The chorus to Learning to Fly by Tom Petty is as follows:

I'm learning to fly, but I ain't got wings
Coming down is the hardest thing

In what sense is the narrator "learning to fly" without wings? And why is "coming down" the hardest thing (given that there's no means to get "up into the air" in the first place)?

1 Answer 1


According to Rolling Stone magazine, http://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/tom-petty-50-greatest-songs-w506653/learning-to-fly-w506739, quote: "Petty claims to have gotten the words almost verbatim from watching a television interview with a pilot. "He said there's not much to learning to fly; the difficult thing is coming down, and I thought, 'Yeah, that's true,'" Petty recalled. The song, which also contains allusions to the just-ended Gulf War ("The sea may burn"), was pulled together in an evening with (Jeff) Lynne, who came up with chords to go under Petty's melody. It became one of his most inspirational tunes. "I wanted that song to be a kind of redemptive song," Petty said. "Only in the vaguest way." 

So in the most basic sense, the narrator is learning to fly the way any human without wings has to learn, in an aeroplane.

  • 2
    Just curious: why is this answer a community wiki?
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 0:22
  • As a fairly new user of this site, I am still finding my feet and learning by experience what makes a good answer. I have read, and I am still going over the help pages, but I'm not always sure my answer will be acceptable in line with this site's aims. So in this case, I made my answer a community wiki to protect my reputation, no doubt unnecessarily since the answer was accepted.
    – user1964
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 8:24
  • @Puzzlepumpkin I am not much used to the rules here, but I guess that "protect my reputation" is not what community wiki is for. Plus, if so, misusing features may hurt your reputation (at least the real one, not the 'points') Commented Jan 22, 2018 at 22:05

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