Flying is the quintessential superhero power. Images of a conspicuously dressed figure landing fast from the sky and taking off just as spectacularly have been part of our obsession with superheroes forever. Flight lets superheroes swoop in to save the day and travel to fantastic places at speeds we can hardly fathom. Heroes use various methods of flight, and some heroes' powers of airborne travel are more impressive than others.
With flight being such a common power among superheroes, we decided to create a list of the most unique, the most impressive and the most iconic superheroes who can take to the sky. We’re focusing on characters who can actually sustain flight, not just glide or leap great heights, and characters who can fly with their own powers, not with the help of a vehicle. Here are our picks for the 16 Superheroes with the Greatest Flight Powers.
Warren Worthington III was one of the founding members of Charles Xavier’s X-men. Known as Angel, Warren’s mutation gave him spectacular feathered wings that he could use to fly. He hid his mutation from his wealthy parents throughout his childhood and operated as a costumed superhero known as Avenging Angel until he met Professor X.
Angel’s most impressive flight powers would only be unlocked by Apocalypse when he made Angel into Archangel and raised him to serve as his Horseman of Death. His own mutant wings were augmented into Techno-Organic wings. Not only were the Techno-Organic wings faster and stronger than his natural aerial capabilities, they could convert some of their wing tips into a volley of projectile weapons and shoot them at targets. Even after reverting to Angel, his Techno-Organic capabilities would remain latent in his being. When sufficiently stressed, his powers granted by the Death Seed can reemerge, though Warren can’t easily retain control of his powers in this state.
15 HAWKMAN AND HAWKGIRL
Carter Hall and Shiera Sanders have always been together in some form or another. Centuries ago, they were Prince Khufu and Chay-Ara of Ancient Egypt. They were cursed when they were both murdered by the treacherous priest Hath-Set using a knife made of the Nth Metal. They were reincarnated over and over again, until the 20th Century, when Carter Hall regained his memories of his Ancient Egyptian life and created his heroic persona of Hawkman. Shiera Sanders soon joined him as Hawkgirl. They are still destined to wander the earth for each other only to be killed again when they reunite, but at least they get to fly as part of the Justice League.
Each of their impressive sets of wings let them take to the air like the birds of their namesake. Like the rest of their costumes, the wings are constructed at least partially from the Nth Metal. This allows them amazing maneuverability while airborne and they can reach speeds up to 225 miles per hour.
Samuel Guthrie was the son of a coal mining family in Kentucky who decided to work in the mines to support his family after his father died from coal respiratory conditions. On his very first day on the job, Sam and his father’s friend Lewis were trapped in a cave in. That’s when his explosive mutant powers manifested and let him propel himself out of the rubble.
Throughout his career in the X-men, New Mutants and Avengers, Guthrie made spectacular use of his abilities as Cannonball. His powers are technically called thermo-chemical energy field propulsion but it means that he can generate explosive forces from any point on his body to propel himself at high speeds over tremendous distances. For having an arguably crude means of flight, Samuel was able to control his direction and speed midflight at will. His powers allowed him great mobility and also great destructive force, which he has used to defeat foes such as Gladiator.
13 MS. MARVEL/CAPTAIN MARVEL
Carol Danvers always dreamed of space travel and visiting distant planets. She defied her father’s wishes and joined the Airforce, then NASA and eventually became involved in the Interstellar war with the Kree. She was accidentally thrown into a Kree Psyche-Magnitron which altered her genetic structure and transformed her into a superhuman.
Carol Danvers took on several different super identities as she discovered more and more of her powers. As Ms. Marvel she was a controversial if powerful member of the X-men and New Avengers. After Mar-Vell sacrificed himself to save Earth from the Phoenix Force, Carol took of the mantle of Captain Marvel. He powers of flight are pronounced as a result of her altered genetics and absorbing several powers throughout her career. She’s been able to achieve speeds three times the speed of sound and managed to defeat Iron Man in a midair fight during Civil Warr II.
For being the deity offspring of Odin and Gaea, one superpower Thor surprisingly lacks to any great innate degree is flight. His heritage and his training make him of the toughest and most powerful beings in the universe, even among a cosmic race like the Asgardians, but he’s rarely been capable of levitation without his birthright hammer Mjolnir.
Odin ordered the Dwarves of Nidavellir to forge Mjolnir out of a deposit of Uru in which the All-father had trapped a God Tempest. Mjolnir’s enchantment greatly enhances all of Thor’s powers since only the worthy may hold and wield it. By gripping Mjolnir’s hammer and holding it aloft, Thor can fly at incredible speeds. He has been able to reach speeds that render him invisible to the naked eye and even surpass the speed of light if he really applies himself. Thor can also make Mjolnir fly through the air at several times the speed of light, transforming it into a trans-dimensional projectile weapon.
