One of the great things about Star Wars is that it inspires endless debates and opinions on a wide array of topics. Best bounty hunter? Most powerful Jedi? Does Salacious Crumb have the best haircut in the saga? In that spirit, StarWars.com presents From a Certain Point of View: a series of point-counterpoints on some of the biggest — and most fun — Star Wars issues. In this installment, two StarWars.com writers make their argument for which pilot is the most gifted at evading, maneuvering, quick-thinking, and, of course, blasting TIEs — Hera or Han?
Han is the better pilot, says Kristin.
The odds, which he quite honestly doesn’t want to hear about, are not in Han Solo’s favor. As he narrowly escapes the Empire’s assault on Hoth at the helm of the Millennium Falcon, Solo’s brash veneer starts to crumble.
His beloved ship has just barely lurched out of harm’s way with a sputtering start, and there’s a blockade of Star Destroyers and TIE fighters ahead and C-3PO’s shrill-yet-well-meaning warnings in his ear.
But Captain Solo doesn’t break a sweat, as he deftly eases the Falcon into a swooping nosedive, flipping and twisting gracefully through the stars and, his confidence restored, prepares to jump to lightspeed in the denouement to his astronautic acrobatics.
He hits the controls and…nothing. Fast as she may be, his ailing freighter, as the droid had been trying to tell him, is suffering from a damaged hyperdrive motivator.
Undeterred and despite the fighters still on his tail, Solo leaves the cockpit to deal with the mechanical malfunction, only returning after the ship gets caught up in an asteroid field.
This is the moment when we see his full genius coalescing in a plan that is as daring as it is brilliant. It will require a perfect storm of cunning skill, courage, and sheer luck to pull it off.
“What are you doing?” a very worried Leia asks. “You’re not actually going into an asteroid field.”
“They’d be crazy to follow us, wouldn’t they?”
When evasions fail, and Solo can’t outrun his enemies, he aims to outsmart and outmaneuver them, by picking off the last of the enemy ships by dodging debris and rolling sideways to hug the rock face, once again defying the odds to land his bulky hunk of junk in a crater and buy enough time to make proper repairs. That’s the brilliance of Han Solo.
It’s tempting to imagine the feats he could achieve with a more reliable craft, but Solo owes a part of his success behind the controls to the vessel itself. After all, no other ship could make the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs, and it’s Solo’s intimate knowledge of the Falcon’s capabilities, the skillful modifications he’s installed over years of loving care, and the cooperation of a trusting and willing co-pilot in Chewbacca, that make some of his crazier stunts a success.
Sure, he can fly casual in a stolen Imperial Shuttle, but the elegant Imperial engineering, with its aerodynamic design and a cockpit that isn’t strangely side mounted like an afterthought on an otherwise symmetrical saucer, offers no excitement and sense of adventure.
And it’s an unsuitable fit for Solo’s brash charisma and gruff exterior. His unparalleled piloting skill can only fully shine when his adrenaline is pumping, whether trying to evade the Empire with a cargo haul full of smuggled spices or under enemy fire as a leader among the Rebels, he is at his best relying on his wits with but a moment to devise a means of survival. He doesn’t set out to save the day; he’s merely trying to save his own skin and live to swindle another day. For someone who is so quick to scoff at the Force, he frequently relies on his own intuition and faith in his ship to get by.
Neither man nor machine show any signs of slowing down when they’re reunited aboard the Eravana. Jumping to lightspeed takes precise calculations, but with experience and sheer luck Solo continues to test the bounds of space flight well into his twilight years, entering hyperspace from inside the Eravana‘s hangar and later reversing the tactic in his approach on Starkiller Base.
Bold confidence and a mercenary self-interest make for a convincing facade for our reluctant hero, but beneath it all he’s a shrewd and scrappy flyboy, and arguably the best pilot in the fastest ship in the galaxy.
Hera is the better pilot, says Patrick.
