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So How Does One Teach Tom Cruise To Fly Top Gun: Maverick Fighter Planes, Anyway? How The Aerial Coordinator Did It

Tom Cruise flying a jet in Top Gun: Maverick
(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

To be able to get back behind the cockpit for Top Gun: Maverick must have been a real dream for Tom Cruise. He wanted to reprise his role of “Maverick” in the Top Gun sequel for the purpose of being able to fly those jets again. While it would have been too easy to make Tom Cruise be surrounded by a green screen, he’s actually skyrocketing into the air, with those aviation scenes being 100% real. Here is how Top Gun: Maverick’s aerial coordinator was able to teach Cruise and the rest of the cast how to fly a fighter jet.

In the original Top Gun, Tom Cruise and the other actors were actually in the air on real fighter jets, but it was required for someone else to be piloting the plane. But that was over three decades ago and the cast actually learned to fly fighter jets for Top Gun: Maverick. According to KTLA 75, the cast was put through an extensive training program to soar through the skies which were run by the film’s aerial coordinator and camera pilot, Kevin LaRosa. He said by the time the cast got into the aircraft, they were “seasoned pros” able to “deliver epic performances.”

Mission: Impossible’s Tom Cruise can be seen flying in Top Gun: Maverick, but as a civilian, he could not fly the primary fighter jet of the film, the F-18 Hornet. He had to start on certain aircrafts like the entry-level airplane, a Cessna 172, to learn the basics. The next level airplane would be the Extra EA-300 used in air shows for aerobatic stunts. Every plane the cast flew was meant to build up their “G tolerance” in order to look like pros on camera. Afterwards, the cast moved up to maneuverable fighter jet L-39 to finally the F-18. So Tom Cruise was still not allowed to actually fly an F-18 for the movie, but LaRosa gave them the training to help him make it look like he can.

Once the actors were inside of the cockpits, the actors actually had to direct themselves and figure out the camera shots since a director obviously could not be up in the air with them. This meant the filmmakers had to wait until the actors landed to see which footage could be used, and sometimes do-overs were necessary. LaRosa had no problem striving for perfection in wanting the actors to keep going again and again until it was done right. If you’d like some proof if the Top Gun star still has it in him, you can see watch the epic video of Tom Cruise flying planes.

Kevin LaRosa clearly came up with an amazing training program for Top Gun: Maverick, as the aerial sequences were among the things singled out by the critics. Many commented that they loved the exterior airborne shots and being able to hear the realistic roaring of the engines. Various critics also commended the film for not going the CGI route and having the actors actually fly in the airborne cockpits. This proves one again that going the practical route is sometimes better than just using CGI.

You can see Tom Cruise and the rest of his fellow actors in the new movie release of Top Gun: Maverick, which is playing in theaters now. 

Carly Levy
Carly Levy

Just your average South Floridian cinephile who believes the pen is mightier than the sword.