Air pirates (or sky pirates) are a class of stock character from science fiction and fantasy. Such characters typically operate as pirates in the air, or, in general, the atmosphere of a planet, dwarf planet or moon, and travel by aircraft, as opposed to the more traditional pirates on the high seas, who travel by ship. However, just as traditional seafaring pirates target sailing ships, air pirates serve a similar role in science fiction and fantasy media: they capture and plunder aircraft and other targets for cargo, loot and occasionally they steal an entire aircraft, sometimes killing the crewmembers in the process.
Their dress and speech may vary; it may correspond to the particular author's vision of the story's setting, rather than their seafaring counterparts, or they may be modeled after stereotypical sea pirates. Some air pirates are depicted using airborne aircraft carriers as mobile bases from which to conduct raids.
Air pirates made early appearances in novels of the late 19th century, as well as silent films, comics and pulp magazines, and have since appeared in a variety of media, including alternate history, steampunk, and dieselpunk works.
In popular culture
|Names||Work||Years||Type of Media||Description|
|Abney Park||Airship Pirates Chronicles||2011||Role-playing game||This game, based on the backstory of the band, Abney Park, is set in the post-apocalyptic world after their album, The End Of Days, a future world with a severely disrupted timeline, with the game featuring steampunk themes and Victorian-era style. Airship Pirates places players as air pirates in command of their own steam-powered airships, who seek not only to pillage the skies, but to plunder history, possibly causing even greater disruption to the past. Meanwhile, the world below struggles in Victorian-style squalor under an oppressive government that maintains control through clockwork policemen. In December 2011, the RPG game won Diehard GameFAN's "Best Core Rulebook of 2011" award.|
|The Aetherblades||Guild Wars 2||2012||Video game||The Aetherblades are steampunk sky pirates in this MMORPG.|
|Barney Baxter||Barney Baxter in the Air||1935-1950||Comic strip||Barney Baxter was an "adventure strip" involving heroic exploits centering on aviation. Baxter was often accompanied by his sidekick Gopher Gus, who (unlike the rest of the characters) was drawn with the exaggerated facial features of a "humour strip" character. Other characters were Barney's mother, his rival love interests, Patricia and Maura, and his buddy Hap Walters. |
|Blackbeard||Pan||2015||Film||Blackbeard leads a group of pirates in this 2015 fantasy film who use flying sailing ships.|
|Black Cat Gang||Tail Concerto||1998-1999||Video game||The Black Cat Gang in this video game are sky pirates, while many other sky pirate factions appear in its sequel Solatorobo: Red the Hunter in 2011.|
|Kasey Boon||Mysticons||2017-2018||Animated TV series||Younger brother of Kitty, who Emerald Goldenbraid, one of the story's protagonists, developed a crush on. He gave her a bracelet which was revealed to be a tracking device to follow the Mysticons. He later appears to have second thoughts about taking advantage of Em's feelings for him, and catches her, after which the two have a serious romance. In the comics, he debuts in Volume 2.|
|Kitty Boon||Mysticons||2017-2018||Animated TV series||Captain of the Pink Skulls, female pirate, and Zarya's childhood friend. She takes advantage of this relationship to incapacitate the Mysticons and obtain the Dragon Disk, which she sells to Dreadbane. She later fights alongside the Mysticons, and on a third occasion gives Zarya inspiration to thwart Necrafa's plans. She is later revealed to be Zarya's romantic love interest as confirmed by the show's creator, Sean Jara, and supported by show director Matt Ferguson. In the comic books, she debuts in Volume 2.|
|Captain Andian Cly||Boneshaker||2009||Novel||This 2009 novel by Cherie Priest features air pirates like captain Cly, who commands a ship called the "Naamah Darling" and he later appears in novels like Ganymede, where he loves a woman in the Seattle Underground.|
|Dola||Castle in the Sky||1986||Anime film||Dola, a "bold, plump old lady named Dola, leads a gang of air pirates in this 1986 Japanese anime film, as they try to steal the crystal necklace of Sheeta.|
|Captain Gyrfalcon||Exalted||2001||Role playing game||Gyrfalcon appeared in this high fantasy role playing game.|
Other "social revolutionaries"
|The Raid of the Mercury||1931||Short story||James committed an act of air piracy, with fellow "social revolutionaries," in this short story by A. H. Johnson.|
|Don Karnage||TaleSpin||1990-1991||Animated series||Karnage leads gang of air pirates in this Disney animated series and later in Ducktales. According to series creator Jymn Magon, he is a wolf, but has orangish-brown fur reminiscent of a fox.|
