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Today’s Flight Plan

Have you seen the new Star Wars yet? Well, it’s aptly named “The Force Awakens”. I had confidence JJ Abrams would pull it off, but I didn’t know it would be this good.

In this episode we travel far, far away, and learn about what flying is like in the Galaxy. We’ll explore pilot training, regulations, the different type of aircraft, and of course nerd out on some of the Star Wars battle stuff.

Truth is, flying a starship in the Galaxy isn’t that much different from flying an aircraft here on earth- it takes skill, practice and a lot of training.

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Major thanks to the amazing Angle of Attack Crew for all their hard work over the years. Our team works incredibly hard, and they’re very passionate about what they do.

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Transcript

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One of the first steps to any journey through the Galaxy is choosing ones side. That is, are you on the dark side, or are you on the light side? We are inflicted with some of these same difficult choices in aviation her on earth. Are you for Boeing, or Airbus? Cessna or Piper? Military Training or Civilian? Wheels or floats?

The Rebel Alliance and the Empire, now known as the Resistance and First Order, both have their pros and cons. At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself where you stand on principle. Do you want to fly for the Rebellion and Freedom, or do you want to fly with the awesomely powerful and frightful Galactic Empire.

Once you’ve picked a side, you also largely pick your path, and the types of Starships you’ll fly. Much like the military and airlines, you can take a path to fighter jets, gunships, transports, cargo, and so on.

Of course, everyone wants to go the fighter direction. TIE Fighters and X-Wings are the most iconic. These fighters see the most action. However, regardless of all the technology in the Galaxy, dogfighting still remains quite primitive. Even though star fighters are equipped with lasers that house a seemingly limitless amount of ammunition, pilots still must resort to high intensity, close-quarters dogfighting.

Some of the fighters you can select are:
– Tie Fighters
– Tie Interceptors
– Tie Bombers
– X-Wing
– A-Wing
– B-Wing
– Y-Wing
– Snowspeeder
– Naboo N-1 Starfighter
– ETA-2 JEDI STARFIGHTER
– DELTA-7 JEDI STARFIGHTER
– and several more

More on fighters later when we get more techy about the types of fighters.

Of course, pilots don’t have to go the fighter route. The mortality rate in some of the larger battles simply wasn’t great. Chances of surviving were low, on both sides. You’ve seen this in many Star Wars battles. There are tie fighters, x-wings, b-wings, y-wings and more completely covering sky and space. There’s a reason why were hear, “There’re too many of them!” screamed often in these intense battles.

No, one doesn’t have to go that route. As a star pilot, you can choose transports as well. Still involved in a bit of action, but mostly protected by fighters and many ship-mounted cannon systems, both the skill level required and the mortality rate are lower.

Like aircraft carriers, these starship transports are space-bound cities, full of everything needed to wage a full scale galactic battle.

A few of these ships are:

  • Star Destroyers
  • Super Star Destroyers
  • Darth Vader’s Super Star Destroyer, called the Executor Final Order Finalizers, the upgraded version of the Star Destroyer
  • GR-75 MEDIUM TRANSPORT, the clamshell looking transport seen on Hoth
  • Home One, the mothership of the rebellion fleet
  • Medical Frigate, where you see Leia and Luke peering through a window
  • Republic Frigate
  • and many more.

One can even be a corporate/VIP pilot with jobs up for grabs flying the ships like the J-Type 327 Nubian Royal Starship, Princess Amidalas ship; The Imperial Shuttle, which Vader and the Emperor ride on often; and even Darth Maul’s Sith Infiltrator, which is very closely related to the Nubian Royal Starship. Don’t forget the Alderaan Cruiser, the ship so famously overtaken by a Star Destroyer in ‘a New Hope’. This was the Royal Families’ ship, which is why Princess Leia was on board. And most recently, Kylo Ren’s Command Shuttle, which is very advanced. Most of these are simple transports, but Kylo Ren’s Shuttle is one you do not want to mess with.

Consider these ships to be piloted by the ‘Air Force One’ pilots of the Galaxy. Don’t get too confused, though. You won’t be seeing Harrison Ford emphatically quip, “Get off my starship!”

And of course, that leads us to Mr. Han Solo himself, flying the Millennium Falcon. This ship is in a category all it’s own.

This YT-1300 Light Freighter is exactly that; a freighter. It was never meant for the intense battles it was a part of, yet, it’s original design became a large ally. Mostly used for scoundrel type smuggling, this ship would also prove to have many other benefits that helped Chewy and Han get out of and into all those hairy situations. More techy talk on that coming up later.

Pilot Training

Pilot training here on earth is highly regulated, complicated, takes a tremendous amount of dedication, and requires a reasonable financial investment. Because of this, there really aren’t that many pilots, and certainly not as many pilots that stay flying after getting their initial private pilot.

Training in the galaxy also comes with it’s various challenges. Some challenges are more difficult than ours, while others are less so. Let’s go through these by making a comparison to some of the challenges on earth and what those challenges are like in the Star Wars Galaxy.

Availability
Flying in the Galaxy is much akin to flying in the Bush in Alaska. In ways, life would not and could not survive without the constant flow of space traffic. Otherwise, how could you transport supplies and people to such remote places?

We see this constantly in the Star Wars saga, and it’s neat to imagine just how fascinating it would be to travel from such new destinations on the other side of the galaxy. As a pilot, I certainly have a bug for wanderlust and travel. I can’t imagine how great it’d be to pilot an airplane to another planet!

Because of this great need and reliance on interplanetary travel and transport, flying is part of life on most planets with intelligent life. Out of necessity we need ship after ship from many different civilizations.

Therefore, it’s not uncommon for a space/aircraft to be more a normal part of a family than what we call a car. Having a ‘flying thing’ in the family is simply a part of life and a necessity.

Can you imagine never learning to fly a car, but rather, learning to fly a starship instead? Well, that’s just about how it goes in the Galaxy.

Of course, just like on earth, the kind of family you come from will depend on the kind of ship you get to fly. Some teenagers start out driving the family mini-van or beater, while other more privilages kids get their own, new sedan.

So, because of all that, flying things are very acceptable and normal in everyday galaxy life.

