FRESNO, Calif. (KGPE) — The “Top Gun” fever continues at the box office, as the iconic sequel “Top Gun: Maverick” is breaking records past the speed of sound.
The movie holds even more significance as aviators stationed at Naval Air Station Lemoore actually flew in the movie, helping create those captivating flight scenes playing out on the big screen.
When asked if this is the greatest aviation film ever made, NAS Lemoore Commander Kristen Hansen, call sign “Dragon,” says, she’s biased, but yes.
“It’s probably the best footage anybody has ever been able to take in a cockpit,” Hansen said. “The cameras they had in the cockpits were just so cool.”
Years ago, when Top Gun: Maverick was in the early stages, Hansen was stationed at another base in Fallon, Nevada. Aviators often fly between the two bases.
Hansen was asked to help with scenes of the new Top Gun movie, and so were many pilots at NAS Lemoore.
“Pretty much went down the flight line,” Hansen said. “And if we had somebody that was home and available and interested, they asked if they were interested in flying in the movie, and we obviously did not have trouble finding volunteers.”
Hansen also confirms the incredible flight scenes were real, not animated.
“Very, very little CGI,” Hansen said. “Pretty much everything was done in an aircraft.”
“The CGI that was used was in small instances when it would’ve been unsafe to have the aircraft that close, and in those cases, they filmed the maneuvers and just CGI’d them closer, or they might have added an aircraft.”
“If you’re seeing it, an aircraft most likely actually did it.” Hansen’s part was about one week, flying with actress Monica Barbaro and actor Lewis Pullman–who plays a Weapons Systems Officer, or “wizzo,” from Lemoore.
The actors also received training beforehand, including water training simulating being ejected from a jet.
“Obviously they’re portraying characters, but the people themselves, pretty much for all the characters you would have in a normal ready room, and they were just so laidback,” Hansen said.
The production utilized parts of the base, getting shots along actual training routes from Lemoore to Nevada. All the shots captured in the F-18 Superhornet.
“If you’re on the West Coast and you’re flying F-18s,” Hansen said, “You’re in Lemoore.”
The real work these aviators do to stay ready for any enemy at any time brought to life on screen.
Hansen believes Paramount really did capture the lives of those who serve the United States.
“To be able to showcase the aviation community like that, and hopefully for everyone in the Central Valley to realize that, that’s what’s happening in our backyard all the time, and every single day there’s flights and missions out coming of Lemoore, California,” Hansen said. “That’s really at the heart of it all.”