• Before making a single edit, Tropedia EXPECTS our site policy and manual of style to be followed. Failure to do so may result in deletion of contributions and blocks of users who refuse to learn to do so. Our policies can be reviewed here.
  • All images MUST now have proper attribution, those who neglect to assign at least the "fair use" licensing to an image may have it deleted. All new pages should use the preloadable templates feature on the edit page to add the appropriate basic page markup. Pages that don't do this will be subject to deletion, with or without explanation.
  • All new trope pages will be made with the "Trope Workshop" found on the "Troper Tools" menu and worked on until they have at least three examples. The Trope workshop specific templates can then be removed and it will be regarded as a regular trope page after being moved to the Main namespace. THIS SHOULD BE WORKING NOW, REPORT ANY ISSUES TO Janna2000, SelfCloak or RRabbit42. DON'T MAKE PAGES MANUALLY UNLESS A TEMPLATE IS BROKEN, AND REPORT IT THAT IS THE CASE. PAGES WILL BE DELETED OTHERWISE IF THEY ARE MISSING BASIC MARKUP.


WikEd fancyquotes.pngQuotesBug-silk.pngHeadscratchersIcons-mini-icon extension.gifPlaying WithUseful NotesMagnifier.pngAnalysisPhoto link.pngImage LinksHaiku-wide-icon.pngHaikuLaconic


With a crew of drunken pilots, we're the only airship pirates!

We're full of hot air and we're starting to rise

We're the terror of the skies, but a danger to ourselves
Abney Park, "Airship Pirates"

As You Know, The Sky Is an Ocean, so it's only logical that it must have pirates as well.

Following all of the tropes applicable to Pirates except for using aeroplanes (or better yet, airships, especially cool ones) instead of boats, Sky Pirates (sometimes referred to as "Air Pirates") were fairly popular in the early days of aviation, though they were soon eclipsed by Space Pirates once aeroplanes became less novel. Nowadays, Sky Pirates are mostly found in the yellowing pages of 1920s and 1930s comics and pulp magazines, in modern media intended to evoke that era, and in Steampunk settings. No Sky Pirate story is truly complete without at least one Airborne Aircraft Carrier. Huge zeppelins and giant flying boats are par for the course as well, as are other Magnificent Flying Machines. The punishment of walking the plank is especially deadly when it's administered by a sky pirate after a High Altitude Battle.

See also Space Pirate, Instant Plunder, Just Add Pirates.

Examples of Sky Pirate include:

Anime and Manga

Comic Books

  • In The DCU, the Golden Age Green Lantern had a recurring foe called Sky Pirate who embodied this trope.
    • The second Black Condor also fought a foe called Sky Pirate, who was essentially an updated version of the Green Lantern villain.
  • Captain Fate in the Marvel Universe is a Flying Dutchman Space Pirate. He occasionally visits Earth and acts as a Sky Pirate.
  • Captain Plunder and his Sky Pirates in Sonic the Comic.
  • Alexandre LeRoi appears as the main villain of the DC graphic novel Batman: Master of the Future, the sequel to Gotham By Gaslight, as an air pirate who intends to stop Gotham City's 20th Century celebrations, and to keep the looming century's polluting technology from becoming a reality. He keeps a mobile base in a zeppelin-esque airship powered by gas, and controlled by a robot LeRoi calls Antonio.
  • The Blackhawks sometimes faced Sky Pirates, and were treated as such themselves, at least early on. In their second story, an English pilot lashes out at Blackhawk: "Why, you're nothing but air pirates and assassins!"
  • The villains in the 1984 Marvel/Epic miniseries Crash Ryan.
  • Captain Bloodhawke and her crew from The Warlord.


  • Early serials, Buck Rogers in particular.
  • Captain Shakespeare of Stardust is a more literal example, captaining a flying boat which is powered by lightning. (However, although they dress and act like pirates, they're never seen attacking other boats — if there are any other flying boats — and seem instead to be smugglers.)
  • The Sky Pirates from the Australian movie of the same name.
  • Charles Muntz and his dogs from Up could qualify as this
  • The Phantom has Sala and her all-female air pirates.
  • The Grimnoir Chronicles has the last piece of a super-weapon protected by Southunder, who preys on Imperium ships in the Pacific ocean from his zeppelin.