11 BLACK CONDOR
Several different extraordinary people have carried the name Black Condor in DC comics. The first Black Condor was Richard Grey Jr. His power of flight was caused by exposure a radioactive meteor even though he believed he had been raised by a flock of condors in the wilderness. Ryan Kendell was visited by an apparition of Richard Grey during his term as the Black Condor.
The most recent man to bear the name and powers of Black Condor is John Trujillo, who is descended from the Native American Mayans. His powers were gifted to him by Tocotl, a Mayan Goddess of spiders. His wings naturally extend from his back at his shoulder blades and let him take to the skies at tremendous speed. He’s also blessed with Aerokinetic powers that let him enhance his flight and conjure powerful winds that can harass his enemies. He can even conjure whirlwinds to knock out his enemies with concussive force.
10 THE WASP
The Wasp Suit designed by the prodigious physicist Hank Pym operated on his discovery of “Pym Particles” and let the suit shrink to insectoid sizes but still wield powerful physical forces. Hank originally made the suit for his wife Janet van Dyne. The pair of them would become noteworthy superheroes in their own right as Ant-Man and the Wasp. Janet was (supposedly, given that it’s comics) killed during a battle with the Skrulls. Sometime later Hank’s daughter, Nadia Pym, discovered the Wasp suit designed by her father and retrofitted it for her own use.
The suit is equipped with a pair of bio-synthetic wings that let the user fly when shrunken down to insect size. The high tech wings offered great maneuverability and speed, letting the Pyms zoom around their opponents dodging attacks and harassing their targets. The wings are also functional when Janet or Nadia are near their full human size.
9 DR. STRANGE
Being the Master of the Mystic Arts and the Sorcerer Supreme comes with a lot of perks. Doctor Steven Strange went through a long quest of tribulations and searches to commune with the Ancient One and eventually claim the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme. His magical powers are vast so you could certainly surmise that levitating himself through time and space would be within the purview of his abilities.
His own magical energy allows him to fly. But his preferred method of flight is the Cloak of Levitation, one of his primary artifacts that enhance his powers and signify his title. The Cloak allows Dr. Strange to fly at considerable speed through all the dimensions he can travail. The Cloak is also a powerful weapon in Dr. Strange’s arsenal. Nearly indestructible, the Cloak can act of its own volition and act like a third hand to the Sorcerer supreme. Does it consciously billow in such epic fashion whenever Dr. Strange makes an entrance?
Since his superhero moniker is inspired by a well-known bird of prey, you would expect Sam Wilson’s power of flight to be considerable. Falcon’s wing harness doesn’t disappoint. In the comics the harness Wilson wears while in costume projects a hard light construct of wings with a wingspan up to 50 feet. Such fabulous technology was actually gifted to Wilson by Black Panther and the scientists of Wakanda. Using a cybernetic link in his mask, Wilson can reconfigure the hard light wings into several different cruise configurations.
The top speed of Falcon’s wings is not specifically known, but the most impressive aspect of the wings is their agility. Wilson can keep pace with and outmaneuver several of the fastest fliers in Marvel’s line up including Iron Man. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe we see several instances where Wilson manipulates the extension and position of his wings to land devastating takedowns against ground targets.
7 IRON MAN
Tony Stark may not be a physically astounding super human, but his incredible mind has fashioned a flying machine to rival gods and aliens. The evolving incarnations of the Iron Man suit all sport sophisticated and devastating weapons arsenals, and they all can let their pilot fly like a jet fighter. Better than a jet fighter, in fact.
Recent incarnations of Iron Man’s armor have been recorded reaching speeds in excess of Mach 10. But that’s only the beginning. Stark has been able to engineer specialized suits, and push the limits of his suit, to even more extreme speeds. He’s been able to achieve orbital escape velocity from Earth which is a dizzying speed of five miles a second. The Iron Man suit has even reached speeds high enough to escape the gravitational pull of black holes. The suit is also incredibly agile. Stark has been able to outmaneuver Spider-Man and the Human Torch while flying it.
Some mutant powers just plain suck for the user. In the X-men Comics, Anna-Marie, aka Rogue, has the power to absorb the life force of other human beings through touch. This also lets her absorb the powers of other mutant temporarily but the victims become severely weakened. If the contact is prolonged, the damage could be permanent or even fatal.
