NBAA 2022 Opening session day 2
(From left) Blue Angels pilot Frank Weisser, actress Monica Barbaro, aerial coordinator Kevin LaRosa II, and NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen talk about the production of “Top Gun: Maverick” during a keynote presentation at the NBAA-BACE convention in Orlando, Florida, on Oct. 19, 2022.

'Top Gun' Star Talks Supersonic Flight Training

Before filming intense flying scenes, actress Monica Barbaro spent 40 hours training in the air with a stunt pilot.

Creators of this year’s blockbuster hit Top Gun: Maverick gathered at the recent National Business Aviation Association Convention and Exhibition in Orlando, Florida, for a panel discussion about what it took to bring realism to such a risky film production. 

Top Gun: Maverick follows the adventures of the fictional test pilot and U.S. Navy Capt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, played by Tom Cruise. Although Cruise did not make an appearance at the NBAA show, his co-star, Monica Barbaro, was there to explain how the actors prepared for the film. Barbaro played the role of the sole female fighter pilot Lt. Natasha "Phoenix" Trace.

While actors typically prepare for their roles by memorizing lines and doing some research on the ground, the stars of Top Gun: Maverick did much of their preparations while flying on all kinds of airplanes and military jets. Before filming intense scenes in supersonic jets, Barbaro spent 40 hours doing flight training in the air.

Barbaro said she and her co-stars began their training by learning to pilot a Cessna 172 Skyhawk. Once she got comfortable with the Cessna, she moved on to flying in an Extra 300, a two-seat aerobatic monoplane, with stunt pilot Chuck Coleman at the helm. “His job was basically just to toss us around and make us as miserable as we possibly could be in the airplane, and also to start slowly building our G-tolerance,” Barbaro said. 

For the next phase of flight training, Barbaro flew in an Aero L-39 Albatros jet trainer with members of the Patriots Jet Team. Flying in the L-39s trained the actors to get used to much stronger G-forces. Once they became comfortable in the L-39s, the actors moved on to flying in the supersonic F/A-18 Hornets, at which point they were ready to start figuring out how to film the intense flight scenes in the movie. 

“The Navy did a great job about mitigating the risks associated with that movie and doing it well and doing it safely, too,” said Frank Weisser, a retired U.S. Navy Commander and Blue Angels pilot who flew the airplanes as Tom Cruise’s stunt double in several of the hair-raising flights seen throughout the movie.