Regulations
You’ve no doubt seen the vast deserts of Tatooine and Jakku. The endless swamps of Degobah. The endless gree, rolling hills of Naboo. Let’s not forget just how big Space really is. All in all, the galaxy is a big place. Perhaps too big of a place for someone like the FAA to have any sort of chance of reaching even a small percentage of the planets, let alone coverage on those planets.

Because of this, there’s really no license to fly in the universe. Of course, there are more official outlets to become a pilot, and one can end up getting a flying job of sorts, just like here on earth.

But simply learning to fly, and getting knowledge on how to fly, is easy and unregulated.

Can you imagine what it would be like if, as a teenager, your Dad could take you out, show you where the controls were, give you a quick lesson, and turn you lose to fly on your own?

That’s about how most pilots start in the galaxy. We’ll talk more about schooling in a second.

There are of course other areas of the galaxy where things need to get a bit more official. The Republic would be a place where regulation was needed, as there are billions, perhaps even trillions, crammed onto a planet that is essentially one large city. In such a place it makes sense that rules and guidelines are strict at every level. You even see predetermined “highways in the skies” throughout the films, especially in the prequals.

To become a paid pilot, it also takes a lot more effort, and the official training necessary is involved. Perhaps not as involved as it is here on earth, but still involved.

All-in-all, the galaxy is such a large place, that there simply isn’t a lot of regulation placed on someone learning to fly.

Schooling
When looking at someone like Han Solo, you’re looking at a guy that has a knack for flying but probably didn’t receive a lot of official training. Rather, he’s a guy that has simply ‘been there and done that’, trying different things, and becoming a skilled space-iator as a result.

Although most pilots in the galaxy learn to fly just like Han by simply doing, there is a large part that take those skills and translate them into a career.

We talked about the different career types earlier, and what kind of things pilots can learn to fly. The most common jobs are military, transport, and VIP shuttle, like we discussed earlier. These areas require more knowledge of the equipment, more professional attitudes, and a deeper knowledge of interplanetary regulations. That’s not even considering all the extra fighting and military tactics that those who fight for the Empire or Rebellion have to go through.

For the most part, flying is simply part of the culture in the Galaxy. The question isn’t so much, “are you a pilot?” so much as it is, “what do you fly?”

Those who go the Military route generally go to an Adacemy, those that fly VIP generally receive expensive one-on-one training from a qualified training department, and those that learn to fly transport will learn from their company.

However, if you’re going to fly for the Empire or the First Order, your path is chosen for you. Flying is then not so much as a passion as it is a duty and requirement.

Empire TIE pilots were considered expendible, which is why the original TIE Fighters were so poorly built, in mass numbers. Now with the First Order, pilots are brought up from young children, given aptitude tests, heavy training, and continually monitored for optimal performance. They also have upgraded TIE Fighters which are now Black, two placed, much faster, and carry a heavier armament.

Apart from the way the Empire or First Order does things, training is much like that on earth. If you want to fly fighters, you go to the Air Force or Navy Academy and shoot for the top of your class. If you fly cooperate, you learn from places like FlightSafety or CAE centers. If you learn to fly for the airlines, you’re often taught by company owned and operated training departments.

In this respect, life in the galaxy isn’t that much different than life on earth. That said, most people and creatures learn to fly out or necessity at a young age.

Other Miscellaneous

Why does every ship have a droid unit?
You may be wondering why a droid unit of some kind is on every ship. From getting locked in just behind the pilot on an X-wing, to riding along on the Nubian Royal Starship. They are simply seen everywhere, part of every pilots toolkit.

The question is simply, why?

The answer is quite simple, and may surprise you.

It turns out that these droid units both replace and enhance a lot of normal operation we as pilots perform.

A droid replaces things such as an E6B, an Autopilot, ForeFlight on your iPad, the need for checklists, and even acts as an onboard A&P mechanic of sorts.

Here are a few examples that prove my point:

Do you recall how quickly people from the galaxy jump in their starships and just go? Do you ever wonder how they do that without doing a preflight, a checklist, or an engine runup? It’s because they have a droid, in harmony with a highly interconnected set of onboard flight systems, doing everything in the blink of an eye. If there’s a problem, your R2 or BB unit, for example, will let you know promptly, or will have already automatically fixed the problem.

You may have also seen at times when Luke got his X-Wing shot up, and R2 would put out fires, repair things, diagnose problems and so on. He’s just like an onboard A&P mechanic that can fix things on the fly; literally.

How about when someone does go through that rushed departure, only to be jumping at lightspeed to another planet? Hey, ForeFlight, do you have a subscription plan that covers the whole galaxy? Well, it’s no problem because your onboard BB or R2 unit will help you navigate. It does all the flight planning for you, determines the best path, and a sleugh of other decisions that pilots generally have to go through. Now can you start to see why preflight procedures are no big deal? Just jump in and you’re covered!

These onboard droid units that help starpilots are of very high value. You can see how they’d be a very, very important part of flight.

Of course, you can get by without one. Han and Chewie do. But have you noticed how much longer they spend working on the Falcon, and how many more buttons and knobs they press when they’re flying? If only they could afford to have a droid unit on board.

But, Alas, the life of a smuggler was never the life of a droid unit.

Was Luke a pilot before he left Tatooine?
You may have always wondered if Luke was a Starpilot before leaving Tatooine. It’s hard to believe that he could be so skilled as a starship pilot after so little experience.

When we first see Luke at his home, just after he purchased R2D2 and C3PO from Jawas, you see him playing with a model airplane. You may also notice that that same aircraft is actually in the background, parked in a garage of sorts.

This is a T-16 Skyhopper. Luke and his friend Biggs, who helps blow up the Death Star at the end of episode IV were childhood friends. They used to fly their T-16s down Beggers Canyon, shooting Wombats. The reason you don’t see him flying the T-16 is because he ended up damaging it on one of their escapades, and he hadn’t been able to repair it.

Because of this, Luke did have flight experience before he was asked to be part of the Red Squadron. In fact, he likely had a good amount of experience, perhaps even the equivalent of a private pilot and more. Obi Wan even mentions that he hears Luke has become a good star pilot himself. Very curious!

Luke shows much passion for adventure with how much curiosity he shows for the Rebellion. He also shows a great deal of technical knowhow in dealing with the droids and working on other technical things.

