If you want to be a pilot, it doesn’t matter how rich and famous you are, you have to put the hours of training in. Celebrities who want to get a pilot’s license have to go through the same rigorous process that anyone else has to, but for those well known faces who have caught the flying bug, it clearly seems worth the time and effort.
From action stars like Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise, to country music stars and supermodels, there are a surprising number of celebs who’ve decided to obtain their pilot’s licence, and some have even bought their own aircraft to go with it.
Other A-listers, however, are purely in it for comfort and have zero interest in piloting a plane themselves - that’s what they pay other people for, darling. And there is not a more relaxing and comfortable way to travel than by private jet, especially when it’s your own plane, decked out just as you like it.
Endless queues, unnecessary delays, annoying passengers, lack of privacy and little leg room are some of the discomforts that plague us when we fly commercial. For the super rich and famous, there’s an easy solution: buy your own aircraft.
These days, cars and houses aren't the status symbol they used to be. Any D-list reality star can get a Bentley, but you know you really made it when you've got your own jet.
So read our list and find out which celebrities are simply nuts for aviation, and which have bagged themselves the ultimate status symbol.
25 He Knows The Rules Of Flight Club: Brad Pitt
Word is that Brad Pitt is an accomplished pilot and in addition to having mastered the more common or garden aircraft, he bought a WWII-era Supermarine Spitfire for $3.3 million. Apparently his fascination with vintage planes was inspired by Fury, the WWII action film he shot in the UK in 2013. According to The Daily Mail, the star undertook certified training at the Boultbee Flight Academy in Oxford, where he learned how to operate the Spitfire’s unique controls.
But it’s not just vintage craft that Pitt is rumoured to fly. According to Business Insider, his former wife, Angelina Jolie, reportedly purchased a $1.6 million helicopter, as well as flying lessons, as a gift for the actor. Let’s hope Pitt’s love of flying has outlasted their marriage.
24 The Best Pilot In The Galaxy: Harrison Ford
Harrison Ford is more than just a hugely successful actor, he is also a highly experienced pilot of more than 20 years, and has logged more than 5,000 hours in the air, according to ABC News. But like his Han Solo alter ego, Ford's career in the air has not been without incident.
Ford was hurt in a 2015 accident when the WWII-era plane he was flying crashed on a golf course near Santa Monica, California. A few years later in 2017, the Star Wars star was landing a small plane at John Wayne Airport in Orange County when he flew over an American Airlines 737 aircraft bound for Dallas-Ft. Worth. Luckily, there were no injuries and the Federal Aviation Association saw no need to take official action against the actor.
23 Top Gun Of The Sky: Tom Cruise
Tom Cruise played the elite naval fighter jet pilot “Maverick” in the blockbuster movie Top Gun, and he now indulges his real love for flying in his own Gulfstream IV, one of the finest celebrity private jets around.
Rumoured to be worth an estimated $36 million, the jet accommodates up to 19 passengers and enjoys state-of-the-art furnishings - and we wouldn’t expect any less from the Mission Impossible star.
Known for his love of stunts and action, it’s no surprise Cruise is also a qualified helicopter pilot, according to People.
22 Grease Lightning: John Travolta
He’s the star of 70’s cult movies Grease and Saturday Night Fever, but John Travolta is also an honorary pilot for the Australian aircraft company Qantas.
The guy is a bonafide aviation enthusiast with five private planes total, which he parks on his front lawn. Yes, you read that right: he parks airplanes outside of his house.
Travolta was one of the first people to purchase land in the uber-exclusive Jumbolair Aviation Estates, and has two runways that lead directly to his front door. That’s dedication.
21 More Than Meets The Eye: Brazilian Supermodel Gisele Bundchen
She’s a supermodel, a spokesperson for the United Nations, the wife of New England Patriots QB Tom Brady, and a helicopter pilot.