|Alexandre LeRoi||Batman: Master of the Future||1991||Graphic novel||LeRoi is a sky pirate who is flamboyant and demands that he be proclaimed master of the city, or else he will burn it to the ground. He leaps out the window before he can be arrested, and Tolliver insists that the fair proceed.|
|Miles Lydecker||Black Condor Vol 1 #2||1992||Comics||Lyndecker is another DC Comics air pirate who fought against Black Condor in the 1992 comic Black Condor Vol 1 #2.|
|Mama Aiuto Gang||Porco Rosso||1992||Anime film||Mama Aiuto Gang, among the air pirates in this anime film, who also appeared in the 1989 manga Hikōtei Jidai on which the film was based.|
|Captain Mors||The Air Pirate and His Steerable Airship||1908-1911||Pulp Magazine||The German pulp magazine The Air Pirate and His Steerable Airship from 1908 to 1911, followed the adventures of Captain Mors, the "Air pirate". Captain Mors, labelled a "notorious air-pirate," is referenced in Allan Moore's comic The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Volume 1.|
|Captain Alfonso Payton||The Sky Pirate||1909||Short story||Captain Alfonso Payton, also known as the "Sky Pirate", appeared in this 1909 novel.|
his Sky Pirates
|Sonic the Comic||1993-2002||Comic||Plunder and fellow sky pirates appear in this comic.|
|Captain Phoenix||Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier||2009||Video game||Phoenix leads a gang of space pirates, like Danger Sexy Pirate, in massive ships who battle the protagonists while having a flying airbase known as Phoenix.|
|Robur||Robur the Conqueror||1886
|Novel||He is an inventor who kidnaps people and takes them aboard his advanced aircraft in the 1886 novel Robur the Conqueror and its 1904 sequel Master of the World (both written by Jules Verne), as well as in the 1961 film adaptation based on elements of both novels.|
|Sala||The Phantom||1996||Film||Sala and her air pirates are in the 1996 film.|
|Captain Shakespeare||Stardust||2007||Film||Shakespeare leads aerial pirates in this fantasy film, commanding a ship called the Caspartine.|
|Silvana crew||Last Exile||2003||Anime series||The crew of the airship Silvana in the anime series Last Exile are sky pirates, while sky pirates appear in the sequel series Last Exile: Fam the Silver Wing.|
|Vikram Szpirglas||Airborn||2004||Novel||Szpirglas leads a his gang of air pirates in this 2004 novel.|
|The Sky Pirate||Green Lantern Vol 1 #27||1947||Comic||The Sky Pirate is a DC Comics villain and an enemy of the Green Lantern, who first appeared in this 1947 comic.|
|Baroness Troixmonde / Filibus||Filibus||1915||Silent film||The film's protagonist has a secret identity and is known to the world as Filibus and has an airship. Some called the film "an odd and funny forerunner of science-fiction movies," with Filibus described as a lesbian character, and an "elegant and elusive woman pirate" who can pass between male and female identities, making her "a champion of transgenderism before that term had been coined."|
|Unnamed||The Sky Police||1910||Short story||This short story by John A. Heffernan features an air pirate.|
|Unnamed||Pirates of 1920||1911||Silent film||Air pirates appeared in the 1911 silent film Pirates of 1920.|
|Unnamed||The Pirates of the Sky: A Tale of Modern Adventure||1915||Novel||Sky pirates appear in Stephen Gaillard's 1915 novel, The Pirates of the Sky: A Tale of Modern Adventure.|
|Unnamed||The Sky People||1959||Short story||In this story of the Maurai series by Poul Anderson, there are sky pirates.|
|Unnamed||Sky Pirates of Callisto||1973||Novels||There are sky pirates in the Callisto series of novels.|
|Unnamed||Castle Falkenstein||1994||Role-playing game||Air pirates are featured in this role playing game.|
|Unnamed||The Last of the Sky Pirates||2002||Books||Several characters in Edge Chronicles books are sky pirates. The book has been commended for the way it portrays librarians. It has been reviewed by Horn Book, and School Library Journal.|
|Unnamed||Crimson Skies||2000-2003||Game franchise||The series is set within an alternate history of the 1930s invented by Weisman and McCoy. Within this divergent timeline, the United States has collapsed, and air travel has become the most popular mode of transportation in North America; as a result, air pirates thrive in the world of Crimson Skies. In describing the concept of Crimson Skies, Jordan Weisman stated he wanted to "take the idea of 16th century Caribbean piracy and translate into a 1930s American setting".|
|Unnamed||Skyland||2005-2007||Animated series||Pirates appear in this animated series.|
|Unnamed||Skyrates||2006||Video game||Air pirates appear in this video game.|