Like many of us, Luke trained as a pilot when he was young, and later, planned on getting more education. In fact, he planned on attending an Academy, where he would no doubt continue his training.

You see, before Luke ever used the Force to launch a few torpedoes into that few-meter-wide hole in the Death Star, he had skills to back it up. Before those critical moments, he was to a certain extent prepared for what would come.

He is much like us in this respect. How many of us need to go through much training to eventually be able to deal with difficult situations that beset every pilot?
Could any of us really handle an emergency or difficult situation without some aviation experience? Well, it was no different for Luke.

Otherwise, there’s just no way he would have been able to handle what he did at the Death Star, and beyond.

Like many people, “aviation” runs in the family.

Mos Eisley

I’ve been to some weird FBOs before, but have you guys ever been to an FBO as odd as Mos Eisley on Tatooine?

This very large spaceport comes complete with 362 docking bays, what we would call hangars. There are accommodations, food, and even a local Cantina if that is your thing. And a lot of weirdos. Not unlike FBOs here on earth!

We pilots here on earth enjoy our hangar talk, but can you imagine how cool the Spaceport talk is? I mean, we tell war stories of going a couple hundred miles through some weather- imagine going a couple lightyears through astroid fields, avoiding Imperial Starcruisers (known as the FAA here on earth, and much more.

Man, the stories those Starpilots can tell. How great that would be, that is, if you speak one of the thousands of languages that are in the galaxy.

All that said, I personally don’t want to be preparing for a flight in fear that someone won’t like me and then shoot me with a blaster. That’s a level of stress I’d rather not deal with.

The Force Awakens

Big, big, big warning here: there are many spoilers coming. I’m not going to hold back at all, so if you haven’t seen the next installment of Star Wars, I give you permission to skip ahead or just stop this completely. I should be back in the last 2 minutes to wrap up the show, but other than that, it’s all Force Awakens from here on out. You’ve been warned!

For those of you that have seen the Force Awakens, it’s packed full of awesome flight moments. Not just that, we have a couple new characters that are rockstars at the controls. If that wasn’t enough they’re all flying upgraded starships.

A few new aircraft are present in the series. We see new First Order Special Forces TIE Fighters which are decked out, and obviously upgraded quite a bit. We also see XWings that are upgraded and packing a bigger punch than ever. Kylo Ren’s Command Shuttle is also a simple design, yet it looks formiddible and frightening. And, you may have even noticed a few minor upgrades to the Millenium Falcon.

TIE Fighers were traditionally built to be made in large numberes. They were considered expendable and so they were created with little to no thought of Safety. For example, you may notice that TIE Pilots have a full mask and life support systems. That’s because they didn’t want to spend the extra resources to create ships that could aclimate the entire cockpit.

TIE stands for Twin Ion Engines. The TIE Figthers have multidirectional controlability, making them very maneuverable. You hear Poe remarking at how fast the TIE Fighters are when he and Finn steal one. In addition to the engines and multidirectional propulsion, Tie Fighters also have iconic hexogon shaped ‘wings’. We know that these aren’t wings, since these crap aren’t truly creating lift. They are actually solar cells which help continually charge the systems onboard.

With Ion propulsion and Solar Power, TIE Fighters can stay on station for a long while.

In the Force Awakens, we don’t see the same old weak TIE Fighters. The First Order TIE Fighters are now black. Then there is a Special Forces Model with Poe and Finn fly in. This is a 2 seater, with new weapon armament, life support in the cockpit, and highly upgraded shields and systems. You can tell the difference between a regular first order TIE fighter and a Special Forces TIE fighter by the Black Stripe.

These TIE Fighters are of course awesome, and pack a punch. I’m bias, however, and still think the X-Wing wins the day.

As technology goes, things are continually upgraded. The X-wing is no different. It was upgraded not only because of advancements in technology, but also in an arms race with the First Order to ensure the Resistance stood a chance.

Based on the classic Incom T-70 design, this aircraft goes all the way back to the Clone Wars. Today’s Resistance Models include a sleugh up upgrades to keep up with new TIE technology. Unlike the TIE Fighter, X-Wings are good at both Dog Fighting AND bombing runs. Their versatility keeps them a mainstay of the Resistance Fleet.

You can see Poe flying a customized Black X-Wing. His callsign is Black Leader. And wow, what a pilot he is! When he is engaging First Order TIE Fighters over Maz’s place, I counted 12 kills in a matter of about 30 seconds. That’s not counting the Storm Troopers he somehow sniped as he was making his first run.

We also see Blue and classic Red X-Wings as well.

And we all know the X-Wing saves the day once again. Poe slices through an opening that Han and Chewie created, then destroys the Oscillator that holds Starkiller Base together.

It’s no doubt that Poe is the best pilot in the Resistance.

I know someone who may give him a run for his money, though. That is Rey. Out of all the flying scenes in Force Awakens, the most impressive to me was when Finn and Rey escape in the “pile of junk” Millenium Falcon and kick the snot out of a few First Order TIE Fighters.

WOW can she fly! Those were some of the coolest flying maneuvers I’ve seen in all of Star Wars. She’s pretty awesome. I can’t wait to see her fly more in other episodes!

Let’s not forget the incumbant star of the party; the Millenium Falcon. I love that they keep calling the thing junk after all this time, but the thing tears it up. There are some new upgrades to the Falcon, even though it’s been sitting unused after being stolen from Han.

It has new shields, some upgraded systems, and some upgrades that Han and Rey don’t like- namely, the compressor. You’ll notice that in the original series the Falcon had a round shield on top. Now it’s rectangular.

This Corrilian YT-1300f light frieghter has seen so many upgrades over the years, that it’s pushed the aircraft beyond it’s normal capabilities. Yes, it is fast, maneuverable and slippery- it has to be as a smuggling ship. But this often leads to the hyper drive acting up, and always at the wrong times.

All in all, the Force Awakens brings a new focus to flying. From Poe as one of the lead characters, to Rey as THE lead character, flying is no doubt a new and central part of the storyline.

The forces of flight awaken. This is AviatorCast episode 76.