According to People, Bundchen learnt to fly a helicopter while six months pregnant, which is almost as impressive as her motivation behind the lessons. Allegedly, she wanted to learn the nuts and bolts of aviation for her role as a goodwill ambassador for the UN’s Environmental Programme, which is researching alternative sources of jet fuel. Proof, if needed, that she's not just a pretty face.
20 When It Comes To Aviation, Just Ask Dr. Phil
Dr. Phil McGraw, better known to the general TV-watching public as Dr Phil, is not only a qualified psychologist and a go-to guy for all your emotional problems, but he’s also a pilot.
Dr Phil has a private pilot certificate and an instrument rating, according to Airliners, making him one of the few celebrities who has gotten the more challenging IFR rating in order to be able to fly in the clouds. An instrument pilot can legally fly in the clouds, rain, and fog, which broadens his abilities and keeps him in the air instead of on the ground during inclement weather.
19 Dirty Harry Knows His Planes: Clint Eastwood
Clint Eastwood has been a licensed helicopter pilot for almost 30 years and admitted in a 1997 60 Minutes interview that flying is his favourite hobby: “You’re just a number in the sky. Everybody pretty much leaves you alone. Charlie Xray or 71 Romeo Papa. Every plane is just an ID,” he told presenter Steve Kroft.
It’s amazing he still flies at all, after an aviation accident he experienced in The Korean War. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Eastwood was a 21-year-old draftee when his plane went down. He was the only passenger in a Douglas AD torpedo bomber, flying in severe weather off the coast of Northern California, when the pilot told him they were going to attempt an emergency landing in the shark-infested waters off Point Reyes. That would have put us off flying for life.
18 A Real Life Action Woman: Angelina Jolie
According to People, Oscar-winning Jolie was first inspired to take to the skies by son Maddox, who was obsessed with aircraft at a young age. After a slew of lessons, she gained her private pilot’s licence in 2004 and has been flying regularly ever since.
She is most often seen flying small turboprop aircraft including the Cirrus SR22, one of the safest single-engine planes, and a Cessna 208 Grand Caravan, which she owns.
17 Escape From Terra Firma: Kurt Russell
Kurt Russell says flying runs in the blood, as his grandfather had one of the first float planes in Maine, and although now he says he can’t live without flying, he admits it took him a while to learn.
“The love of airplane for pilots, I think, is almost inexplicable. It’s the experience itself. It’s the fact that you can’t explain it, I think, that makes you feel the way you do about it. This is something that can change your life,” he told one interviewer.
The Hateful Eight star was, in fact, the pilot who first reported the Phoenix Lights phenomenon. Every UFO obsessive knows about the Phoenix Lights, a mass sighting that took place in 1997, which has since become one of the best-known UFO incidents.
16 The Voice Of God Can Fly: Morgan Freeman
Although he joined the Air Force as a mechanic, Morgan Freeman didn't learn to fly until he was 65 years old. According to Fox News, Freeman owns a Cessna 414 and a Citation 501, but the aviation item on his bucket list is a Sino Swearingen SJ30 business jet, which costs a whopping $6.9 million.
The actor has also learnt his recognisable voice to marketing materials for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.
15 Metal Hurtling Through The Sky: Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson
After finding massive success as the lead singer of Iron Maiden, Bruce Dickinson learned to fly recreationally in Florida in the 1990s, and later became certified as an airline transport pilot, the highest license possible, which requires at least 1,500 hours of flying experience. According to Pilotweb, he even flew Boeing 757s as captain for the now-defunct UK charter airline Astraeus.
He has since aided in the return of 200 UK citizens from Lebanon during the 2006 Israel/Hezbollah conflict, rescued 180 stranded vacationers from Egypt after the collapse of XL Airways UK in September 2008, and returned a group of British RAF pilots home from Afghanistan later that year. Dickinson has also flown his Iron Maiden bandmates on the group’s tours.
