As a crusader for refugees, a devoted mother of six, and a women's rights activist, Angelina Jolie is a modern-day renaissance person. So much so that, at this point, her Oscar-winning acting is simply an afterthought. So you'd be forgiven for not knowing that Jolie also happens to be a seasoned pilot, as she reminded the world in ITV's The Queen's Green Planet, which aired last night.
Jolie not only knows how to maneuver a plane—during sunset in the Namibia desert, no less—she can also flawlessly land one. "It's beautiful…I think it's the most beautiful place in the world," Jolie said to her copilot while up in the sky. As breathtaking as the views were, they weren't exactly something to celebrate. Jolie lifted off to take notice of how rapidly the desert is growing in the wake of climate change. "Even in the last decade [climate change] is so noticeable, and the expanding deserts," she said. "I love the deserts, but we don't want it expanding in such a way."
In the same documentary, Jolie spoke at length about the environment, even revealing how Queen Elizabeth II's conservation efforts have inspired her and her children. “For us to come here and say to the children, ‘This is why it’s important to plant a tree,’ that’s the biggest message I can teach my kids, and it’s something that they’ve certainly learned from Her Majesty and her message,” she said.
As for her pilot skills, Jolie has actually been certified to fly since 2004. (Though she had a brief hiatus while waiting for her paperwork to get renewed in 2013, which was, for some reason, a news item at the time, as E! reported.) It was in the U.K. that Jolie first took up lessons. "I learned to fly a few years ago in England," she told Vanity Fair in 2010. "When Maddox was one and a half, we used to go to the airfield, have lunch, and watch the planes. And it dawned on me: I could fly. So I promised him I would fly by his second birthday." Her favorite part about flying? "It's the only place I'm completely alone—up in the air, detached from everything." No doubt that matters now more than ever, as her and her estranged husband Brad Pitt's personal lives have come under scrutiny in the aftermath of their separation.