While it has now been thirty years since Tom Cruise played the dashing Pete “Maverick” Mitchell in the film Top Gun, the movie still resonates with many. Combining elements of flight, love, war and camaraderie, the movie brought out the inner pilot in all of us. Inspired by aerial photography by former Lieutenant Commander Charles Heatley, producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer were entranced by the whole idea of naval pilot life. To be as accurate as possible, during the movie’s filming, the producers recruited members of the United States Naval Air Forces to read the script and to make any corrections they deemed. The Navy also supplied many of the aircrafts that were used in the movie, such as a F-14 fighter squadron VF-51 Screaming Eagles.
While the Navy supplied the planes for the film, the helmets themselves were custom-made movie props colored with a navy blue, red and white design. They also read MAVERICK across the back and were created using an Hgu-33 shell. The oxygen mask and hose were not functional but for display/decorative purposes only. One of the original custom helmets is actually held in the Smithsonian Museum. While it is impossible to get an original, you can buy the most accurate, professionally-made version of the helmet here at www.topgunhelmet.com.
But what if the helmet isn’t enough to bring out your inner Maverick? What more can you do?
Well, to become a real-life Maverick in the United States Navy, you’ll need to fill a few conditions. The most important of them being educational. You will need at least a bachelor degree (even better if it’s a bachelor of science specializing in aviation) and you will need to be at least 18 years-old to enlist.
On top of education, future Mavericks must also be physically fit and able to meet all physical qualifications put forth by the Navy. This includes a rigorous physical test . Additionally, men are restricted to a maximum of 22% body fat (women are allowed 33%).
Future Mavericks must also be prepared to move frequently. In two-and-a-half years of training, you will be moving approximately three times. If your country needs you, you may be stationed overseas for long periods as well, with little contact to with family. Training is a life-long process. Even once you’ve gotten your wings, you will often be called back to learn new advancements in the field and to keep your skills up to par.
The life of a navy flight officer is beginning to seem less glamorous, isn’t it? It is a life of hard work and perseverance towards a cause greater than yourself. It is about protection, loyalty and structure. While this can appeal to some, I think many of us are more content to play navy pilot in the privacy of our own living room, while laying back and watching Top Gun for at the thousandth time. So what are you waiting for, Maverick? Strap on your Top Gun costume helmet, crack a beer, and let your inner pilot shine.