There are a number of pilots who have flown X-Wings in the Star Wars galaxy. Some, like John D. Branon or Grizz Frix, were merely fodder for Imperial TIE fighters to destroy (RIP); others, like Wedge Antilles or Poe Dameron, became seasoned war heroes who saw action across the galaxy.
The pilots that make up this list are all X-Wing pilots from the Star Wars canon. Their piloting abilities of other ships are mentioned and discussed, but are not integrated into their ranking. Star Wars Legends pilots, including the impressive pilot Corran Horn, are not included in the list, and stories from Star Wars Legends do not count for canon characters, such as Wedge Antilles or Luke Skywalker. Canonical sources outside of the films, however, including books, comics, and television shows, were considered when ranking pilots. Upcoming pilots in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story were also not included, but Rebel pilots are almost certainly going to play a role in stealing the Death Star schematics from the Empire.
In ranked order, here are the 15 Best X-Wing Pilots In Star Wars Canon.
15. Jek “Piggy” Porkins
Oh, Porkins, we hardly knew ye. Jek Tono Porkins, who was called “Piggy” by his fellow Rebel pilots, flew as “Red Six” against the first Death Star at the Battle of Yavin IV. He was killed alongside Rebel pilots John D. Branon and Theron Nett. What gives Porkins the upper hand over these pilots is that Porkins’ T-65B X-Wing malfunctioned during the battle, and due to this malfunction, he was not able to save himself, despite his expert piloting skills. He was shot down by a turbolaser in the trench of the Death Star, which killed him instantly.
Even in death, Porkins could not seem to shake the “pig” jokes made at his expense. Resistance pilots named a flight technique after him– the Porkins Belly Run, which they taught to new recruits in training. It’s unclear if the name is an honor, but Porkins’ memory lives on with the next generation of X-Wing pilots.
14. Biggs Darklighter
Biggs Darklighter was a childhood friend of Luke Skywalker’s on Tatooine. Darkligher grew up flying T-16 skyhoppers with Luke Skywalker through canyons on the desert planet. Unlike Luke, however, Biggs signed up for the Imperial Academy in order to learn how to fly. After graduating, Biggs defected and joined the Rebel Alliance. At Tosche Station (in a deleted scene from A New Hope), Biggs reveals to Luke that he is defecting and encourages Luke to do the same. Luke looks up to Biggs and takes his advice, eventually joining the Rebels and reuniting with Biggs on Yavin IV before the Death Star arrives.
Darth Vader killed Biggs at the Battle of Yavin IV. Biggs greatly affected Luke Skywalker’s development as a pilot, and Luke continued to remember his friend after the battle. Biggs had more formalized training than many other pilots, and if Vader hadn’t taken him down, he may have continued to fly for the Rebel Alliance for some time.
13. Wes Janson
Wes Janson is a member of Rogue Squadron who flew as Wedge Antilles’s gunner in a T-47 airspeeder (or “snowspeeder”) at the Battle of Hoth. Together, they used a harpoon and tow cable to trip an AT-AT walker that was attacking Echo Base– the first victory of such a kind against the Imperial forces at Hoth. Janson is an excellent shot, but, as Antilles is in the cockpit, Janson’s piloting skills are not on display during the battle.
Janson, alongside fellow pilots Antilles and Derek Klivian, later flew an X-Wing as he helped to escort the Rebel forces escaping from Hoth. He successfully protected the Bright Hope, the final Rebel transport ship to leave the Echo Base, from an Imperial attack. After the Battle of Hoth, Janson’s fate is unknown– he does not reappear at the Battle of Endor– but he survived and succeeded in his mission keeping the Bright Hope out of harm’s way.
Astromech units are not usually considered pilots themselves, but R2-D2 does pilot Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing solo at the Battle of Hoth. When Luke changes course to go to Dagobah following Hoth, R2-D2 also offers to pilot as well. It is possible for R2-D2 to fly an X-Wing by himself.
While R2-D2 seems to be a wholly good pilo- – and has definitely seen his fair share of flying over the films– he does not have the same solo pilot credentials as some of the other pilots on this list. Given that astromechs do not regularly fly their own X-Wings and human pilots are a more expensive option, it is safe to assume that droid’s abilities are not equivalent to human pilots in combat situations. Perhaps in the future, R2-D2 (or another droid) could prove us wrong, but for the time being, R2-D2’s piloting abilities are more of a fail-safe if the human pilot is unavailable.
