In Star Wars, Luke flies an X-Wing in the attack on the Death Star. My question is, why was he allowed to fly? He had no X-Wing piloting experience. Even in WWII pilots needed at least a dozen hours flying experience before they were thrown into the battle of Brittain.

The question becomes even more perplexing given the following (movie mentioned) facts:

1) Only 30 fighters were sent against the Death Star; and 2) There were hundreds of other rebels on the base.

For that matter, why did the rebels only send 30 ships against the Death Star?

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    2 reason's i would think, first they only had 29 pilots, which is why they were willing to take luke even though he had no X-wing experience. 2nd, it was meant to be a small "harmless" attack. not that i think they had a fleet ready anyway, it was a small hideout not a full on base.
    – Himarm
    Commented Oct 1, 2014 at 13:02
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    To add to your point, Battle of Britain Spitfire pilots had more than 10 hours minimum hours on either the Spitfire or Hurricane when posted to front line squadrons, but by the time they arrived at the Operational Conversion Units to gain that experience they had been flying for a few hundred hours in various training types.
    – Moo
    Commented Oct 1, 2014 at 13:14
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    If you include the story from the novel Death Star the Rebels had just lost 500 x-wings and their crews in an earlier attack on the Death Star. As such, I get the feeling they were pretty much throwing up anyone who had a hope in hell in being able to fly. As it happens, Luke (as referenced by Biggs in the extended edition) just happens to be an excellent pilot and also the only pilot capable of making the shot due to the Force. Commented Oct 1, 2014 at 14:12
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    When you're up against the wall, you use what you have. Same reason they put Randy Quaid in a F-16 for Independence Day.
    – Omegacron
    Commented Oct 1, 2014 at 14:31
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    Luke mentions he can pilot a t16, plus, It's a rebellion. You take what you can get in that situation. Do you think a fat-arse like porkins could join a military unit at any other time? The rebels were desperate. They would take anyone who could fly. If Luke had a chance of flying an xwing and they needed a pilot then they would definitely get him to suit up. Especially considering that it was made quite clear by Grand Moff Tarkin that if the Empire succeeded then it would mean an end to the rebellion.
    – user64192
    Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 6:18

5 Answers 5


There is a deleted scene from the theatrical release of Star Wars in which the rebel leader expresses some skepticism over whether Luke can fly an X-wing. But Biggs Darklighter, Luke's friend from Tatooine, vouches for him.

LEADER: You sure you can handle this ship?

BIGGS: Sir, Luke is the best bush pilot in the Outer Rim Territories.

Apparently, when the scene was added to the 1997 special edition, they left off even more dialogue where one of the rebel leaders reveals he knew Luke's father. This has probably been retconned out of existence, but it would provide another reason he trusted Luke's abilities.

There is another scene added from the radio play that justifies the rebel leader's decision. Luke is made to fly in a simulation to prove his worth.

Leaving Leia to pacify an enraged Han, Luke joins Biggs Darklighter, who tests his flying abilities using a flight simulator. It is revealed by Commander Willard that Luke was only "killed" twice, despite Biggs pitting him against the virtual equivalent of the entire Imperial Starfleet. (Whether Willard was actually exaggerating or not is left for the listener to determine, though regardless Luke does well enough that the Rebels are willing to put him into a starfighter for the assault.)

As for why Luke was such a good pilot to begin with, I think the example of Luke's father Anakin is illustrative. In The Phantom Menace, Anakin jumps into a Naboo starfighter with R2D2 and is able to fly it because he has experience piloting racing pods. To at least some degree, it appears that flying land crafts on Tatooine prepares one for piloting small speedy starfighters. Keep in mind that Luke also has an astromech droid and targeting computers to fill in the gaps in his knowledge.

As for why they only sent 30 ships, I think that's just probably all they had. The number of ships sent in defense of the Hoth base was equally paltry.

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    “one of the rebel leaders reveals he knew Luke's father... it would provide another reason he trusted Luke's abilities”. Really? “Oh yeah, Darth Vader’s his dad. Give him one of our ships and let him loose.” Commented Oct 1, 2014 at 12:44
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    @PaulD.Waite It is likely that most people had no idea Anakin had become Vader.
    – phantom42
    Commented Oct 1, 2014 at 12:47
  • But it was common knowledge that Anakin was a Jedi. So he might have also been counting on the fact that Luke was a force-sensitive. Commented Oct 1, 2014 at 15:04
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    @TenthJustice - You may want to mention that Luke had already had experience of orbital craft as well, the T-16 Skyhopper.
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 4, 2014 at 20:08
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    @TenthJustice Since Jedi were not supposed to be married name aside, it's doubtful anyone even had an idea that Luke was the son of a Jedi. Remember, very few people knew that Anakin was a father at all to begin with. Even Luke only thought that Anakin was just a navigator on a spice freighter.
    – phantom42
    Commented Oct 4, 2014 at 21:19

Luke owned and flew a T-16 Skyhopper on Tatooine. He is even seen playing with a model of one in A New Hope.

enter image description here

As stated in many sources, the controls for the T-16 Skyhopper were very similar to the controls of an X-Wing fighter. So much so that the rebels used them to train pilots. T-16's were a ubiquitous vehicle and therefore easy enough for the Rebels to get their hands on for training purposes, much more so than X-Wings.



