F-14 Tomcat

Because I was Inverted! Tomcat RIO who took part in the making of Top Gun tells the true story behind the famous scene where Maverick and Goose’s F-14 flies inverted above the black two-seat F-5F (AKA MiG-28)

‘Of course, for safety reasons there wasn’t any aircraft flying inverted one above the other, and that iconic scene was obtained thanks to one of the few special effects in the film,’ Dave “Bio” Baranek, F-14 Tomcat RIO.

Dave “Bio” Baranek enjoyed a successful and satisfying 20-year career in the Navy, starting with assignments to F-14 Tomcat squadrons and the elite TOPGUN training program, and later assignment to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the US 7th Fleet. At one point, he commanded an F-14 Tomcat fighter squadron, responsible for nearly 300 people and 14 aircraft worth about $700 million. He completed his career with 2,499.7 F-14 Tomcat flight hours and 688 carrier landings. His logbook also records 461.8 flight hours in the F-5F Tiger II.

He retired from the Navy in 1999.

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While serving as a TOPGUN air-to-air combat instructor in 1985, he had the unusual experience of flying aerial sequences used in the film “Top Gun,” starring Tom Cruise and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson. He also served as a dialogue advisor on the project, and took some of the few available photographs of the movie’s black F-5 fighters in flight.

In his book Topgun Days: Dogfighting, Cheating Death and Hollywood Glory as One of America’s Best Fighter Jocks, Bio provides some never-before told details about Top Gun.

For instance, do you remember one of the most famous scenes of the motion picture, where Maverick and Goose’s F-14 flies inverted above the black two-seat F-5F (AKA MiG-28)? Of course, for safety reasons there wasn’t any aircraft flying inverted one above the other, and that iconic scene was obtained thanks to one of the few special effects in the film.

In fact as Bio explains, many of the movie flying scenes were filmed from the specially equipped Learjet flown by the former fighter pilot Clay Lacy. “I was to fly (aboard the F-5F) with Rat (actually Bob “Rat” Willard was the Topgun squadron’s primary coordinator for the movie) who briefed the flight. […] We would have two F-14s and four F-5s available, but the first scene would involve only the two-seat F-5F flying in formation alongside the Learjet. On a call from the Lear, both Rat and I would look up, acting as startled as we could. Although there would be nothing above us, Rat explained how this shot would be used for the scene where Maverick’s Tomcat is inverted above the MiG-28. The F-14 would be added later in one of the few special effects in the film.”

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So, once the aircraft took off Rat made a radio call to detach the three F-5Es to join the Tomcats, while he and Bio got into a tight formation on the Lear’s right side where Baranek saw “the glass window that made up a large panel on this side of the fuselage. One high-quality camera sat behind the glass, others were mounted on the top and belly of the Lear.”

Then, as Bio explains, a voice came from the Learjet. “ ‘A little forward. That’s good. When I count to three, both of you look up as quickly as you can. Remember, you’re startled. One, two, three!’ I looked up. It was hard to act startled in all my flight gear and oxygen mask. No feedback, just a small voice, ‘Ok let’s do it again. Remember, you are startled that there is an F-14 above you. One, two three!’ They didn’t teach us this in Pensacola.”

Photo credit: Paramount and David “Bio” Baranek

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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