Calling all aviators, pilots, flight sim enthusiasts and aviation lovers, you’ve landed at AviatorCast! Join us weekly in our efforts to become better masters of the air through interviews, refreshers, lessons, training topics, simulator set-up, hangar talk, news and more! Buckle up and prepare yourself for this week’s episode of AviatorCast! Preflight complete, fuel on board and flight plan filed. Let’s kick the tires and light the fires! Here’s your humble host, Chris Palmer!

Chris: Welcome, welcome, welcome aviators. You’ve landed at AviatorCast. My name is Chris Palmer. I’m impassioned by all things flying. Often that means that even the sci-fi world of Star Wars gets my aviation juices flowing. From a Cessna 172 to a Corellian Millennium Falcon, I love it all. So welcome to this, the 76th episode of AviatorCast. It is my pleasure to welcome you here. We are coming up on the end of the year but we have a few fun episodes coming up. This first episode is going to be all about Star Wars, we’ll talk about that in a second. If you’ve never been with us on AviatorCast before, generally on AviatorCast, we talk about inspiring aviation things. So we talk to inspiring aviators out there that are long-time careerist aviators or people that are doing something special on the aviation community. Maybe they’ve even done something for space travel. We had a guy on here from NASA that was a flight director for many of the space shuttle missions. So we get our wide range of people from private pilots to airline pilots to NASA people. So a lot of great people come on the show.

We also talk about insight into the community and into the industry. Maybe you want to reignite the flame of aviation and you’re looking for some inspiration to do that, this is a good place to get started or keep those juices flowing. Or maybe you’re looking to get started for the first time and you are looking to get the courage to fly and wanting to know more about it. We also have folks like you listen to this podcast. So there are many different people that come here and want to be inspired by something aviation each and every week, and that’s what we do at AviatorCast. We try to keep it fresh and different and we try to reach out to a wide range of people from around the world that are doing this aviation thing, loving it, and they want to share their passion with you. That is exactly why I’m here.

So on this episode, as I told you, we are going to be talking about Star Wars. The Force Awakens was just released. I have to admit, I have seen three times already. I absolutely love it. It is such a cool movie and builds very well on the original series that George Lucas created. A lot of people don’t think the prequels were that good. They are what they are, but this movie, this is awesome and there are some cool aviation things in it. So we are going to talk today about the aviation world in the galaxy. So what was it like to become a tar pilot? What kind of training do you have to go through? What type of aircraft will you fly and what are their capabilities? What’s gonna happen if you choose to fight for the rebellion or if you choose to fight for the empire? What is your career going to be like? So we’re going to talk some of those nerdy things. Of course, all of this make believe but there are some fun things to point out here, and for those of you that are Star Wars fans, this will be a lot of fun. If you’re not a Star Wars fan, I’m sorry, and you now have my permission to leave. But if you are a Star Wars fan, I encourage you to stay around. This is going to be a fun one, a lighthearted one, and we will have a good time.

So before we get into the meat of this episode, we have a review that has come to us from Cody Wellens from the USA, and I actually met Cody a while back at Maplewood 2015. We talked about that on the previous episode. I met Cody in Atlanta. He leaves a review here on AviatorCast, five stars. He says “Great podcast for all aviation enthusiasts. Chris and the team at AviatorCast do an awesome job showcasing a great variety on interswinging, entertaining and educational aviation-related content. I really enjoy the down-to-earth conversations and interviews with a range of people in the field and feel like I have learned a lot since I began listening to this podcast earlier this year. I would highly recommend subscribing. No matter what your level of experience in aviation is, this podcast is sure to have something interesting for everyone.”

So thanks Cody, really appreciate it, and I just so happen to already have an AviatorCast Fly or Die t-shirt with me when I met Cody in Atlanta so he’s actually already gotten his Fly or Die t-shirt. So Cody, you’re all set up. For those of you that would like to leave a review for this show, please do so on iTunes, Stitcher, or another podcasting review platform that you use. I know there are a lot of apps out there these days that people are using to listen to podcast. Leave a review and I’d love to send you a free AviatorCast Fly or Die t-shirt. They are pretty rocking. They look really good. So I’d love to do that. Alright guys, I’m excited to get into this Star Wars episode. So let’s do that after a score here.

One of the first steps to any journey through the galaxy is choosing a side. That is are you on the dark side or are you on the light side. We are inflicted with some of the same difficult choices in aviation here on Earth. Are you for Boeing or Airbus, Cessna or Piper, Military training or civilian wheels or floats, we’re all faced with many of these difficult decisions. The Rebel Alliance and the Empire, now known as the Resistance and the First Order, both have their pros and cons. At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself where you stand on principle. Do you want to fly for the rebellion and freedom, or do you want to fly with the awesomely powerful and frightful Galactic Empire? Once you’ve picked a side, you’ll also largely pick your path and the types of starships you’ll fly. Much like the military and airlines, you can take a path to fighter jets, gunships, transports, cargo and so on. There are many, many different choices. Of course, everyone wants to go the fighter direction. TIE fighters and X-Wings are the most iconic and the most glorious. These fighters see the most action. However, regardless of all the technology in the galaxy, dog fighting still remains quite primitive in some of these battles.

Even though Star Fighters are equipped with lasers that house a seemingly limitless amount of ammunition, pilots still must resort high intensity close quarter dog fighting which obviously takes a lot of skill, a lot of training, and to a certain extent, innate talent to do so. Some of the fighters you can select, you’ll recognize some of these. TIE fighters, TIE interceptors, TIE bombers, and then we get into the wings of the rebellion which are the X-Wing, A-Wing, B-Wing, Y-Wing, and the Snowspeeder that you see on Hoth. You can even fly a Naboo N-1 Starfighter, an ETA-2 Jedi Starfighter, Delta-7 Jedi Starfighter, those were seen in the prequels, and several more. Obviously, the galaxy is a big place. There are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of different types of Starfighters from all the different civilizations that spec of a planet throughout the galaxy. So these are just those that you will have recognized in the Star Wars movies.

And then later on, we’ll talk more about fighters and some of the technology there is new information that has come out about the new First Order TIE fighters and Resistance X-Wings. Obviously as time goes on, people upgrade their airplanes, especially trying to keep up with each other’s technology and remain competitive and dangerous. So there’s more to share there.