With the amount of risks, variables and uncertainty that come with any mission, it’s tough to describe the perfect pilot. You could place two highly-skilled pilots in the same exact situation, but with any slight variations in a ship’s condition, unexpected debris, or challenging adversaries, the experience could result in disaster for one pilot and success for another. More than reflexes, quick thinking, or courage, the most important skill for a pilot is their dedication to their mission, their crew, their ship, and their cause. In the world of Star Wars, no pilot has repeatedly proven their worth more times than Hera Syndulla, pilot of the Ghost, whose unwavering devotion to her team in the face of certain doom earns her the mantle of the best pilot in galaxy. By contrast, Han Solo is a brash, egotistical pilot who’s more interested in making sure he makes it out of any situation safely, regardless of how things go for his closest allies.
“We are fighting a bigger fight, but it’s still the right fight.” – Hera
Many pilots decided when they were young that they wanted to pursue the freedom and excitement of exploring the skies in their very own starship, but Hera was struck by a different kind of inspiration as a child. In the midst of a terrible conflict on her home planet between the clone army and the Separatists, Hera witnessed the carnage and knew what she was destined to become, even if it meant turning her back on her family. Against her father’s wishes to join the Twi’lek resistance, Hera knew the real path to freedom would come from joining the rebellion, even if she had to do it alone.
“We have hope. Hope that things can get better. And they will.” – Hera
If her devotion to a cause wasn’t a strong enough case for her superiority as a pilot, Hera has proven on multiple occasions that she has the skills to navigate and maneuver through the toughest and deadliest scenarios for any pilot. She is just as effective running cargo and carrying out search and rescue missions as she is escaping Darth Vader or confronting one of her biggest fears, the purrgil. The defining moment of her skills took place in the Star Wars Rebels Season Two episode “Wings of the Master.” When a mission takes her to the desolate system of Shantipole, Hera meets Quarrie, an engineer who built one of the most sophisticated and powerful vessels that could take on the toughest of the Empire’s blockades. Hera entered the cockpit, unaware of the ship’s capabilities, and after an initial, potentially fatal setback, Hera soared into the sky in this B-wing prototype in a way no other pilot ever could, or ever had. When Hera brought this ship back to the Rebel Alliance, she handed them a tool that would become integral to taking down the Empire, even though her mission was considered a “one way trip.”
Every good captain knows the value of taking care of their ship so that the two can seemingly function as one, with the pilot being an integral component of the ship’s inner workings and the ship merely being an extension of the pilot’s commands. Hera not only embraces this relationship, but understands how it extends to everything in the Ghost, including her crew. She adopts the role of leader, partner, teacher, student, and friend to anyone in her crew, much the way she always knows the right tool to make repairs to the Ghost.
There’s no doubting that Han Solo has proven his proficiency as a pilot time and time again, securing himself a place as one of the best pilots in the galaxy. From escaping the Death Star to giving a fleet of Star Destroyers the slip, Solo has accomplished feats many pilots could only dream of living through. Despite those heroics, Han Solo himself admitted early on, “I ain’t in this for your revolution, and I ain’t in it for you,” and all his achievements follow that motto. By comparison, Hera’s outlook is, “If all you do is fight for your own life, your life is worth nothing,” proving she’s the better pilot than Han could ever hope to be.
What do you think? Does Hera beat Han? Or is the legendary Rebel general more skilled? Let us know in the comments below!
Kristin Baver is a writer and all-around sci-fi nerd who always has just one more question in an inexhaustible list of curiosities. Sometimes she blurts out “It’s a trap!” even when it’s not. Follow her on Twitter @KristinBaver.
From Ackbar to Zuckuss, Patrick loves all things Star Wars. He has sworn to use all profits from selling his script “Who’s the Bossk?” to bring back the Decipher CCG. For more of his musings on Star Wars, horror movies, and comic books, you can find him tweeting as @TheWolfman.