|Unnamed||Freedom Wings||2006-2007||Video game||Air pirates appear in this video game.|
|Unnamed||Guns of Icarus||2010||Video game||Sky pirates appear in this video game.|
|Unnamed||Pirate101||2012||Video game||Players can complete quests, sail ships, befriend companions, and battle enemies in a turn-based combat system similar to that used in board games.|
|Unnamed||Mandrake the Magician||1934-2013||Comic stip||Mandrake, along with the Phantom Magician in Mel Graff's The Adventures of Patsy, is regarded by comics historians as the first superhero of comics, such as comics historian Don Markstein, who writes, "Some people say Mandrake the Magician, who started in 1934, was comics' first superhero." A story arc in the Mandrake the Magician comic strip involved a pirate airplane that would latch on to the outside of a passenger jet and then threaten to punch holes through the fuselage (with remote-controlled hammers) if the victims didn't follow orders and land at an airstrip where the pirates could loot their prey.|
|Unnamed||The Magnificent Kotobuki||2019||Anime series||The anime's protagonists run escorts to fend off attacks from air pirates.|
|Unnamed||Blackhawk (1944 1st Series) #36||1951||Comics||The Blackhawks of DC Comics occasionally fought against air pirates, such as in the 1951 comic Blackhawk (1944 1st Series) #36.|
|Sky Pirates||Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu||Animated TV series||2011-Present||The Sky Pirates are a motley crew of renegades who are the main antagonists of Season 6. Before the series, the Sky Pirates were scattered across the Sixteen Realms but are freed by Nadakhan in Season 6 using the Realm Crystal. They include Nadakhan, Flintlocke, Dogshank, Doubloon, Monkey Wretch, Clancee, Squiffy, Bucko, and Khanjikhan.|
|Final Fantasy||1987-Present||Media franchise||The sky pirates of the Final Fantasy media franchise include Vaan and Balthier. For Balthier, he eventually decided to cut his ties with his father and his role as a judge, becoming a sky pirate under a new name, abandoning his old name. For Vaan, he ends the game, Final Fantasy XII, as a sky pirate, traveling the world along with Penelo. He also reprises his role from Final Fantasy XII in the manga adaptation by Gin Amou.|
|Skies of Arcadia||2000-2003||Video game||In this video game, Yse is a young and dashing sky pirate who is part of the Blue Rogue clan and soon become entangled in a race to find the Moon Stones that control these powerful Gigas. Other sky pirates include Gilder and Enrique.|
In real-life use, the phrase "air piracy" more often refers to the hijacking and illegal seizure of an aircraft. However, there has been at least one occasion of an act of nautical-type piracy being conducted from the air. This occurred in 1917, when the civilian Norwegian schooner Royal was boarded and captured by a boarding party from the German Zeppelin L23.
- Pilot in command – Crew position responsible for command of an aircraft and ultimately responsible for all operations of the aircraft
- First officer (aviation)
- Outlaw (stock character)
- Space pirate – Science fiction character trope of space, rather than seafaring pirate
- List of space pirates – Science fiction character trope of space, rather than seafaring pirate
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Lastly (and most importantly), are the air pirates in their zeppelin-based aircraft carriers that hunt the airborne prey and the rich cargoes they carry.
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Set in 1937, Crimson Skies concerns itself with a dashing air pirate, Nathan Zachary […] Traveling the globe in an airship, the Pandora, Zachary and his crew make their living plundering cargo zeppelins. As Zachary, you begin each mission by leading a squadron of fighter pilots out of the zeppelin toward your target.
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In a year in which nostalgia was the dominant theme, Airship Pirates was a breath of fresh helium. From the novel approach to party composition and character creation to the beautiful binding, Abney Park’s Airship Pirates was not just a great book, it was the start of a great adventure.
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Cursed by an ancient deity, Captain Plunder managed to find a literal lucky rabbit in the form of Cream, the newest member of his Sky Pirates. However, it seems Cream’s good luck charm may be a bit like putting a sticking plaster on a broken arm…
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Keira is frustrated by her father's protectiveness...When she is kidnapped by Captain Phoenix along with the Eco Seeker, it triggers an adventure that takes our trio to the very edge of their world.
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