Of course, although TIE fighters and X-Wings are cool, not all pilots have to go the fighter route. The mortality rate in some of the larger battles is simply terrible. Chances of surviving were low on both sides. You’ve seen these in many of the Star Wars battles. These are TIE fighters and X-Wings, B-Wings, Y-Wings, and they are almost completely covering the sky, and people are just getting blown up, and a wing gets blown off of a TIE fighter and it’s twirling down and it runs into the Death Star and then you see the same thing happen to an X-Wing and this happens 10 times in just a matter of seconds. There is a reason why throughout Star Wars, you hear someone scream at some point, “There is too many of them!” It’s screamed all the time because there is just hundreds of these Starfighters all over the place.

So you don’t absolutely have to go that route. I know it’s the most glorious. As a Star pilot, you can choose transports as well. So sometimes, these are still involved in the in the action but they are mostly protected by fighters and many ship-mounted cannon systems so the skill required and the mortality rate is lower. Obviously if you’re in a fighter and you’re on the frontlines, you have a higher likelihood of getting shot at directly than if you are in a freighter or a transport of some sort.

So like aircraft carriers, these larger ships that you can choose are transports to space-bound systems, or really they’re like space-bound cities even themselves. They’re almost like aircraft carriers that we have today. So a few of these shows that you’ll recognize are Stardestroyers, Super Stardestroyers, Darth Vader’s Super Stardestroyed which is called the Executor, and then you have the Final Order which now calls their Stardestroyers as Finalizers and these are upgraded versions of the Stardestroyers. Then you have the GR-75 Medium Transport which is a clamshell-looking transport that you will have recognized on the Battle of Hoth. You have Home-1 which is the mothership of the rebellion. Those are kind of long and bulky and bubbly. You have the medical frigate where you’ve seen that a few times. I think Luke gets his hand repaired, his arm repaired at the end of Empire Strikes Back on one of those medical frigates, and then you have some of those frigates as well for the Republic.

So that’s another route you can go, the transport route. One can even be a corporate or VIP pilot with jobs up for grabs flying the ships like the J-type 327 Nubian Royal Starship which is Princess Amidala’s ship, the Imperial shuttle which is Vader and the Emperor ride on quite often as you see. You see that a lot in Return of the Jedi, and then even Darth Maul’s Sith Infiltrator which is actually made by the same company that makes the Nubian Starship that Princess Amidala flies. And don’t forget the Alderaan Cruiser, the ship so famously overtaken by the Stardestroyer at the very beginning of A New Hope which is the first original movie. This was the royal family ship which of course Princess Leia, being part of the royal family, she was on board that ship. And then more recently, we have another VIP shuttle with Kylo Ren’s command shuttle which is very advanced, being years and years later. Most of these are simple transports but Kylo Ren’s shuttle is one that you certainly don’t want to mess with. This is one that could probably take on a Stardestroyer, it’s that good.

So you can consider these ships to be piloted by the air force one pilots of the galaxy. Don’t get too confused though. You won’t be seeing Harrison Ford emphatically quip “Get off my starship” just as he does in Air Force One, the movie. And of course that leads us to Mr. Han Solo himself flying the Millennium Falcon. This ship is in a category all of its own. This Y2-1300 Light Freighter is exactly that. It’s a freighter. It was never meant for the intense battles it was a part of yet its original design became a large ally. Mostly used for scoundrel-type smuggling which Han Solo was particularly good at, this ship would also prove to have many other benefits that helped Chewy and Han get out of and really into all of those hairy situations. So we’ll talk a little bi more about the tech on the Millennium Falcon later.

So now we’re going to get into pilot training. Pilot training here on earth if highly regulated, complicated, takes a tremendous amount of dedication, and requires a reasonable financial investment. Because of this, there really aren’t that many pilots and certainly not as many pilots that stay flying after getting their initial private pilot. Training in the galaxy also comes with its various challenges. Some challenges are more difficult than others while others are less so. So let’s go through these by making a comparison to some of the challenges on earth and what those challenges are like in the Star Wars galaxy.

So first we’ll talk about just pure availability to fly. Flying in the galaxy is much akin to flying in the bush in Alaska in ways life would not and could not survive without the constant flow of space traffic. Otherwise, how could you transport supplies and people to such remote places. We see this constantly in the Star Wars saga and it’s neat to imagine just how fascinating it would be to travel from such new destinations on the other side of the galaxy. As a pilot, I can certainly have a bug for wanting to travel myself. I can’t imagine how great it would be to pilot an airplane to another planet. How cool would that be? Because of this great neat and reliance on interplanetary travel and transport, flying is a part of life on most planets with intelligent life. Out of necessity, they need ship after ship from many different civilizations so many, many planets, many civilizations are creating ships so that they can travel, so that they can access different parts of the planet, that sort of thing. The technology is inherently better in the galaxy as we’ve seen.

So therefore, it’s not uncommon for a space or aircraft to be more of a normal part of family life than kind of like what we would call a car. It’s just a normal part of life. So having a flying thing in the family is just simply a part of life and a necessity. So can you imagine never learning to actually drive a car but rather you would learn to fly a starship instead. Well, that’s just about what it’s like in galaxy.

Of course, just like on earth, the kind of family you come from will depend on the kind of ship you get to fly. Some teenagers start driving the family minivan or beater, while other more privileged kids get their own new Sudan. So in the galaxy, you may fly a piece of crap airplane to start off, piece of crap starship that doesn’t really do much, it’s not that great but hey, you got to go somewhere on your own now and then there are some kids in the galaxy that I guess get a really nice new starship that they can fly around. So that’s just how normal it is, and it’s just a normal part of everyday life in the galaxy to have flying things.

