Short Stories About Flight, Flying or Planes

These short stories have planes, jets, helicopters or, sometimes, characters who can fly themselves.

“Cargo” by E. Michael Lewis

Tech Sergeant Davis, a Loadmaster, is assigned to a crew headed for Jonestown to evacuate Americans. They’ll be taking a C-141 StarLifter, the largest freighter and troop carrier in the military. As Loadmaster, his job is to secure the cargo. There’s a last-minute change of plans—the Med crew won’t be accompanying them. When they arrive at the airport, there are rows of coffins.

This story can be read in the preview of Flight or Fright: 17 Turbulent Tales(30% into preview)

“Nimram” by John Gardner

Benjamin Nimram is sitting in the first-class section on a plane. He’s a renowned symphony conductor, with a good life and aware of his good fortune. A sixteen-year-old girl on crutches is seated next to him. She bears a remarkable similarity to his wife, Arline. She’s nervous about the flight. Nimram can see she looks unwell.

This story can be read in the preview of The Art of Living: & Other Stories(13% into preview)

“Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” by Richard Matheson

Wilson sits on a plane that’s preparing for takeoff. He’s shaken by the thunderous noise of the engines. He isn’t feeling well, physically or mentally. He rushes into the bathroom and tries to calm himself. He returns to his seat and tries to sleep, but can’t. Looking out the window, he sees something moving around on the wing.

This is the first story in the preview of Nightmare at 20,000 Feet: Horror Stories(22% into preview)

“Flying Fast, Falling Hard” by Kim Strattford

Tom Sullivan was a pilot in the Air Force; now he doesn’t need a plane to fly. He meets with Marta, the head of the Superhero Alliance. Tom has been accepted for membership. There’s a condition, though: he has to improve his fighting ability. His training is to start immediately.

This story can be read in the preview of Under the Cape: An Anthology of Superhero Romance. (20% into preview)

“Powers” by David D. Levine

It’s May of 1960 in Frank’s office at the CIA. He’s visited by the Deputy Director of Intelligence, who brings Frank in on project AQUATONE. An advanced jet that’s been gathering intelligence over Russia is missing, along with its pilot. As the resident Soviet expert, Frank is called on to piece together what happened.

This story is set in the Wild Cards universe, and has characters who have special powers.

“How I Met My Husband” by Alice Munro

The narrator, Edie, tells the story of her first job. She was fifteen. The Peebles bought a house outside of town. She helped look after the children. One day a plane flew right over the house and landed across the street. The pilot, Chris Watters, goes from town to town giving plane rides for a dollar. Edie meets him when the family is away.

Read “How I Met My Husband”

“Beware of the Dog” by Roald Dahl

Peter Williamson, an injured WWII pilot, manages to keep flying his Spitfire. He’s lost a leg. He feels fine and thinks about how he’ll land the plane and surprise everyone with the news. Suddenly he feels bad; he knows he won’t make it.

“Beware of the Dog”

“Death of an Old Old Man” by Roald Dahl

Charlie is known as an excellent pilot, but he’s terrified of going up again. It’s been getting worse every time. He’s been anticipating the order since last night. He doesn’t want to lose fifty years of his life.

“Only This” by Roald Dahl 

In an English cottage, an old woman lies in bed. She hears bombers flying overhead and thinks of her son in the Royal Air Force, imagining that she’s in the plane with him.

“A Piece of Cake” by Roald Dahl

A pilot recounts something that happened to him during wartime. He can’t remember everything—not before, only when it happened. There was trouble, but he was flying too low to bail out. It continued to get worse.

“They Shall Not Grow Old” by Roald Dahl

Two pilots sit outside the hangar. A third man, Fin, has been gone for two and a half hours. He should have been back by now. Even if he hadn’t been shot down, he would have run out of fuel. Last night, he started talking about getting married.

Dahl wrote several stories with pilots, as well as many other great ones. You can get everything in The Complete Short Stories Volume 1 and Volume 2. 

“Landing in Luck” by William Faulkner

A plane lands. The instructor in front asks the other man, Cadet Thompson, how many training hours he’s had. It’s been just over seven. The instructor is impatient for Thompson to fly on his own. Others have gone solo with less instruction time. Thompson isn’t in the best frame-of-mind, but he agrees to take off by himself.

“Beside Calais” by Samantha Henderson 

Ian is walking with Claire near the Ecole Aeronautique, looking at the eoles, bull-sized flying creatures. General Adair has said they need to go. A new breeding program is being instituted to help with the war. Claire was injured falling off another beast, a bleriot. She has been training new recruits to fly the creatures.

Read “Beside Calais”