  • Jules Verne's Robur the Conqueror is the Ur Example, making this Older Than Radio.
  • Armageddon 2419 A.D. the book that introduced Anthony "Buck" Rogers to the world.
  • Many 1930s pulps, Doc Savage and Operator 5 in particular. (Operator 5 was an early example of the James Bond-style super agent, complete with 1930s era high-tech gadgets.) Doc Savage once faced Submarine Pirates as well.
  • Tom Swift and a whole host of copycat Boy Inventor heroes.
  • Prominently featured in The Edge Chronicles - in six out of the ten books in the series, the protagonist is either a sky pirate, a former sky pirate, or a future sky pirate, and of the four short stories in the series, two of the protagonists are sky pirates.
  • Airborn by Kenneth Oppel
  • The Doctor Who New Adventures novel Sky Pirates! blurred the line between this trope and Space Pirates.
  • The Syndicate of Pirates, who use flying machines (not yet invented at the time of writing) and secret rays to terrorise the adventurers of the Klondike Gold Rush at Alaska in George Griffith's The Great Pirate Syndicate (1899).
  • Captain Mors, the "Air Pirate", from Der Luftpirat und sein Lenkbares Luftschiff (The Air Pirate and His Steerable Airship); a German dime novel with 165 issues from 1908-1911. Captain Mors is mentioned (by never actual appears) in the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comic.
  • Karl Schroeder's Virga novels are focused on justifying this in a relatively Hard Science Fiction setting. Better Than It Sounds.
  • Sky Pirates of Callisto is the sixth novel of Lin Carter's Callisto series.
    • And the sky pirates in the Barsoom novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs which were blatantly (and badly) retold in Lin Carter's Callisto series.
  • In the Steampunk novel Boneshaker by Cherie Priest the theft of an airship (itself recently stolen from the Confederate military) leads to a midair battle between two pirate gangs.
  • Stephen Hunt's The Court of the Air features airships as the main fighting force of one nation, the sole power with access to the Unobtainium necessary to keep them afloat. Better yet, the eponymous Court of the Air is a secret, ultra-elite, Badass organization of magic-wielding One-Man Army types. And their base is a floating fortress that is not only higher into the atmosphere than any airships other than their own can reach, but remains anchored their permanently.
  • Inevitably, sky pirates were among the foes fought by Biggles, though lacking the Airborne Aircraft Carriers or Cool Airships. The plots featuring them usually played out more like an armoured car heist, with either mechanical sabotage or some unemployed war veteran in a surplus fighter forcing an aircraft carrying bullion or other valuables to land, with a gang on the ground waiting to loot it. Gangs pulling off an Armed Blag on land and then using aircraft as getaway vehicles might also fall under this trope, however.
  • The Alistair Maclean novel Fear Is The Key begins with an aircraft being shot down by a war-surplus fighter plane, in order for The Mafia to get their hands on the precious cargo inside. Unfortunately the plane crashes in an unusually deep marine trench, setting off the events of the main story.


  • Abney Park's "Airship Pirates" pretty much embodies this trope.
    • The entire band embodies this trope, as their main theme involves them being a band of drunken rogue pirates operating off the airship Ophelia. Although, if the lyrics of Airship Pirates and Post-Apocalypse Punk are anything to go by, they're not particuarly good at it.
      • This image is further reinforced by the title track from their 2009 album AEther Shanties, which describes the ship as being about one good breeze from collapsing under its own weight, with a crew that's planning mutinies when they're not fighting each other.
  • Alestorm are generally Nautical pirate themed, but a few of their songs have an element of Sky Pirates.

"We are Heavy Metal Pirates We sail across the sky! In our battleships of Cosmic Steal With a terror up on high!"

Newspaper Comics

  • Buck Rogers, of course. Interesting in that he started out fighting Sky Pirates and ended up fighting Space Pirates, all in the space of about 10 years.
  • Sala and her Amazon Brigade Sky Band in The Phantom.
  • In Little Nemo in Slumberland the Princess' royal airship is attacked by sky pirates in one issue.
  • Barney Baxter In The Air was an aviation strip that ran from 1935 to 1950. Sky pirates were amongst the foes battled by the youthful hero.

Tabletop RPG

  • Troll pirates from Earthdawn.
  • Crimson Skies, later made into several video games. In an Alternate History setting where the United States of America broke up early in the 30's, with the interstate road and railroad network gone freight is instead delivered by air cargo services operating massive cargo zeppelins; these are in turn preyed upon by air pirates.
  • Indie game Swashbucklers Of The 7 Skies.
  • Sky pirates operate out of the Rocky Mountains in Deadlands: Hell on Earth.
  • Abney Park recently came out with a Tabletop RPG called Airship Pirates. 'nuff said.
  • Captain Gyrfalcon from Exalted, who - mainly out of greed and an old grudge - harasses the airships of the Haslanti League, who are the only significant power with a meaningful air force in the entire North.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh_(Tabletop_Game) recently had Skyfang Brigade (Kuugadan or Fur Hire). A group of mercenary who operates on air balloon.