So what about regulations? What’s that like for pilot training? So you no doubt seen the vast desserts of Tatooine and Jakku, the endless swamps of Dagobah, the endless green rolling hills of Naboo. Let’s not forget just how big space really is. All in all, the galaxy is a big place, perhaps too big of a place for someone like the FAA to have any sort of chance of reaching even a small percentage of the planets, let alone coverage on those planets. Because of this, there is really no license to fly in the universe, in the galaxy. Of course, there are more official outlets to become a pilot and one can end up getting a flying job of sorts but like here on earth, you can go the direction of making a career out of it. But then there’s the base level of that where people just fly because they have to and it’s kind of what they do as a family. But simply learning to fly and getting the knowledge how to fly is fairly easy in the galaxy and it’s unregulated. So can you imagine what it would be like if as a teenager your dad could take you out, show you where the controls were, gave you a few quick lessons and then turn you loose to fly on your own? Can you imagine what that would be like here on earth? That’s about how most pilots learn to fly in the galaxy. So, we’ll talk about if they do go the official route of learning to fly at an academy or something, we’ll talk a little bit more about what that’s like.

So, there are of course less remote planets where things get a bit more official. So the Republic would be a place where regulation was needed as there are billions, perhaps even trillions crammed on to a planet that is essentially one large city. You’ve seen those things where the Jedi temple and the senate are, it’s one massive city. So in such a place, it makes sense that rules and guidelines are strict at every level. You even see predetermined highways in the skies throughout the films especially again in the prequels. So obviously this would be a place that would be regulated. To become a paid pilot, it also takes a lot more effort as you can imagine and the official training is more so the academy route, the schooling route, and we talk a little bit later about how Luke wanted to go to the academy. He was already a pilot himself. We’ll talk about that a little bit too, and wanted to go to an academy so he obviously wanted to continue his flying career.

So with that amount of flying on saw somewhere like the Republic where everything that is moving is basically flying, it’s definitely involved in learning how to fly there, it’s an involved process, but probably still not as involved and regulated as it is here on earth just because everyone does it. So maybe more official like the DMV than it is official like the FAA. All in all, the galaxy is a very large place that there is simply not a lot of regulation and people just fly a whole lot and learn to fly early and young and enjoy quite a bit of freedom in doing so.

So let’s get into some of the schooling now, what that would look like. So, when looking at someone like Han Solo, you’re looking at a guy that has a knack for flying but probably didn’t receive a lot of official training. Rather he’s a guy that has simply been there and done that, trying different things and becoming a skilled spaciator as a result. Although most pilots in the galaxy learn to fly just like Han by simply doing, there is a large part that take those skills and translate them into a career. We talked about the different career types earlier and what kind of things pilots can learn to fly. The most common jobs are military transport, and VIP shuttle like we discussed earlier. This isn’t much unlike earth. Those are the big categories that people are flying for careers. Again, military transport and VIP shuttle are corporate. These areas require more knowledge of the equipment, more professional attitudes and a deeper knowledge of interplanetary regulations. That’s not even considering all the extra fighting and military tactics that those who fight for the Empire or the Rebellion have to go through.

For the most part, flying is simply part of culture in the galaxy. The question isn’t so much are you a pilot as it is what do you fly or do you fly for a living. Pretty much everyone flies. Those who go the military route generally go to an academy. Those that fly VIP generally receive expensive one on one training from a qualified training department, and those that learn to fly transport will learn from their company. However if you’re going to fly for the Empire or the First Order which is what they’re called now, your path is essentially chosen for you. Flying is then not so much a matter of passion as it is a duty and requirement. Empire pilots were considered expendable which is why the original TIE fighters were so poorly built in mass numbers. Now with the First Order, pilots are brought up from young children, given aptitude tests, heavy training and continually monitored for optimal performance. They also have upgraded TIE fighters which are now black to place much faster and carry heavy armament, we’ll talk about that later. Apart from the way the Empire or First Order does things, training is much like that on earth. If you want to fly fighters, you go to the air force or a navy academy, and shoot for the top of your class. If you want to fly corporate, you learn from places like flight safety or CAE centers. If you learn to fly for the airlines, you’re often taught by the company-owned and operated training departments. So it’s much the same in the galaxy.

In this respect, life in the galaxy isn’t that much different than life on earth. That said, most people and creatures learn to fly out of necessity again at a very young age. It’s just a matter of how far do you go and is this something you actually use as a career. So now I have some other miscellaneous topics, miscellaneous thoughts, and then we’re going to get into the Force Awakens. Don’t worry, I’ll give you a spoiler alert when that comes up, and you can turn this off if you haven’t seen the movie yet. So let’s get into some other stuff here, just some random thoughts, I had some curious questions. So the first is why does every ship have a droid unit? You may be wondering why a droid unit of some kind is on every ship, from getting locked in just behind the pilot on X-Wing to riding alone on the Nubian Royal Starship, they are simple seen everywhere, part of every pilot’s toolkit. The question is simply why? Why are they here? Why are they everywhere? The answer is quite simple and it actually may surprise you. It turns out that these droid units both replace and enhance a lot of the normal operations we as pilots perform. A droid replaces things such as an E6-B, an autopilot Foreflight on your iPad, the need for checklist, and even acts as an onboard ANP mechanic of sorts. So here are a few examples that prove my point.

So do you recall how quickly people from the galaxy jump in their starships and just go? Do you ever wonder how they do that without doing a preflight, a checklist or an engine run-up? It’s because they have a droid in harmony with a highly interconnected set of onboard flight systems doing everything in the blink of an eye. If there’s a problem, your R2 or BB unit for example will let you know promptly or will have already automatically fixed the problems for you and you can just focus on flying. You may have also seen it at times when Luke got his X-Wing shut up and R2 would put up fires and repair things and diagnose problems and so on. He’s just like an onboard ANP mechanic that can fix things on the fly literally.

How about when someone does go through that rushed procedure only to be jumping at lightspeed to another planet? So hey Foreflight, do you guys have a subscription plan that covers the whole galaxy? Well, it’s no problem because your on-board BB or R2 unit will help you navigate so there’s really no point in having that Foreflight galaxy subscription. It does all the flight planning for you, determines the best path, and a slew of other decisions that pilots generally have to go through. Now you can just start to see why the preflight procedures are no big deal. You basically can just jump and everything is covered for you and you can go. These on-board droid units that help star pilots are of very high value. You can see how they’d be very, very important as part of your toolkit. They’re like a rolling E6-B or electronic flight bag, EFB.

So of course you can go without it, that’s definitely possible. Han and Chewy do it, but you may have noticed how much longer they spend working on the Falcon and how many more buttons and nabs they press while they’re flying and how often the Millennium Falcon breaks down and how often they’re having problems. If only they could afford to have a droid unit on board but so is the life of a smuggler and it was never the life of a droid I guess. Alright, so that’s it and that’s why pilots in the galaxy have droid units.

