Ex-US Navy Fighter Pilot Explains Why TOPGUN Fines Airmen $5 Every Time They Quote Iconic 1986 Movie ‘Top Gun’ Starring Tom Cruise
The US Navy’s premier fighter pilot training school, commonly referred to as TOPGUN, fines people for various infractions.
Quotes from the classic 1986 movie “Top Gun” starring Tom Cruise are costing the culprits $5, says Guy “Bus” Snodgrass, a retired Navy commander and former TOPGUN instructor, in his book “TOPGUN’s Top 10: Leadership Lessons from the Cockpit”. “
The reason for the rule against “Top Gun” quotes is not that people are fed up but because the pilots who attend the school are at the top of their game so no one is allowed to prank a school referencing the movie, Snodgrass told Insider.
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If you feel the “need for speed” at the US Navy’s elite flight school, you better not say it out loud or be prepared to pay the price.
At the Navy’s Tactical Air Combat Training Center, known as TOPGUN, there are fines for various infractions. Any quote from the iconic 1986 film “Top Gun” starring Tom Cruise as hotshot naval aviator Lt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell will set you back $5, former TOPGUN fighter pilot and instructor Cmdr. Guy “Bus” Snodgrass reveals in his book, “TOPGUN’s Top 10: Leadership Lessons from the Cockpit”.
Snodgrass’ book shares lessons in successful leadership from his naval aviator career while providing unique insight into the TOPGUN experience, from dogfights to daily life at this prestigious training facility.
While assuming the reason for the rule against “Top Gun” quotes is that TOPGUN instructors are tired of hearing “you can be my wingman anytime” or “your ego is writing checks your body can’t cash “is reasonable, there’s actually more to it than that,” Snodgrass explained. It is about preserving the seriousness and the meaning of the institution.
Snodgrass says in his new book that he fell in love with aviation at a young age. He had posters of airplanes on his bedroom walls, and watching air shows as a kid with his Boy Scout troop in Texas fueled his interest in flying.
“I watched in utter fascination as the US Air Force Thunderbirds and US Navy Blue Angels wowed the crowds with their precise maneuvers and unparalleled level of skill,” he wrote. “The energy, the excitement and the sound of the planes was all I needed – I was hooked.”
But, the movie “Top Gun” was also a source of inspiration. “I think that’s where my initial real love for naval aviation started,” Snodgrass told Insider. “I loved the flight scenes. It was exciting. I thought, ‘Man, if I could ever do this, it would be a dream come true.'”
“You don’t turn TOPGUN into a joke”
Looking back on the action movie as someone who had the opportunity to serve as a Navy fighter pilot, he said, “The movie ‘Top Gun’ had such an impact on most of our lives.”
He revealed that as a junior officer, it was common for pilots to crack jokes and throw lines from the movie. “It’s ingrained in our culture to some degree,” he said.
“But,” Snodgrass told Insider, “when you come to TOPGUN, because it’s such a professional organization and you want to emphasize that you’re at the top of your game, that it’s all about professionalism, good leadership, you’re not making TOPGUN a joke by referencing the movie.”
The Navy Advanced Combat Arms School was established on March 3, 1969, during the Vietnam War, at Naval Air Station Miramar, California, with a very important mission: “to teach aircrews how to not only survive in dogfights, but winning,” Snodgrass wrote. of the origins of TOPGUN.
Decades later, the school, since moved to Naval Air Station Fallon in Nevada, still produces some of the best combat aviators in the world. And, Navy pilots selected to attend the institution take it seriously.
“So it’s part of our bylaws that if someone overtly references the movie – it could be a direct quote, it could be something that’s really close to a direct quote – it’s an automatic fine. of $5. And it’s enforced. And you’re supposed to pay right away. You pull out your wallet and pay the $5,” Snodgrass said.
Old habits die hard. “I think at some point we’ve all been fined because it’s so ingrained in our aviation culture,” he told Insider. Snodgrass declined to reveal his favorite quote from the movie “Top Gun,” but said he loved the movie and was looking forward to the sequel.
Although he never quotes it, Snodgrass references the movie “Top Gun” in his book, drawing attention to the scene where Maverick abandons his wingman and flight leader, Hollywood, in a dogfight training situation. to hunt an “enemy” fighter.
Acting impulsively and watching only himself, Maverick has his wingman “killed” and falls straight into the trap of the “enemy” plane.
“There is a reason TOPGUN instructors who viewed the film insisted that this scene be included: it accurately reflected actual combat,” Snodgrass wrote.
“When you fly through the skies alone and without fear, bad things can – and do – happen,” he said, explaining in his book that in the air and in life, it’s good to “always have a winger”. This is something Snodgrass learned himself in the Navy and one of the many lessons he learned from his time at TOPGUN.
Snodgrass served in the United States Army for two decades. He is a TOPGUN graduate and former instructor, as well as a retired naval aviator who has flown combat missions overseas. He is also a former Pentagon official who worked closely with the Secretary of Defense and drafted the 2018 National Defense Strategy.
This article was originally published on 09/16/2020.
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