children who grew up watching PBS during its run.
15. Big Sky
In many remote parts of the world, people rely on airplanes to get access to basic supplies such as food deliveries and medical support. One such place is the Australian outback. The popular Australian drama Big Sky (not to be confused with the American TV show of the same name) follows one such aviation company called “Big Sky Aviation.”
Big Sky is a workplace drama following the struggles of everyone at this small aviation company to keep running even with all the challenges in the business. However, it is also a very human drama, with storylines about personality clashes between employees and the boss as well as grief as the new owner of “Big Sky Aviation” takes over after the death of her father.
Although the series only ran for two seasons in the late 1990s, it is still a cult favorite, particularly in Australia. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to fly over the vast landscapes of Australia, take a look at this show!
14. Air America
Just like its main characters, Air America is a TV show that is more than it seems. On the surface, it seems to be about an aviation transportation company based in Latin America. However, it is actually following the high-octane adventures of a secret agent undercover as a member of this aviation company.
The series was based on a film of the same name that was pretty popular in the 1990s. Each episode follows two undercover State Department agents, Rio and Wiley, as they go on missions to investigate wrongdoing and rescue people while trying to stay out of the machinations of their clueless and greedy “boss” at the airline.
An underrated cult favorite, Air America only ran for one season. However, it’s worth a mention for the dramatic storylines.
13. Dangerous Flights
The world of aviation is full of dramatic, adrenaline-filled stories in real life—you hardly need a scriptwriter to come up with a plot. That’s why some of the best TV shows about airplanes are not actually scripted but documentary shows such as Dangerous Flights.
Dangerous Flights is a reality TV show that aired on Discovery and followed pilots working for C.B. Aviation. The company delivers used aircraft to their new owners by flying the planes to their destinations. The catch? They push the boundaries with the routes that they fly, often going into dangerous areas or taking the planes further than they are built to go.
Some of the storylines are stranger than fiction, such as the episode in which one of the pilots flies into South Sudan in the middle of a war. The series deals with real problems people in the business face, such as burnout, legal issues, and even the death of colleagues.
12. Airplane Repo
The TV show airplane repo is about what the name implies; repossessing airplanes the owners can no longer afford. This usually has to be done in a quick and sneaky manner, because if the owner spots the repo agents he or she will do anything in their power to stop them.
There has been lots of discussion about how fake Airplane Repo is. Whatever the case may be, the show is undeniably very entertaining, and reruns of the show still attract a large viewership.
Some of the best TV shows about airplanes center on plane crashes. No wonder, as plane crashes are the types of disaster people can’t look away from—so many people dead in one accident. However, what happens when people presumed dead come back? That’s a question the sci-fi TV show Manifest tackles.
The plot of Manifest follows the passengers of Montego Air Flight 828, who land at their destination in New York to find out that they’ve been presumed dead for over five years.
Although the series deals with the hard sci-fi questions of how such an event was possible, it shines most when it focuses on the human emotions of people trying to reintegrate into a society that assumed they were gone.
10. Come Fly With Me
The mockumentary was a popular TV show format in the early 2010s, especially after the success of The Office. One cult favorite that follows this format is Come Fly With Me, a comedy set at an airport that lovingly ribs the popularity of documentary series following the inner workings of an airport.
Come Fly With Me follows several characters, including ground crew, airline staff, and passengers, as they bumble around the airport. The comedy takes aim at several facets of air travel, including budget airlines that cut costs by any means.
The series only lasted for one season, but fans of British comedy will recognize many of their favorite actors, such as Matt Lucas. However, be warned that the show was controversial for its use of blackface.
Yes, Lost deserves to be on this list. Although it may not center around aviation, the plot of the TV show wouldn’t be possible without a plane crash. Plus, who needs an excuse to rewatch one of the best modern television shows?
For those who don’t know, Lost follows the survivors of a plane crash on a mysterious tropical island as they try to survive and uncover the secrets of the island.
When it aired, Lost was revolutionary thanks to its twisting storylines and lively fan community that kept coming up with theories to explain what they were seeing.