14 He Was A Pilot Before He Was A Musician: Kris Kristofferson
In the 60s, this country musician was an Army helicopter pilot and later worked as a commercial pilot at Petroleum Helicopters International (PHI). But music was the only industry in which the star wanted to soar, and frustrated with his inability to get Johnny Cash to record one of his songs, he eventually took a bold route.
According to Rolling Stone, he landed a copter in Cash’s front yard: "He had beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other," Cash apparently said, though Kristofferson countered: "I said, 'John, you’ve got to have both hands and both feet when you’re flying a helicopter.'"
13 Scrubs Star Zach Braff
After developing a fear of flying as an adult, actor Zach Braff conquered his phobia by learning to fly. He honed his skills at Mach 1 Aviation in Van Nuys, California, behind the controls of a Cirrus SR-20, and received his pilot’s license in November 2008. Braff admits taking control of an aircraft helps "calm" his nerves, and told Britain’s Elle magazine, "I got into it because I'd become a really nervous flyer and I thought understanding how everything works would calm me down - now I'm hooked.
"It quiets your mind; when you are someone who thinks a lot and your brain is going non-stop, it has to become still so you can focus.”
12 They Own It: Beyonce and Jay-Z - A Luxurious Bombardier Challenger 850 Learjet
This luxurious private jet, owned by Jay Z and his wife Beyonce, is complete with a living room decked out entirely in leather. Naturally. The plane can also accommodate several people, which is just as well considering and their family is often aboard, including their three young children, plus entourage.
According to The Telegraph, the plane was a $40 million birthday present from Beyonce to her husband. He might have 99 problems, but disappointing gifts clearly aren’t one of them.
11 They Own It: Bill Gates - A Techy Global 5000
As co-founder and chairman of Microsoft Corporation, and one of the most recognised billionaires on the planet, it’s no surprise Bill Gates has his own jet. This renowned philanthropist has to travel a lot and for this he has at his disposal one of the best luxury private jets in the world, a Bombardier BD-700 Global Express.
This magnificent aircraft, also known as the Global 5000, carries the best of aviation technology and opulent luxury.
10 They Own It: Celine Dion - A Speedy Bombardier BD-700 Express
The Canadian singer has been rated as one of the richest singers in the world over the years, and thanks to her iconic hits, her net worth is reported to be worth a staggering £330 million, according to Forbes. So it stands to reason she should have a private jet. It’s not just any private jet, either.
She owns a Bombardier BD-700 Express, which costs a reported $42 million - a drop in the ocean when you have that kind of money.
9 They Own It: Jim Carrey - A Safety-Intensive Gulfstream V
Besides having the ability to tickle your funny bone, Jim Carrey is also aviation enthusiast, which is why, when it came to choosing his private jet, he opted for the remarkable Gulfstream V.
Known for its safety features, the Gulfstream V is one of the most respected jets in the world and costs a huge $59 million. According to Stratosjets, Carrey has made his luxury private jet available to individuals for private jet charter. Interested travellers can enjoy a 16-passenger plane that boasts impressively long range and nears the speed of sound while cruising up to 51,000 ft. And if you have to question how much that might cost, you can’t afford it.
8 They Own It: Oprah Winfrey - A Roomy Bombardier BD-700 Global Express XRS
Oprah has a private jet is probably one the least surprising facts you’ll read today. It’s Oprah - of course, she has her own plane. And her aircraft of choice, the Bombardier BD-700 Global Express, features designer fixtures in the bathroom and galley, along with an exquisite all-leather interior. It can also carry up to 19 passengers and fly to virtually anywhere in the world.
Winfrey told British Vogue that her aircraft was her “greatest luxury” and it was an encounter with a rude fan at the airport in the 90s that convinced her to purchase it.
7 They Own It: Jackie Chan - A Custom Embraer Legacy 650 And Legacy 500
Jackie Chan, the legendary martial artist and actor, is a brand ambassador for Brazilian airplane maker Embraer. In 2012, he took delivery of an Embraer Legacy 650, which enjoys a personalised, dragon-themed paint job, and a distinct cabin for each major activity in his executive life: work, play and rest.
