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- "Sometimes, you have to do the wrong stuff to find out what the right stuff really is."
- —Ms. Frizzle
Taking Flight is the ninth episode of the second season of The Magic School Bus. It is about flight.
Wanda and Tim have built a model airplane together ("based on Wanda's dream and idea") for a model air show. Ms. Frizzle has arrived via glider and checks the wind conditions for the airplane so it can go flying in the show. Arnold is worried that they will go on a field trip and shrink inside the plane, and Ms. Frizzle likes the idea. Liz turns on the Portashrinker and gives it to Phoebe, who shrinks her classmates and Ms. Frizzle. She, Tim, and Liz stay on the ground to operate the remote control as the students get in the plane, which takes off in the air. Phoebe gets a hold of the remote control and pushes the right lever down, causing the plane to tilt up. Dorothy Ann reads in her book that when the plane's nose tip up and slims down, it is known as a stall. Phoebe pulls the plane up just in time to keep it from crashing. Unfortunately, Tim trips over a pair of binoculars, which causes him to drop the remote control and it gets smashed to the ground as the plane continues flying uncontrollably.
Tim, Phoebe and Liz get in the Bus and make it transform into a plane. Unfortunately because of its impractical design, it cannot make moving air to create lift. Meanwhile, Wanda is left steering the plane, which suddenly drops due to Ralphie impetuously turning a lever attached to the side down, which causes the wings to fold. The other students quickly push the wings back down and Ralphie locks them again as the plane regains altitude. The class learn that moving thin air is what's holding up the wings.
Meanwhile, Tim, Phoebe, and Liz try to turn the Bus into various different airplanes. They transform it into a motor plane with ten wings, but it is too heavy for the air to hold up and collapses. The class in the model airplane continue to fly through the air until the motor dies and propeller stops turning. Dorothy reads in her book that the propeller keeps the plane moving forward, and when it slows down the plane falls and eventually crashes into a tree.
Meanwhile, the Bus becomes a Wright Flyer and it finally gains enough altitude to fly in the air. When The Magic School Biplane is about to crash into the city hall, Liz transforms it into an wartime plane and it flies higher to the sky. While their plane is still stuck in the tree, the class remember that air moving across the wings is what made the model plane fly before and that the moving air causes its lift. When a bald eagle lands on top of the tree branch, Wanda suggests that the class should use the eagle to tow them back up into the air. Arnold adds that birds flap their wings in order to stay in the air and Ms. Frizzle suggests having the class use bike pedals to make the propeller turn.
While Tim and Phoebe begin their search, the class use an eagle to get them back in air by tying one end of a rope to the plane and the other end on the eagle's talons as it flies in the air. The other students pedal with all of their strength to move the propeller as Arnold unties the rope, only to end up flying along with the eagle.
Arnold clings hard to the rope and gradually manages to climb up and onto the eagle's back. He notices its tail moving back in forth through the wind and uses it to steer to the flying model airplane. Wanda grabs the rope and Arnold slides down and onto the airplane as the eagle flies away. The class continues to pedal, only for the plane to go out of control. Since Arnold did well with the eagle, he is given the job of steering the plane by pushing and pulling on the rudder. Before long, the plane ends up in the model air show, as does the bus-plane. Liz transforms the bus into an airline plane and the class manages to land safely on its roof.
Later, at the air show, Wanda explains the physics of flight (in rhyme) and she and Tim win the trophy, which they share with the rest of the class. Ms. Frizzle then concludes, "Sometimes, you have to do the wrong stuff to find out what the right stuff really is" as Liz is seen taking a ride on the model airplane.
- A technicolor version of Wanda's plane is shown in a split-second shot at the beginning.
- This is the first time Tim accidentally breaks something, the second is in Sees Stars.
- In the producer's says segment, the Wright Brothers are mentioned as were their plane prototypes. Tim also mentions pilot Charles Lindbergh in this episode.
- Arnold riding on an eagle could be a reference to how his name is of Germanic origin and means "power of the eagle."
- This is one of the many episodes that have evidence that The Bus may be sentient.
- Going by production order, this is the 8th episode of Season 2, and the sixth and the penultimate episode of the season to be switched in streaming order.
- The Warner Home Video VHS and DVD releases do not have the closing funding credits or book promo. The Cinedigm releases use the same version of the episode as the Warner VHS/DVD because of this.
- Many of the planes the bus transforms into are based on real-life planes. These include the Caproni CA60, the Wright Flyer, The Spirit of St. Louis and the Spruce Goose.