Is Maverick too OLD to be a fighter pilot? His age wouldn’t stop him – but his lifestyle might

The moment Top Gun fans have been waiting for over 30 years has finally arrived, with the UK release of Top Gun: Maverick today.

In the sequel to the cult classic, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, played by Tom Cruise, sees a cohort of graduates train to become test pilots in the Navy.

Maverick’s age is a key plot point in the film, with some colleagues wondering if at 57 he is too old to be a test and fighter pilot.

So does Maverick really have what it takes to still be a fighter pilot after 30 years of service?

Here we dive into the details and reveal that while his age probably wouldn’t stop him, his lifestyle might.

The moment Top Gun fans have been waiting for over 30 years is finally here, with the UK launch of Top Gun: Maverick today

What do Navy fighter pilots do?

Navy Fighter Pilots’ missions are “among the most daring and important,” the US Navy explains.

Complete complex aerial maneuvers while flying at Mach speeds. Catapult from carriers at 170 mph and land on moving runways just 300 feet long, it said.

“Collect intelligence, drop ammunition and take on defensive missions – all in the world’s most versatile attack fighters, the F/A-18 Hornet and the state-of-the-art F-35C Lightning II.”

Age

While Maverick is in his early twenties in the original Top Gun movie, he is now 57 in the sequel.

According to Zippia, the average age of a military pilot in the US is 45, while 67 percent of pilots are 40+.

dr. Guy Gratton, an associate professor of aeronautics and environment at Cranfield University, wrote for The Conversation, assuring Maverick would still be young enough to be a test pilot.

’57 is not too old. I’ve met a lot of test pilots in their 60s and fighter pilots in their 50s,” he said.

However, it’s unlikely that he could have joined the Navy at such an advanced age if he wasn’t already in it.

To become a pilot in the US Navy, you must have started pilot training between the ages of 19 and 33.

Height

At 1.75 meters tall, Tom Cruise is known for being quite short and it is believed that he regularly wears inserts in his shoes to make him look taller.

Fortunately, Cruise’s height means that Maverick more than meets the Navy’s height requirements for pilots.

According to Zippia, the average age of a military pilot in the US is 45, while 67 percent of pilots are 40+

According to Zippia, the average age of a military pilot in the US is 45, while 67 percent of pilots are 40+

dr.  Gratton claims Maverick's short stature - he stands at 5ft 7' - could come in handy as a test pilot

dr. Gratton claims Maverick’s short stature – he stands at 5ft 7′ – could come in handy as a test pilot

Although the film crew had permission to put Cruise and other actors in the F-18s for filming, they were only passengers in the cockpit

Although the film crew had permission to put Cruise and other actors in the F-18s for filming, they were only passengers in the cockpit

Did Tom Cruise really fly the planes?

Cruise has had his pilot’s license since 1994 and has actually flown airplanes in the film.

However, his request to fly a $70 million F-18 Super Hornet fighter jet was turned down by the Navy.

Veteran producer Jerry Bruckheimer said Cruise had applied to fly the plane but had not been authorized by the Navy.

This was presumably on the grounds that the $70 million plane was simply too expensive to be entrusted to someone who isn’t much of a fighter pilot.

A candidate naval pilot must be at least 5 feet 2 inches tall and no taller than 6 feet 5 inches.

dr. Gratton even claims that Maverick’s short stature could prove useful as a test pilot.

“Maverick isn’t exactly the tallest pilot in the industry,” he wrote.

“That would make him an ideal candidate to be named ‘shortest test pilot’ and line up to test smaller equipment.”

lifestyle

As his nickname suggests, Maverick has a reckless attitude and cocky demeanor that often puts him at odds with other pilots.

Unfortunately, according to Dr. Gratton, this could go against him as a fighter pilot in the real world.

“Good professional pilots should not be people who indulge in risky behavior or are bad team players,” he wrote.

Dr. Gratton points to a 2020 study by researchers at the Florida Institute of Technology that looked at personality trends in the pilot population.

The study, published in Collegiate Aviation Review International, found that pilots tend to exhibit personality traits that are lower in neuroticism, higher in extroversion, equal in openness, lower in agreeableness and higher in conscientiousness than the general population.

“Pilots, especially military pilots, may be less pleasant because they are more concerned with aspects of mission performance than with relationships,” the researchers wrote.

Cruise, 59, famously insists on doing his own stunts and hitting the drum for the authenticity of Top Gun: Maverick

Cruise, 59, famously insists on doing his own stunts and hitting the drum for the authenticity of Top Gun: Maverick

And Tom Cruise himself?

Cruise has had his pilot’s license since 1994 and has actually flown airplanes in the film.

However, his request to fly the $70 million F-18 Super Hornet fighter jet was rejected by the Navy.

The film shows his character flying supersonic jets on a dangerous secret mission – at ‘Mach 2 with his hair on fire’, as Cruise puts it.

Cruise and others have spoken in numerous interviews about how they went through months of training to deal with G-forces and say their lines in the movie without passing out or vomiting.

However, veteran producer Jerry Bruckheimer has become clear and admitted that although they had permission to put Cruise and other actors in the F-18s, they were just passengers in the cockpit.

Bruckheimer said Cruise had applied to fly the plane but was denied permission from the Navy — presumably on the grounds that the $70 million plane was simply too expensive to entrust to someone who wasn’t really. is a fighter pilot.

F-18 Super Hornet: Boeing’s $70 MILLION fighter plane

The F/A-18 Block III Super Hornet is the newest highly capable, affordable and available tactical aircraft in the US Navy's inventory

The F/A-18 Block III Super Hornet is the newest highly capable, affordable and available tactical aircraft in the US Navy’s inventory

The F/A-18 Block III Super Hornet is the latest highly capable, affordable, and available tactical aircraft in the US Navy’s inventory.

The combat-proven Super Hornet delivers next-generation advanced, multi-role strike fighter capabilities, surpassing current and emerging threats well into the future.

The Super Hornet has the power, flexibility and performance needed to modernize any country’s air or naval aviation forces.

Two versions of the Super Hornet – the single-seat E-model and the two-seat F-model – are capable of virtually any mission in the tactical spectrum, including air superiority, day/night strikes with precision guided weapons, fighter escort, close air support , suppression of enemy air defense, naval strike, reconnaissance, forward air control and tanker missions.

Source: Boeing

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