Flying the Friendly Skies

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI flies quite a bit, but he’s not the one steering the aircraft. Some Australian journalists who are here in Rome getting ready for the pope’s flight to their homeland tomorrow were telling my colleague Cindy Wooden they were sure the pope was an expert pilot who regularly flew the papal chopper when he needed to get around town.

It seemed a pretty preposterous assumption, but there it was right here (scroll down to fifth item) saying the German pontiff has a pilot’s license and that he likes to fly the papal helicopter from the Vatican to his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, about 15 miles from Rome.

But this and other Web sites weren’t the only ones saying the pope knew how to fly; New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (who does fly a helicopter) had read a newspaper headline ahead of the pope’s April visit to N.Y. saying just as much. The mayor even asked the pope about it when they met on the steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

While it may be true the pope does not have a license to drive a car, he certainly does not have a pilot’s license, Vatican spokesmen confirmed that in New York and again today in Rome. 

Professional pilots fly the papal helicopter and plane and the pope gets to sit back, relax and enjoy the flight.

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