Understandably, she’s had a rough time socializing or getting close to anyone, but her mutation has led to some pretty impressive combinations of powers. Recently in the comics she’s permanently absorbed the powers of Wonder Man during the Avengers fight with the Chronos Corps. Among many of his powers she now has thanks to him is flight. Rogue can lift herself and fly through the air at considerable speeds, up to 700 miles per hour. It’s especially impressive that she can control these spectacular powers despite not having grown up with them.
5 HUMAN TORCH
Johnny Storm arguably got the coolest and least awkward mutation from the cosmic rays out of all in Reed Richard’s crew who became the Fantastic Four. Transforming into a humanoid flame figure and flying around like a comet is certainly flashy. The cosmic ray gave Storm the ability to convert portions of his body into a hot plasma. Among the incredible transformative and destructive possibilities of such power, the chemical process allows Storm to fly.
The soundest explanation for his flying capability is that while in plasma form, Storm generates and aura of mono-atomic hydrogen around his body. The hot, low-density cloud lets Storm float in Earth’s regular atmosphere and using plasma surges from his feet, the Human Torch can propel his buoyant form through the air at great speeds. He has been known to reach speeds up to and exceeding 140 miles per hour and was even able to catch up to beings like the Silver Surfer by accelerating to supersonic speeds.
Like all Kryptonians within range of a yellow sun, Kara Zor-El’s innate physiology and mental faculties are enhanced to spectacular degrees by human standards. Besides her incredible, strength, durability and perception across all senses and spectrums, Kara can fly along with the best of them. She can manipulate graviton particles to counter act the forces of gravity in her environment and achieve flight with spectacular results. This has let her do battle with many world-threatening forces and super villains and let her cross great distances around the globe and through space. And unlike other means of achieving flight, she can subtly manipulate graviton particles to simply float through the air in any posture she chooses.
Kara has been shown to combine her powers of flight with her incredible strength and speed to act as a devastating fighter. She’s fought to protect Metropolis and New Krypton alongside her cousin Superman, Batman, and plenty of other members of the Justice League.
3 GREEN LANTERN
Hal Jordan became the Green Lantern when Abin Sur’s ship crash landed on Earth and his power ring chose Jordan to be Abin Sur’s successor. He was inducted into the interstellar Green Lantern Corps. and went on to become the greatest Green Lantern ever. His powers come from the mantle of the Green Lantern Ring that responds to Hall Jordan’s skills and willpower.
Although the Green Lantern Ring’s main power is conjuring energy constructs for any purpose the wielder can imagine, flight it also well within the wielder’s purview. Kind of necessary for interstellar peace keeping force. At the user’s will, the ring can emit a field of anti-gravitons that let them take flight. In atmosphere, the ring also creates an aerodynamic cone around the user to let them reach speeds up to Mach 10. In open space, Hal Jordan and other Green Lantern Corps members have been easily able to reach velocities exceeding light speed.
2 SILVER SURFER
Norrin Radd was born a citizen of the planet Zenn-La. Even though the planet had become content with hedonistic pursuits since developing a utopic society, Norrin Radd was encouraged to pursue knowledge and achievement. He was transformed into the iconic Silver Surfer by Galactus and agreed to become his herald in exchange for sparring Zenn-La from being consumed by Galactus.
Gifted with the Power Cosmic by Galactus, the Silver Surfer possesses many powers on near peerless levels. Flight is perhaps his most iconic power. He can easily travel faster than light. In traversing the cosmos for planets suitable for consumption by Galactus, he can enter hyperspace and cross vast interstellar distances in moments. His powers of traversal are greatly enhance by his Cosmic Surfboard. It is made of the same silvery ‘galactic glaze’ that the Surfer is made of and lets him fly at incredible speeds without expending any of his own cosmically generated energy.
Superman has been rebooted, retconned and explored in alternate realities, but one power of his that’s almost always there is his power of flight. No other superhero has a famous musical cue by John Williams that instantly conjures an image of a handsome man in blue and red, soaring through the air, arms-outstretched with his cape billowing behind him.
While plenty of Kryptonians in Earth’s Solar System have their powers enhanced by the yellow sun, Superman has dedicated his life to honing his powers so that he may better protect the innocent. Whether flying or on the ground, Superman is one of the fastest beings in the universe. He can easily reach supersonic speeds. Just one of the many examples of his astounding speed in the comics is when he traveled the distance between Earth and the star Vega, a 25 lightyear journey, in a matter of seconds. That would mean that he can fly a million times faster than the speed of light.
Are there any other superheroes whose powers of flight rank among these greats? Let us know in the comments!