11. Ello Asty
Ello Asty is a Abednedo pilot who served as a Resistance pilot under General Leia. Asty was originally a member of the Republic’s precision air team, whose duties included performing in air shows and leading patrols. Asty was a skilled pilot, capable of impressive acrobatics and flying solo missions. Asty later chose to fly with the Resistance, where he piloted a T-70 X-wing fighter. He was a member of Blue Squadron when he flew alongside Poe Dameron on the assault on Starkiller Base. During the attack, however, Ello Asty was shot down and killed.
Ello Asty’s name is a possible reference to director J. J. Abrams’ television series LOST (his name being a phonetic pronunciation of each letter). Abrams has also connected the name as a reference to the Beastie Boys album “Hello Nasty”. On Asty’s helmet, written in Aurebesh, it reads, “Born to Ill”, a reference to another Beastie Boys album, “Licensed to Ill”.
10. Garven Dreis
Garven “Dave” Dreis was chosen from all of the pilots in the Rebel Alliance to lead Red Squadron as “Red Leader” when they flew on the first Death Star at the Battle of Yavin IV. If the mission against the Death Star failed, then the Rebel Alliance would cease to be, and all the individuals on Yavin IV would die. Given the grave nature of the mission and the importance of victory for the Rebel Alliance, Dreis must have been a senior and experienced pilot to have been selected to lead the assault on the Death Star as “Red Leader”.
In A New Hope (1977), Dreis is shown to be an excellent pilot, and like Biggs Darklighter, he survives numerous attacks until he is ultimately killed by Darth Vader. It is impossible to know if Dreis would have been able to survive the mission if he had not been flying against Vader.
9. Nien Nunb
Nien Nunb is a Sullustan smuggler and pilot who first joined the Rebel Alliance during the Galactic Civil War. He helped Evaan Verlaine in an effort to smuggle Alderaanians off his homeworld and later helped Lando Calrissian as the co-pilot of the Millenium Falcon at the Battle of Endor. It was not until The Force Awakens (2015), however, that Nien Nunb flew as an X-Wing pilot. As a Lieutenant Commander in the Starfighter Corps under General Leia, Nien Nunb flew alongside Poe Dameron as part of the successful assault against Starkiller Base. A seasoned veteran among the so-called “victory kids” (who were conceived around the Battle of Endor), Nien Nunb held his own as a pilot.
Nien Nunb is not known primarily as an X-Wing pilot, but he is one of the seven surviving pilots after the attack on Starkiller Base. He may continue to fly against the First Order in the upcoming Star Wars films.
8. Derek “Hobbie” Klivian
Derek Klivian– known as Hobbie to his fellow pilots– is a human X-Wing pilot who was originally trained as an Imperial pilot. Klivian, along with Wedge Antilles and their friend Rake Gahree, trained at the Skystrike Academy. After meeting the Rebel Sabine Wren, the three friends decided to defect and join the Rebel Alliance. Rake, unfortunately, was killed in the process, but Derek and Wedge escaped and joined the Rebels. Klivian would later return to the Imperial Academy and help to recruit Biggs Darklighter to join the Rebel Alliance.
At the Battle of Hoth, Hobbie shared a snowspeeder with Luke Skywalker, but he was forced to eject from the ship. He flew an X-Wing as one of the escorts for the Rebel ships escaping from the planet Hoth. Hobbie has had extensive training as a pilot, and that training has served him well in combat scenarios; he is clearly an experienced pilot who went on to help the Rebel cause against the Empire.
7. Snap Wexley
Temmin “Snap” Wexley is the son of a Rebel pilot, His mother, Norra Wexley, was a skilled pilot in her own right and flew a Y-Wing at the Battle of Endor. As a teenager, Snap flew in the Battle of Jakku with the Rebel Alliance, and later became a pilot in the Starfighter Corps of the Resistance. A renowned recon pilot, Snap investigated the First Order as a threat and helped to discover vital information about the covert and deadly Starkiller Base.
Snap Wexley first appeared in the novel Aftermath, but later appeared in The Force Awakens (played by Greg Grunberg, who previously worked with Abrams in Lost). At the time of the assault and destruction of Starkiller Base, Snap Wexley was a captain in Blue Squadron. He helped to carry out an effective attack on the First Order superweapon, alongside fellow pilots Ello Asty, Nien Nunb, Jessika Pava, and Poe Dameron.
6. Joph Seastriker
Joph Seastriker was a lieutenant on the precision air team member who flew in air shows for the New Republic. He later joined the Resistance as an X-Wing pilot, escorting General Leia in her ship Mirrorbright and accompanying her on dangerous missions throughout the galaxy. Seastriker was known for flying his X-Wing into tight spaces and doing risky maneuvers.
