Airspeed – Music (Part 2)

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Today we’re going to revisit one of the most important aspects of flying – And that’s the music you listen to while you do it!

Sure, there are more important things – like safety – but the fact remains that putting together the right soundtrack can make your flying even more inspiring. If you have an audio input to the intercom in the aircraft you fly or otherwise have a means of listening to music while you fly here’s some music that you should consider adding to your playlist.

Bear in mind that safety comes first. If the music results in any chance of discraction or a miscommunication or failure to give or receive a communication necessary for the safety of the flight, leave your music player at home. But if you can manage the volume of the player, not have to fumble with it when your should be doing other things (playlists are helpful here), and satisfy yourself as pilot in command that you can hear and be heard in the cockpit and at the controller’s workstation (such as by using a squelch or cutout feature like I use), by all means add a soundtrack to your flight.

Here’s what has been in my iPod while I fly.

Eric Johnson has a way with the Fender Statocaster that is unlike that of any other player. He’s melodic and heavily jazz-influenced. Music from his Ah Via Musicom and Venus Isle albums got lots of airplay in the 1990s and he has toured with the likes of Steve Vai and Joe Satriani and recently hit the road with Sammy Hagar. This is All About You from Venus Isle. Note the arpeggios and underlying drive. Really good for high airwork.


(Buy Eric Johnson albums, DVDs, and other stuff at

I’d be really surprised if composer and conductor John Williams isn’t a pilot. I promised myself that I would use the word “evocative” only once in this episode, and this is it. I put this on one of the first flight mixes I ever made and it was one of the first tunes that jumped off the CD player and became a soundtrack for what I was doing at the time. It was on short final at Lapeer in southeast Michigan. Nothing quite like Williams to swell up when you’re locked in to approach and have your attitude and airspeed nailed.

This is, of course, Flying from E.T., The Extraterrestrial. Those who fly aircraft with yokes instead of sticks will have an easier time imagining that they’re holding on to bicycle handlebars, but both should avoid the temptation to strap a milk craft to the cowling for your little buddy to ride in.

This version comes from John Williams and the Boston Pops Orchestra’s album, The Classis Spielberg Scores.


(Buy the album at

No playlist is complete without some heavy metal. And there’s none heavier than Iron Maiden. This is Aces High from 1984′s Powerslave. Great driving metal groove and lyrics that tell a story of aerial combat in World War II.


(Buy the album at

Unless you count the diggery-doo, the English accordion, or the great highland bagpipes, there is probably no more technically ungainly instrument than the bassoon. It’s four or five feet tall and has a double-reed that begs to sqwawk and evade the player’s efforts to control it. There’s an old joke that the definition of an optimist is a bassoon player with a pager.

Well, if there’s one guy who can carry both a bassoon and a pager with confidence. He’s Paul Hanson. Paul has taken the bassoon into jazz and other circles with amazing aplomb. He can out-sasxophone a saxophone and it all sounds completely organic. Ever run into one of those phases in your training when the controls seem to defy you, nothing goes the way it’s supposed to, and you’re constantly behind the aircraft? Usually right before you solo or right before get the hang of the landing flare or just before you start to nail your instrument approaches? This one is for you, my brothers and sisters.

Let Paul remind you of what can happen with even the most ungainly of hardware if you train hard and believe that the music will come. This is The Gold Coast from Voodoo Suite. It’s in 7/4 and he’s playing a bassoon and yet it sounds great. Yeah, your first full-procedure VOR approach is going to be ugly, but that’s okay. Listen to how you’ll feel on your 50th . . .


(Buy the album at

We started with one guitar god and we’re going to end with another. When Sony went looking for a great song to use in its ads celebrading the 20th anniversary of the compact disc, it looked no further than Joe Satriani’s Summer Song from his album, The Extremist. This is great music for whatever you want to do while listening to it. It has energized me in the wee hours studying for exams and it has caused more than a few oscillations over the speed limit out on the highway. Now I’m no A&P and this is largely unscientific, but I’ll bet that, if you plug Summer Song into the intercom of your aircraft, you’ll get two or three additional knots of airspeed. Airplanes love Joe Satriani! Sound crazy? Well, it’s a lot cheaper than wheel fairings!

(Buy the album at

That’s it for this installment of what should be cranking while you’re turning and banking.

Got your own suggestions? E-mail us at Links to information about the artists and how to buy this music are on the blog at Although we might

As always, this is not flight instruction or a recommendation about how to operate an aircraft. Consult a qualified instructor, obey the regulations, and, above all, fly safely!

[Illustrative musical snippets used as permitted by 17 USC § 107 (—-000-.html) for criticism and comment and as otherwise permitted by applicable law.]

About Steve Tupper

Stephen Force is the superhero alter ego of mild-mannered tech and aviation lawyer, commercial pilot (glider, with private privileges in ASEL, ASES, AMEL, IA, and DC-3 (SIC) type-rated), and Civil Air Patrol lieutenant colonel Steve Tupper. Steve writes, records, and brings you the inside story about everything that really matters in aviation. He's flown with the USAF Thunderbirds, he's and airshow performer and air boss, and he's one of only five pilots ever to earn a FAST card in the glider category. Follow Steve's ongoing quest to do all that is cool in aviation at or on Twitter as @StephenForce.


  1. Finally caught up on listening to all the podcasts stored on my ipod (hence a late post) and have to put a mention in about Allan Holdsworth I’m sure you’ll enjoy :)

  2. Stephen Force says:

    Thanks, David! I’m a longtime fan of Carvin guitars, which has collaporated for a long time with Alan and has a Holdsworth model. I have not listened to any Holdsworth, but must make it a point to do so. Chris Thile and Edgar Meyer in Midland tonight. Can;t wait!

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