Naval Aviator tells the story of when a USMC F-9 Cougar pilot buzzed the tower of a USAF base. The Air Force advised him not to return to their airfield.

Naval Aviator tells the story of when a USMC F-9 Cougar pilot buzzed the tower of a USAF base. The Air Force advised him not to return to their airfield.

By Dario Leone
Apr 5 2023
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‘He told me he’d debated doing it for about 10 seconds, but being a Marine meant you were compelled to do stuff like that,’ Tim Hibbetts, former Naval Aviator.

Maverick: “We weren’t below the hard deck for more than a few seconds. I had the shot. There was no danger. So, I took it.”

***

Maverick: Tower, this is Ghost Rider requesting a flyby.

Air Boss Johnson: That’s a negative Ghost rider, the pattern is full.

To Aviation Geeks, these are memorable quotes from Top Gun, their all-time favorite movie.

But what would happen to a Naval aviator who buzzed the tower like Maverick did in Top Gun?

Tim Hibbetts, former Naval Aviator, explains on Quora;

‘In the ’80s (when it was filmed), he’d have been put in hack for a couple weeks to a month (no flying, likely being the squadron duty officer every day).

‘Starting from around 1991, he’d have lost his wings and probably his commission (meaning he’d be booted out of the service).

‘These days, he’d likely also undergo charges under the UCMJ.’

He continues;

‘I had a simulator instructor who was a retired Marine Grumman F-9 Cougar pilot who was based in Japan in the late ’60s. He was visiting the local USAF base for a gas-and-go and asked for a low fly-by of 1000 kts and 300’. They gave him clearance and he read it back. A few minutes later, he came zorching in on the deck at the speed of heat, everything shaking in the roar of the little jet. Once he’d landed, he was met by the base CO and several other very angry Air Force fellows, demanding to know what he thought he was doing. He said he’d been cleared for a low, high-speed pass of 300′ and 1000 kts. They checked the tapes and sure enough, the Air Force controller had cleared him for it. He apologized that while the altitude was rock solid, he’d been unable to make the speed.’

Hibbetts concludes;

‘He told me he’d debated doing it for about 10 seconds, but being a Marine meant you were compelled to do stuff like that. The Air Force advised him not to return to their base.’

Photo credit: U.S. Navy


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Dario Leone

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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