This has been addressed in a couple of canon sources.

  • His impressive scores in the simulator were a major factor.

    His body was trembling a little, late catching up to the strain he’d subjected it to in trying to keep up with the pace of the simulator. The fatigue felt weirdly good; it meant he’d done something right and gone all out in the process. “Only because you helped me,” he replied.
    “When you write your autobiography, be sure to include that, okay? ‘I owe everything to Wedge Antilles’!” Wedge and the other pilots laughed. One of them wrote Luke’s name at the top of the score chart, and Luke felt pride wash over him.
    But he wouldn’t let himself celebrate yet. He wrung his hands in front of him, looking among their faces. “Do you think I passed?”
    One of the older pilots, his hair flecked with gray, looked at Luke, eyes shining. “Commander Willard will review the results, but I think it’s safe to start fitting you for a jumpsuit. That is, if you still want to join our squadron?”

    A New Hope: The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy

  • He'd had personal recommendations from Bigg and Leia

    “Fourth flight will be led by the new kid, Luke Skywalker,” Dreis said.
    That was not expected. The pilots muttered and exchanged startled looks.
    “The womp rat kid?” Col demanded, drawing an exasperated look from Puck.
    “Is that what we’re calling him?” Dreis asked. “He’ll fly as Red Five—assuming his simulator run checks out. Before anyone else has something to say, remember that without Skywalker the princess would have been executed—and we’d be going up against that battle station with nothing but prayers.”

    Star Wars: Duty Roster

    enter image description here

  • I gave you +1 for the effort, but as I said earlier, it just digs bigger plot hole. In the movie, as soon as Leia, Luke and other arrive on Yavin 4, Death Star appears too. I don't think there would be time to run detailed simulator flights&fights. youtube.com/watch?v=0kxPJ_DLS-E
    – rs.29
    Commented Dec 9, 2018 at 8:32
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    @rs.29 - In the canon timeline there's a few hours difference between their arrival and the Death Star turning up. Time enough to land, for Han to have an argument about getting paid, to analyse the data in R2 and have a briefing about it, etc.
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 9, 2018 at 8:33
  • Pennies on the dollar, my dear friend. Kid appears in military base during the war, there is a major battle coming, he only flew prop trainers, yet they let him do simulator runs for F-22 (or Su-57 if you prefer Russians :D ) and then send him to fight while certified pilots with experience remain grounded. As i said, it could all have been better if they simply stated "We don't have enough men, and situation is desperate, so we will risk with you" .
    – rs.29
    Commented Dec 9, 2018 at 8:53
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    @rs.29 - Kid appears in military base during the war. Told by experienced pilot that he's some kind of hot-shot savant from his home planet. Recommended by leader of the rebellion as a Jedi-in-training. Takes a quick simulator test and scores off the charts...
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 9, 2018 at 8:56

They are just Rebels. They’re scrappy. They probably only had 30 ships, and by the same token, they probably didn’t have many pilots capable of flying them.

It’s established that Luke is a good pilot (or at least believes himself to be), and — although I think the scene was deleted — Luke knew one of the other rebel pilots, who vouched for his ability.

I guess the X-Wing is similar enough to the craft Luke had flown that he was able to handle it proficiently.


In the histories of WWII that I have read, the most precious resource in air power was the air crew. Not everyone can be a pilot (the physical is very stringent), and after that it takes weeks if not months to turn the applicant into a competent pilot. The US Air Force values them so highly that there is a special forces unit whose primary role is to rescue pilots downed behind enemy lines.

With automation in the SW universe, it should be much, much cheaper to build the ships, even the space-faring ones which we can expect to be much more advanced, but it still takes roughly the same amount of time to turn civilians into combat personnel.

Given that the Rebellion has its back to the wall at the moment, they really don't have anything to lose, unless Luke were so hopeless as a pilot that he would be more of a danger to his squad mates as he would be to the enemy. With Biggs (as seen in some releases) and Leia (not seen, but can be presumed) to vouch for him, there's no good reason to make him sit the battle out.

  • Well that was why I asked the question. Pilots are usually highly trained and highly specialised. I think in the Star Wars Universe we must assume that UX design has gotten so good that even a lowly moisture farmer can adjust to the controls of a sophisticated space fighter.
    – Stephen
    Commented Feb 18, 2019 at 6:31
  • Downvoter: I've made an edit to address how this relates to the question.
    – EvilSnack
    Commented Feb 19, 2019 at 2:17

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