In 2016, he added a Legacy 500, a state-of-the-art executive jet, to his fleet, which you can bet is every bit as fancy.
6 They Own IT: Jimmy Buffett - The “Hemisphere Dancer” Grumman HU-16 Albatross
Famous singer and entrepreneur Jimmy Buffet’s love of flying first blossomed when he was in college. He set the goal of having his license by his 40th birthday and has been flying for over twenty years now.
Buffett has a Commercial Pilot License with ratings for multi-engine land and sea aircraft, and an instrument rating for flying in clouds and low weather. He also holds type ratings for the Cessna Citation 500-series jets, the Falcon 50 and 900, and the Grumman Albatross, which he purchased in 1990 and named the Hemisphere Dancer. Today, the plane is currently on display at Margaritaville in Orlando, Florida.
5 They Own It: Mark Cuban - A Record Breaking Gulfstream V
In 1999, billionaire Mark Cuban bought a Gulfstream V business jet over the internet for $40 million. The purchase put him in the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest ever single e-commerce transaction.
Buying a private jet "was my all-time goal," the Shark Tank star and Dallas Mavericks owner told Money in 2017, "because the asset I value the most is time, and that bought me time.” Wow, time is expensive.
4 They Own It: Roman Abramovich - ‘The Bandit’ Boeing 767-33A
Roman Abramovich is a famous Russian billionaire and oil magnate, who amassed a mind boggling fortune with the privatisation of the Russian oil industry. The owner of Chelsea Football Club travels the world in a heavily modified Boeing 767-33A luxury aircraft, which is also known as ‘The Bandit,’ because of its cockpit paint detail. According to The Daily Mail, it’s worth a whopping $83,600,000.
The magnificent jet has the same air missile avoidance system as the Air Force One, plus room for 30 seated dining guests on board. Other luxury features include chestnut interiors and even elements of gold peppered throughout the decor.
3 They Own It: Elvis Presley - ‘Lisa Marie’ Convair 880
Purchased by the King of Rock ’n’ Roll in 1975, the Convair 800 set the standard at that time for luxury air travel. Nicknamed ‘Lisa Marie,’ the plane was totally refurbished and its interiors were re-designed by a team of designers who had previously worked on the Air Force One. The seating capacity was reduced to 28 seats and a series of sleeping quarters were installed. Lisa Marie was also given a majestic master bedroom that came with a queen size bed, while the executive bathroom featured faucets made of gold along with a gold wash basin. When it came to upholstery, Elvis chose the fabrics himself, as well as the audio visual system.
Best of all, you can actually see it for yourself - the Lisa Marie is a permanent fixture at the Graceland Museum in Tennessee.
2 They Own It: Taylor Swift - A Customised Dassault-Breguet Mystere Falcon 900
Swift picked bought jet in 2011, when it was merely 2 years old, and it cost a reported $40 million. According to fellow performer Charli XCX, who supported Swift on tour, the plane is totally customised.
On the nose of the jet is painted the number 13, which is apparently Swift’s favourite number - she even draws it on her hand before every show. It seats up to 12 passengers, which gives Swift plenty of room to bring her squad on board.
1 They Own It: Tiger Woods - An Attention-Grabbing Gulfstream G550
He might not dominate the sport of golf the way he once did, but Tiger Woods’ private jet of choice still demands our attention. It’s worth a head-spinning $53,500,000, according to The Daily Mail. Then again, with 14 major championship golf wins, and an estimated fortune of over $1 billion, that’s chump change to this sporting legend.
The G550 cabin is known for its luxury design, great light and views. The 18-seater can fly upward of 7,500 miles nonstop without refuelling, which is about the distance from New York to Shanghai in one trip.
References: pilotweb.aero; flyingmag ;businessinsider; www.msn.com; telegraph.co.uk