The way flight works in Pokémon is not consistent if you based it off the games. On one hand, there are Flying-types that could lift trainers ten times their weight, but on the other hand, a heavy Flying-type cannot do the same. There are even Flying-types that do not take advantage of their aerial abilities, but some Pokémon that can fly are affected by the ground.
In this article, I will deal with three topics at once. If you are ready with this, you may proceed.
It’s a Bird!
The Flying-type is what it claims to be: a type where the Pokémon flies in air. Birds are one thing, but it doesn’t have to be just birds. Even flying insects or flying dragons can be part of the action. Despite this, not all Flying-types seem to actually be fliers.
In recent history, any bird that do not actually fly are rightfully not a Flying-type, as we have seen with Blaziken and Empoleon. The most notable exception to this rule are Duduo and Dodrio, both being birds that aren’t built for flying since the birds they are based on cannot fly (instead, they run), but yet could still do it.
In fact, the Flying-type has a lot of things in common with birds. A brief history on this: the Flying-type used to be considered the “Bird-type”, and looking at a lot of Generation 1 Flying-types, the majority are birds. It could be speculated that unlike Bugs, “Bird-type” do not provide a lot of possibilities, so to open up to more winged Pokémon, they made it a Flying-type. This gave way to things like Charizard, Scyther and the winged insects.
Even with this, elements that the Flying-type is supposed to be a Bird-type lingered. For one, there are moves that are bird-related, such as Brave Bird, Peck and Drill Peck. Another thing is the item that boosts Flying-type attacks is called a “Sharp Beak”. Type interactions have birds as the basis of advantages and disadvantages, for their advantage over Grass and Bug alludes to their position in the food chain, whereas plants and the wind do not have any inherent advantages over the other.
In the end, while Flying-types is meant for wind-related things and anything that flies, it will always have its roots and connections as a bird-related type.
Another oddity with Flying-types is lifting anything heavier than them. It’s a common gag to point out that smaller birds like Pidgey and Spearow are capable of lifting trainers that are clearly heavier than them, and the occasional reality check that ensued.
Of course, Pokémon is a fantasy series, so reality is not always there to spoil the fun. This is illustrated in the manga, where Murkrow could life even youths without too much of a struggle. If weight restrictions become a worry, it would be even harder to fulfill the fantasy of flying anywhere, especially for those heavy ones.
To be fair, the purpose of Fly is to allow trainers to get anywhere on the go, so to make this move widely available (to Flying-types) is an advantage because of the convenience. There are some non-Flying-types that could do this (most notably Golurk, a Pokémon that is not normally flying), but those have at least the strength to lift trainers.
There is also another group of Flying-types that look like they could lift trainers, but they cannot learn Fly. Scyther is a commonly cited example, being one of the Pokémon that cannot life trainers. Ironically, Flying-type insects cannot learn it, but the two that could (Volcarona and Genesect) aren’t Flying. It could be reasoned that insects cannot carry trainers without being squashed, which is odd, since birds are not succumbed by this limitation.
So basically, the rules on who could lift trainers to different places is both consistent (Flying-types) and inconsistent (weight issues). It’s an odd issue that is ripe for the picking when it comes to jokes, and even now, people might still joke about it.
Pseudo-mobility in air
Now, what about the Pokémon that are not Flying-type or can levitate, yet are always shown to be hovering above the ground? I am not referring to swimmers that look like they are flying in battles, so a Seaking in air is not what I meant by “pseudo-mobility in air”, though it’s still funny to think about it.
For example, various Ghost- and Psychic-types are shown to always be in air, such as Solosis and Yamask, yet they could still be affected by the ground, such as Spikes. Some magnetic Pokémon like Magnemite and Probopass follow the same principle of levitating, yet is still affected by the ground.
That is interesting mainly because some of them clearly cannot move on the floor if it weren’t for their ability to levitate. Is a Magnemite able to move around if it cannot levitate? Its lack of legs means that mobility is not possible this way.
Amusingly, the Air Balloon doesn’t look big, but it is capable of lifting the heaviest Pokémon from the ground regardless of the balloon’s inability to carry them. A Metagross or Aggron being lifted this way is an amusing sight, at least. It even works on Diglett, a Pokémon that is prepetually stuck to the ground.
The Sky Battle, even though it allows for Pokémon that are Flying-type or have Levitate, disallows some Pokémon from the action, including Dodrio and Gengar. The most likely reason for this embargo could be their animation, which show them on the ground. Sky Battles are possibly not seen as a main battle, so leaving out some fan-favourites might be seen as a non-issue.
What would happen if not only do those who are qualified for Sky Battles are allowed there, but Pokémon with the ability to fly, such as Garchomp, Golurk and so on? Well, it would be a more interesting game because it would reduce the centralisation of Electric, Ice and Rock attacks. Do note that most Ground attacks are not allowed (strongest is Drill Run), so Ground attackers are not going to use their usual attacks.
Speaking of moves, some moves that do not target the ground somehow would miss anything that flies. Bonemareng, an aerial attack, seems like it should bypass the Ground immunity, but it doesn’t affect the flying Pokémon. If some of these moves could bypass the Ground immunity, they would have some uses. So far, only one Ground attack could do this, but that one is a legendary signature move.
If pseudo-mobility in air is eventually implemented to remove the “pseudo” in the equation, we would see more Pokémon with a Ground immunity, which would make battles less on stats and more on the appearance, which is fine if made clear, since it would give a more realistic slant in battles.
The observation of pseudo-mobility in air is also something to joke about, but it’s something that would be cool if reality is altered to give them a safety net from the ground.
So there you have it. The topic on what could fly is a difficult one to understand, because the decisions does not necessarily follow a pattern that could easily be understood. It would be a long time before this could be sorted out, possibly forever since rules like this cannot be altered without causing too much relearning. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much I have writing it.
Thanks for reading.