8. Air Disasters
If you’re scared of flying, you probably should avoid watching this TV show. Air Disasters is a long-running documentary series on the Smithsonian Channel that talks about different air disasters throughout history.
The show is famous for its unique format, which blends archival footage, talking head interviews with witnesses and experts, and harrowing reenactments of crashes using computer images.
However, Air Disasters is not just disaster viewing for the sake of scaring viewers. It tells an important story about the history of aviation and how different disasters led to changes that protect passengers.
What really goes on in the air that passengers don’t know about? Fans of Airline, a UK TV series that ran from 1998 to 2007, get an insider look into what’s going on.
Airline followed the real lives of employees at Britannia Airlines, then EasyJet, after the former airline was discontinued. Storylines included passenger outbursts, staff enforcing regulations, as well as more dramatic storylines such as personal life events and the reaction to 9/11.
Airline was so popular that it inspired an American spin-off following the staff of Southwest Airlines as well as a parody show, Come Fly With Me.
6. Arctic Air
Just as in the Australian outback, inhabitants of the Canadian far north rely on airplanes for their connection to the outside world. Arctic Air follows one such airline that caters to people living in these remote communities.
The show follows a family that runs the titular Arctic Air. It has dramatic storylines about the drama that pilots experience flying for these types of airlines, such as harsh weather and aging planes. It also follows the human drama on the ground between the family members.
Although it was canceled after just three seasons due to budget cuts, the show is still a cult favorite in Canada.
5. Air City
Aviation is so fascinating because it offers the opportunity to travel, so why not travel with your choice in TV shows as well? Air City is a Korean drama following the employees at an airport.
The show follows Han Do Kyung, the female head of operations at Incheon Airport, as she manages the airport, her family drama, and her growing entanglement with a National Intelligence Service agent. The show follows the inner workings of the airport as well as the romantic lives of the employees.
Air City deserves a mention thanks to its accurate representation of life as an airport employee. Writers interviewed hundreds of real-life employees to prepare for the script.
Wings is one of the funniest shows set around airplanes. The cult favorite sitcom from the 1990s follows two brothers trying to run a small Nantucket-based airline despite the “help” of their zany workers.
The show centers on the wacky machinations of the people working in and around the airport as well as the romantic entanglements that the brothers get into.
Wings is a must-watch for fans of American comedy because it is set in the same universe as Cheers (keep an eye out for cameos from your favorite characters) and features favorite actors such as Tony Shalhoub.
3. Pan Am
It’s a common refrain that flying used to be so much more glamorous than it is today. People who regret living in the modern age can take a trip back to the past with cult favorite Pan Am, a TV show that follows the airline in the 1960s.
The TV show follows the pilots and stewardesses who built the glamorous brand of Pan Am but also dives into their hidden secrets, including the less-glamorous aspects of working for the airline.
The show was unfairly canceled after one season despite fan outcry, but it’s worth a watch just to see Margot Robbie chew up scenery.
2. Black Sheep Squadron
Some of the most dramatic storylines surrounding aviation follow the exploits of military pilots who fly daring missions. One of the best cult favorite TV shows that does so is Black Sheep Squadron.
Black Sheep Squadron, also called Baa Baa Black Sheep, follows the exploits of Major Gregory “Pappy” Boyington and his Marine squadron, who earned the nickname of Black Sheep due to their renegade nature. The scripted show reenacts the real-life exploits of the Marines in the Pacific theater of World War Two.
In the 1970s when the show aired, it was a popular watch, particularly for fans of military stories.
1. The Flight Attendant
The Flight Attendant is one of the most critically acclaimed shows on air today, and it just so happens to center around someone working around airplanes.
The genre-bending TV show follows the titular flight attendant, played by Kaley Cuoco, after her reckless behavior gets her tangled up in a mystery. The high-octane spy scenes and twists keep viewers on the edge of their seats.
While some of the plot lines are a bit unrealistic, fans of the TV show like that it is honest about real problems that flight attendants often face, such as burnout, addiction issues, and instability.