Was Luke a pilot before he left Tatooine? This is a question that kind of came up in my mind. You may have always wondered if Luke was a star pilot before leaving Tatooine. It’s hard to believe that he could be so skilled as a starship pilot after so little experience. As you remember, he blew up the Death Star so he obviously didn’t start from nowhere. When we first see Luke at his homw just after he purchased R2-D2 and C3-P0 from Jawas, you see him playing with a model airplane. You may also notice that that same aircraft is actually in the background parked in a garage of sorts. This is a T-16 Skyhopper, a little known airplane but maybe known by some of you super Star Wars nerds.

So Luke and his friend Biggs Darklighter who helps blow up the Death Star at the end of episode four were childhood friends on Tatooine. They used to fly their T-16 down Beggar’s Canyon, shooting wombats. The reason you don’t see him flying the T-16 is because he ended up damaging it on one of their escapades and he hadn’t been able to repair it. Later on, you see Biggs and Luke talking at the end of episode four, I’m sure you’ve seen it, Biggs ends up dying actually in the Battle of Yavin which is the battle for the Death Star. Yavin is that planet between the Death Star and the rebel planet that they’re trying to blow up, so that kind of makes sense. But anyway, Biggs passes away, it’s a big bummer, they were childhood friends. Biggs was a little older than Luke and he grew up and he went to the academy and things and he was part of the rebel Starfighter core.

Anyway, because of all these, Luke did have flight experience before he was asked to be part of the red squadron as you remember in that battle. In fact, he likely had a good amount of experience, perhaps even the equivalent of a private pilot or more. Obi-Wan even mentions that he hears Luke has become a good starpilot himself. Very curious, he mentions that when they first meet. So Luke shows much passion for adventure with how much curiosity he shows for the rebellion. He also shows a great deal of technical know-how in dealing with the droids and other technical things throughout the movies. Like many of us, Luke trained as a pilot when he was young and later planned on getting more education. In fact, he planned on attending the academy like Biggs did where he would no doubt continue his training.

You see, before Luke ever used the force to launch a few torpadoes into that few meter wide hole in the Death Star, he had skills to back it up. Before those critical moments, he was to a certain extent prepared for what would come. The T-16 for example flies very similarly to the X-Wing. He is much like us in this respect. How many of us need to go through much training to eventually be able to deal with difficult situations that beset every pilot. Could any of us really handle an energy or difficult situation without some aviation experience? Well, it was no different for Luke. Otherwise, there’s just no way he would have been able to handle what he did with the Death Star and beyond. Luke is a pretty dang good pilot. It actually runs in the family. So just like many of us, aviation runs in the family. I’m a first generation aviator but I know that there are multigeneration aviators out there.

Alright so I have this other thought about Mos Eisley. So, I’ve been to some weird FBOs before but have you guys ever been to an FBO as odd as Mos Eisley on Tatooine. Mos Eisley is where they meet Han for the first time, so that’s where the cantina is and all those things. So this very large spaceport comes complete with 362 docking bays, what we would call hangars. There are accommodations, food and even a local cantina like I mentioned if that is your thing, and a lot of weirdos. Not unlike FBOs here on Earth. It’s pretty similar, although a very big FBO. We pilots here on Earth enjoy our hangar talk but can you imagine how cool the spaceport talk is? I mean, we tell war stories of going a couple hundred miles through some weather. Imagine going a couple light years through asteroid fields, avoiding imperial starcruisers, known as the FAA here on Earth, and much more. So man, the stories of those starpilots has to be pretty dang awesome. That hangar talk has to be pretty good. So how great that would be to be there. That is you speak one of the many thousands of languages in the galaxy but to be able to hear those stories, that would be pretty cool.

So all that said, I personally don’t want to be preparing Foreflight in such a place as Mos Eisley in the cantina, in fear that someone won’t like me like the way I look or something and they just want to shoot me with a blaster. That’s a level of stress that I’d rather not deal with. So those are my thoughts on Mos Eisley.

Alright, so how I’m going to get to the Force Awakens. Big, big, big warning here. There are many spoilers coming. I’m not going to hold back at all so if you haven’t seen the next installment of Star Wars, I give you permission to skip ahead or just stop this completely. I should be back in the last two minutes or so to wrap up the show with a couple things that are non-spoiler related but other than that, it’s all Force Awakens from here on out, so consider yourself warned.

For those of you that have seen the Force Awakens, it’s packed-full of awesome moments. Not just that, we have a couple new characters that are rock stars at the controls. If that wasn’t enough, there are all these flying things that are upgraded. So a few new aircraft that are present in the series, we see the new First Order Special Forces TIE Fighters which are decked out and obviously upgraded quite a bit. We also see X-Wings that are upgraded and packing a bigger punch than ever. We see Kylo Ren’s command shuttle, is also in its simple design yet it looks formidable and frightening. I mean, it’s a cool spaceship but it looks scary. You may have even noticed, the iconic Millennium Falcon has also received a few upgrades.

TIE Fighters were traditionally built to be made in larger numbers. I mentioned that earlier. They were considered expendable and so they were created with little to no thought of safety. For example, you may notice that TIE pilots have a full mask and life support system. That’s because they didn’t want to spend the extra resources to create ships that could acclimate the entire cockpit so they just do it locally there in the helmet. TIE stands for twin ion engines. The TIE fighters have multidirectional controllability making them very, very maneuverable as you’ve seen. You hear Poe remarking at how fast the TIE fighters are when he and Finn steal one at the very beginning of the movie.

In addition to the engines and multidirectional propulsion, TIE fighters also have iconic hexagon-shaped wings. We know that these aren’t really wings since these are just completely incapable of creating lift, but they are actually serving a pretty important purpose and that is they are essentially solar cells that continually charge the systems on board the TIE fighters. With ion propulsion and solar power, TIE fighters can stay on station for a long time. In the Force Awakens, we don’t see the same old weak TIE fighters. The First Order TIE fighters are now black, then there is a special forces model which POE and Finn fly in. This is a two-seater with new weapon armament, life support in the cockpit and highly upgraded shields and systems. You can tell the difference between a regular First Order TIE fighter and a special forces TIE fighter by the black stripe. Actually it’s a red stripe on black. These TIE fighters are of course awesome and pack a punch. I’m biased however and I still think the X-Wing wins the day.

