TOPGUN True or False

True or False: Quoting the movie Top Gun will get you fined at the U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School.


To be perfectly frank, Top Gun was the reason I became a Navy pilot. I remember saying I just want to serve my country, be the best fighter pilot in the Navy!

I know what you’re thinking: “This gives me a hard on. Don’t tease me.”

I’m not. When I went through the school, I made the instructors’ heads spin with my brilliant command of Top Gun quotes (even if I didn’t amaze them with my flying skills).

One instructor asked, “Hey Farley, do you want to grab a briefing room?”

I replied, “No, actually I had this counter in mind.”

Another told me he would need ten minutes before our debrief. I answered, “Bullshit ten minutes! This thing will be over in two minutes! Get on it!”

(I’m sure you can imagine the looks I got, but I had the shot, there was no danger, so I took it.)

Sadly, most of my best quotes were wasted on my oxygen mask. Early in the course, I flew an Offensive BFM sortie, and the instructor tried coaxing me into taking multiple shots as we transitioned to the deck, so I screamed at him (without keying the microphone, of course), “I will fire when I am goddamn good and ready!” Yet another time, I was on a Defensive BFM sortie and thought I would try a classic and underappreciated technique to lure the instructor into my trap – “I’m gonna hit the brakes, he’ll fly right by.”

[Note: It didn’t work.]

It was the most liberating feeling in the world – facing down the extremely talented cadre of TOPGUN instructors and assailing them with an endless barrage of quotes from guys like Maverick and Iceman – my childhood heroes. Again, I know what you’re thinking: “How did you have time to think of the quotes?” The truth is you don’t have time to think up there. If you think, you’re dead.

Top Gun rules of engagement are written for your safety and for that of your team. Either obey them or you are history. You can’t show up to the U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School without being prepared. Most of my classmates spent countless hours perfecting their BFM briefing labs by giving them to squadron instructors before showing up. Others flew dozens of practice BFM sorties, drilling constantly in the fundamentals of aerial combat.

Me? Oh no. Ol’ Farley spent hours watching the only movie you ever need to see to know all that there is to know about Naval Aviation: Top Gun. And the one thing I know to be true is that you’re not going to be happy unless you’re going Mach 2 with your hair on fire. (Or maybe just Mach 1.8, but you understand…)

I know, showing up to TOPGUN and quoting the movie in the presence of the best fighter pilots in the Navy and Marine Corps is pretty arrogant, considering the company you’re in. But, if you fly jets long enough, something like this happens. It takes a lot more than just fancy flying, and dazzling them with quotes in the brief, the debrief, or at the Officer’s Club was just my way to get them to sit up and take note: “Damn, this kid is good!”

I would caution you, however, not to sing to the Skipper’s wife in the O’Club. Seriously, don’t do it. Unless, of course, you don’t mind watching your classmates pry him off you while they convince him that your family name ain’t the best in the Navy. (Trust me, it hurts more than you’d think).

Hypothetically, while your classmates are trying to protect you from the real-life Viper, he might yell at you, “Your ego is writing checks your body can’t cash!”

Trying to keep the peace, the bartender might lean over and shout over the din, “Okay, gentleman, knock it off. Let’s go home.”

The gawking patrons (probably those who feel insecure in the presence of excellence) might mumble under their breath, “It doesn’t look good.”

Of course, your super-fighter pilot hearing will pick up on it and you’ll have heeded my advice, so you’ll come back – quick as a wink, “What do you mean it doesn’t look good? It doesn’t get to look any better than that!”

In the end, you’ll embarrass yourself and be on the verge of getting kicked out. But they’ll decide, “keep sending him up.” Why? Because you’re a hell of an instinctive pilot. Maybe too good. Now I’m not gonna sit here and blow sunshine up your ass…a good pilot is compelled to evaluate what’s happened, so he can apply what he’s learned. Up there we gotta push it. That’s our job.

And one more thing for you all the remember: When I fly, I’ll have you know that my crew and my plane come first!


But seriously… It’s true. If you’ve been keeping tabs, it looks like I owe $105 the next time I’m in the Fallon O’Club. Cheers!