"Learning to Fly" is the second song on Pink Floyd's album A Momentary Lapse of Reason. The first single released from the album, it reached number 70 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart and number 1 on the Billboard Album Rock Tracks chart in September, 1987, remaining three consecutive weeks at the top position in the autumn of the same year. Meanwhile, the song failed to chart on the official U.K. top 40 singles charts.
The song was primarily written by David Gilmour. It describes Gilmour's thoughts on flying, for which he has a passion (being a licensed pilot with multipleratings), though it has also been interpreted as a metaphor for beginning something new, experiencing a radical change in life, or, more specifically, Gilmour's feelings about striking out as the new leader of Pink Floyd after the departure of Roger Waters. Gilmour confirmed the latter interpretation on the Pink Floyd 25th Anniversary Special in May 1992. Also an avid pilot, drummer Nick Mason's voice can be heard at around the middle of the song. "Learning to Fly" was included on Pink Floyd's greatest hits collection Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd.
The track was regularly performed live on the band's two post-Roger Waters tours, with touring guitarist Tim Renwick playing the song's guitar solos (although David Gilmour played the solos on the studio version of the track). A live version is included on Delicate Sound of Thunder and Pulse. At the end of the final solo in both versions, a guitar lick from the second verse of "Young Lust" ("Oooh, baby set me free") is played.
The music video was directed by Storm Thorgerson and filmed on West Wind Ridge, a mountain in Kananaskis Country near Canmore, located some 50 to 75 km west of the city of Calgary, Alberta during rehearsals for the band's A Momentary Lapse of Reason Tour. The video combined performances of the band with a Native American, played by Canadian actor Lawrence Bayne, working in a field who then runs and jumps off a cliff to turn into an eagle. The footage of the stage show shows the band performing "Learning to Fly" but features the more colourful light-show used for live performances of "One of these Days". The original video also depicts a factory worker who turns into an aeroplane pilot as well as a child who breaks free from his mother and dives off a cliff into a deep river, swimming away. The video went to #9 on MTV's Video Countdown in November 1987 and was the #60 video of MTV's Top 100 Videos of 1987. The video won the band its only MTV Video Music Award for "Best Concept Video" in 1988. The red/orange airplane is a Beech Model 17 Staggerwing.
- Pink Floyd
- Additional musicians