As technology goes, things are continually upgraded. The X-Wing is no different. It was upgraded not only because of advancements in technology but also in an arms race with the First Order to ensure that the resistance stood a chance against these new and awesome TIE fighters. Based on the classic Incom T-70 design, this aircraft goes all the way back to the clone wars. Today’s resistance models include a slew of upgrades to keep up with the new TIE technology. Unlike the TIE fighters, X-Wings are good at both dog fighting and bombing runs. Their versatility keeps them a mainstay of the resistance fleet even after all these years.

You can see Poe flying a customized black X-Wing. His callsign is Black Leader, and wow, what a pilot he is. When he is engaging First Order TIE fighters over Mos’ place, I counted 12 kills in a matter of about 30 seconds. He just tears it up. I absolutely love that seen. It’s probably the best flying seen in the movie. Actually there’s one better. I’ll talk about that in a few minutes. And those 12 that he killed, that’s not even counting the stormtroopers he somehow sniped as he was making his first run. He basically sniped the guys around Han, Chewy and Finn. So, we see Poe’s black X-Wing but we also see blue and the classic red X-Wings as well, so it’s kind of cool to see them in different colors.

As we all know, the X-Wings saves the day once again. Poe slices through an opening that Han and Chewy created, and then he destroys the oscillator that keeps the Starkiller base together, and that inevitably destroy the planet so he’s pretty awesome. It’s no doubt that Poe is the best pilot in the resistance, he may even be the best pilot in the galaxy. That’s saying something because of Han and Rey. But again, I think Rey can give him a run for his money because she is absolutely awesome. Out of all the flying scenes in Force Awakens and this is even considering that one with Poe where he shoots down a bunch of guys, the most impressive to me was when Finn and Rey escaped in the “pile of junk” Millennium Falcon and kicked the snot out of a few First Order TIE fighters. Wow, Rey can fly and she never even flew the Millennium Falcon before but she tears it up. Those were some of the coolest flying maneuvers I’ve seen in all of Star Wars, where she is banked in a 93-degree angle, scraping the dirt and then when she pulls the power and flips the Millennium Falcon so Finn can shoot the TIE fighter. Just some awesome flying sequences. I can’t wait to see her fly in other episodes.

So let’s not forget the incumbent star of the party as far as aircraft go and that is Millennium Falcon. I love that they keep calling this thing junk after all this time, even after it’s torn it up for basically all the battles it’s been in part of. There are some new upgrades to the falcon that you may have noticed even though it’s been sitting unused after being stolen from Han. It has new shields, some upgraded systems and some upgrades that Han and Rey actually don’t like, namely the compressor. You’ll notice that the original series falcon had a round shield on top, now it’s rectangular. This Corillian YT-1300F light freighter has seen so many upgrades over the years that it’s pushed the aircraft beyond its normal capabilities. Yes, it is fast, maneuverable and slippery, it has to be as a smuggling ship, and of course it’s great in the battles that it’s a part of, but this often leads to the hyperdrive acting up and this hyperdrive always acts up at the wrong time. So they’ve kind of pushed it beyond its capabilities and that makes it a bit unstable sometimes.

All in all, the Force Awakens brings a new focus to flying from Poe as one of the lead characters to Rey as the lead character, flying is no doubt a new and central part of the storyline in Star Wars. So that’s it for this Star Wars nerdiness here if you will. I hope you guys enjoyed a few of these thoughts, lighthearted, fun, not your typical AviatorCast episode but we’re all excited about Star Wars right now, at least if we are Star Wars fanatics. So I hope you guys enjoyed this connection to the aviation world here on earth. So let’s get to some closing messages and then we will be done with this episode of AviatorCast.

*Join us next week for another exciting topic or interview with a great guest. Spread the AviatorCast message. Please review AviatorCast on iTunes or submit an audio question for the show at AviatorCast.com. All iTunes reviews and audio questions that are aired on the show will get an official AviatorCast t-shirt. You can write AviatorCast directly on AviatorCast.com where you can interact with the AviatorCast community or write AviatorCast at me@aviatorcast.com. We’d love to hear from you.

For more information on Angle of Attack simulation training videos for FSX, X-Plane and more, go to www.flyaoamedia.com. If you are looking for a professional aviation training video services and other media, inquire at www.angleofattackpro.com. Now, for the final release clearance, back to Chris Palmer.*

Chris: Alright guys, thanks a ton for joining us on this episode of AviatorCast, it was awesome to have you here and share in the nerdiness of Star Wars. I can’t wait to go a fourth, a fifth, a sixth time. We have a small theatre here in town and it’s the only movie that has been playing right now, and I have this little card that they gave me, and everytime I return, I get money off or a free combo drink, popcorn sort of thing, so there are incentives for me to return. Return of the Chris I guess is what this is. So it’s been a lot of fun. I hope you guys can go see it.

Got a Christmas episode coming up next, hope you guys enjoy that. Big thanks to the Angle of Attack crew for all they do to make our AviatorCast possible. There is a lot of work going on behind the scenes at Angle of Attack right now. It’s keeping us really busy and they’re doing a great job. Thank you to you the listener, couldn’t do it without you guys. Please if you love this podcast, review us on iTunes. As a return for that favor, I will send you a free AviatorCast t-shirt. It doesn’t absolutely have to be iTunes. If you listen to your podcast on Stitcher or another location where you want to share a review of the show or just share the show, the whole point of this is I’m wanting to get the word out and let people know that this is something that’s worthwhile. So if you can show me that you’re doing that for AviatorCast, I will send you a free AviatorCast t-shirt. Join us on the next episode, again we’re talking about Christmas. I am going to replay some of my secret Santa technology, kind of like this episode but about Santa. How do the reindeer fly? How old of a pilot is Santa? Who did he learn from? So he’s about the oldest aviator around. I look forward to talking to you guys there, may the force be with you, and until next time, throttle on!

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  • Peter

    There is no link for downloading mp3.

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