Video Games

  • Skies of Arcadia. Strangely, they are still called Air Pirates despite the lack of any other kind of pirates or sea as such in a world with no oceans and floating continents. It also draws a distinct line between idealized pirates and real ones: Real pirates are called, appropriately, Black Pirates. Blue Rogues, on the other hand, are generally adventurers and explorers who only attack The Empire's ships and Black Pirates.
  • Several examples from the Final Fantasy series:
    • Setzer in Final Fantasy VI. It's never explicitly stated, but he's a law-evading free spirit in an airship with a penchant for kidnapping beautiful women, whose "business" has taken a hit since the Empire started capturing more and more cities. All the trappings are there, anyway. He also happens to be the only man with an airship.
    • Final Fantasy XII, especially Revenant Wings, features them. Balthier and Fran start as them, and it's Vaan's dream to become one in the original game. It's also Balthier's class when he cameos in the rerelease of Final Fantasy Tactics, but Ramza laughs at him when he identifies himself as one, since airships are a thing of the past by that point.
  • Crimson Skies, as noted above.
  • Rise of Legends, the Vinci sub-faction called the Pirata are the source of all fliers for that side.
  • The Sky Raiders of City of Heroes.

 Captain Castillo: The breaking of into the base was of no great difficulty for one such as I am. You may all count yourselves as blessed for to be seeing my skills in such operation.

  • Klonoa 2: Lunatea's Veil features a former trainee priestess turned sky pirate as the main antagonist. At one point, she turns into a giant robotic chicken, and you have to fight her. She comes with a Non-Human Sidekick in the form of Tat, a sort of cat creature with the skin tone of Lokai and Bele. (For non-Trekkies, that's black on one side and white on the other. Turns out Tat can split into black and white forms.)
  • The Jellyfish Air Pirates of Guilty Gear.
  • Captain Homard and his crew of incredibly annoying cats fly the Escargot in Nippon Ichi's La Pucelle.
  • Lance Banson from Henry Hatsworth In: The Puzzling Adventure.
  • The basic premise of at least one of the classes in the semi-Steampunk flash game Battle Stations.
  • The Flash MMOG Skyrates is set in a world recovering from an apocalyptic war which reduced the remaining viable landmass to a collection of scattered islands. Ripped from the ground and cast adrift in the sky through the use of Unobtainium, these Skylands carried with them the last remnants of civilization. Now split into several color-coded factions, the descendants of these survivors travel and trade between the Skylands and are preyed upon en route by air pirates operating from smaller, unmapped 'skylets'.
  • Captain Phoenix and his band in Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier.
  • The Bonne family from Mega Man Legends and The Misadventures of Tron Bonne.
  • Freedom Wings takes place on an alternate Earth in an era resembling the 1940’s. Air Pirates have taken to the skies and have placed fear into the hearts of others world wide. The player assumes the role of a nameless, faceless pilot whose parents were murdered by air pirates, motivating the character to join the Air Patrol Association (APA), a squadron of mercenary pilots hired to clear the skies of Air Pirate activity.
  • In Septerra Core, travelers between the World Shells are often preyed on by pirates from Shell 6.
  • The Captain in Cargo the Quest For Gravity pilots an airship and at least looks and talks like a pirate, though he doesn't actually seem to engage in piracy.
  • Because Academagia takes place on a World in the Sky where the surface (and its oceans) are present but unreachable, they are usually referred to as simply "pirates". Like the legitimate sailors of Elumia, the pirates mostly use wind-powered flying ships that are either specifically enchanted or made with of a rare wood that "naturally" floats in the air. Although there are some mundane lighter-than-aircraft. Pirates are practically the default villain in this game, since they are the most prevalent antagonists in events and adventures, even eclipsing the local Thieves' Guild.
  • The main enemies in Tail Concerto, the somewhat Darker and Edgier sequel Solatorobo: Red the Hunter treats them as a joke, mostly appearing in side quests.
  • Guns of Icarus is all about defending your own airship from Sky Pirates.
  • The setting of the Air Buccaneers mod for Unreal Tournament 2003 is heavily pirate-influenced. The weapons are blunderbusses and old-style-fuse cannons, the clothing is straight out of a pirate film and although the gameplay does not involve actual piracy in the strict sense of the word, the taking of enemy airships to be used against your foe is a common occurrence.
  • Pirate 101 has this since it takes place in a Shattered World without many large bodies of water known as the Spiral. (Yes, the same Spiral) It's currently assumed that the ships fly due to the magic from a wizard.


Western Animation

Real Life