While his lack of regard for flight safety regulations caused the General distress, his expert piloting meant that he rescued her and saved the day on multiple occasions. Joph Seastriker was fiercely loyal to General Leia and to the Resistance’s cause. He was also a self-reliant pilot who was capable of taking care of and repairing his own ship with limited time and supplies. Seastriker’s adventures have only been discussed in Bloodline, but the novel demonstrates his exceptional experience and abilities. Hopefully Seastriker will return to the Resistance in further books and movies.
5. Jessika Pava
Jessika Pava is a Resistance pilot who flew a T-70 X-Wing against the forces of the First Order. As a member of the Starfighter Corps, Pava flew with Poe Dameron on a number of missions, including the assault on Starkiller Base. During the assault, she used the call sign Blue Three. Pava was also known as “Jess” and “Testor” by her pilot peers.
She was inspired to become a starship pilot after growing up hearing stories about the brave and talented Rebel pilots Wedge Antilles and Luke Skywalker. After joining the Resistance, she spoke to Threepio about Luke and he told her personal stories about his past adventures with Luke Skywalker and victories against the Galactic Empire.
Pava is an incredibly skilled pilot, both in the Poe Dameron comics and in the film The Force Awakens. In the latter, she covers Poe in the final attack on the Starkiller Base, ensuring its destruction.
4. Thane Kyrell
Thane Kyrell, one of the main characters from the canonical novel Lost Stars, left his family and went to the Royal Imperial Academy at a young age. He was on the elite track to fly TIE Fighters for the Galactic Empire, but after learning about the slave trade that the Empire supported and the destruction of the planet Alderaan by the Death Star, he began to doubt the motives of the Empire.
Much like Biggs Darklighter, Thane Kyrell chose to defect and become a member of the Rebel Alliance, joining the ranks of famous pilots like Luke Skywalker and Wedge Antilles. Trading in his TIE Fighter for an X-Wing, he flew against his former friends and his former lover Ciena Ree as a member of Corona Squadron in the Battle of Hoth, the Battle of Endor, and the Battle of Jakku. Antilles was impressed with Kyrell’s piloting skills, and Kyrell’s longevity as a pilot speaks to his ability to out-fly other pilots.
3. Wedge Antilles
Wedge Antilles is a Correllian pilot who flew with the Rebel Alliance against the Galactic Empire. Antilles is the only pilot who flew against both Death Stars, surviving the first Death Star’s deadly slaughter and helping to destroy (along with the Millennium Falcon) the second Death Star. Wedge was originally trained by the Imperial forces to fly TIE fighters as a cadet at Skystrike Academy. He chose to defect to the Rebel Alliance after meeting Sabine Wren.
Antilles is one of only two pilots, along with Luke Skywalker, from the original Red Squadron to survive the attack on the first Death Star. He also flew in the Battle of Hoth, led a recon mission against Imperial forces at the planet of Akiva, and helped in the liberation of the Wookiee planet Kashyyyk as the leader of Phantom Squadron. His service record to the Rebel Alliance is unmatched, and he helped to inspire the next generation of Resistance pilots.
2. Poe Dameron
Poe Dameron was born on the planet of Endor, the son of a Rebel Alliance soldier and a pilot. As early as the age of six, Poe learned was taught by his mother to fly an A-Wing. He served as a pilot as part of the Resistance, flying a specialized T-70 X-Wing with a dark hull called Black One. In a dogfight above Maz’s Castle on Takodana, Dameron illustrated how he could combine acrobatic maneuveurs with precision to deadly effect. He also led the assault on Starkiller base, successfully firing the finishing blow against the First Order superweapon. A talented and effortless pilot with decades of experience, Dameron is sure to be an asset to the Resistance in the years to come.
In Wedge Antilles’s defense, Poe Dameron captures many qualities of Antilles and his fellow pilots from the Star Wars Legends X-Wing series, and it seems that Dameron is Antilles’s spiritual successor.
1. Luke Skywalker
Luke Skywalker grew up flying T-16 skyhoppers on the desert planet of Tatooine. While he wanted to follow his friend Biggs Darklighter to the Imperial Academy in order to learn how to fly TIE Fighters and see the galaxy, Luke took a different path. Even as a young and relatively inexperienced pilot, Luke was confident about the mission against the first Death Star. Luke’s uncanny ability with the Force helped him to not only successfully survive the assault on the first Death Star– one of only two pilots to do so– but also allowed him to destroy the Death Star by successfully maneuveuring the trench and shooting into the exhaust vent.
Of course, Luke’s connection to the Force means that he is capable of feats that other pilots would not be able to accomplish, but as of now, he is the only canonical Force user to fly an X-Wing. While this may give him an unfair advantage over Wedge Antilles and Poe Dameron, it is an advantage nonetheless.
Who do you think is the best X-Wing pilot to fly in the Star Wars canon? Tell us in the comments!