Naval Aviator explains what would have happened in real life to Maverick after having broken the hard deck and buzzed the tower in full AB on the first day of his Top Gun training

Navy Pilot explains what would have happened in real life to Maverick after having buzzed the tower in full AB and broken the hard deck on the first day of his Top Gun training

By Dario Leone
May 13 2023
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‘Since we’ve stopped flying rubber dog s**t out of Hong Kong for environmental reasons, you will likely never fly a Navy aircraft again,’ Tim Hibbetts, US Navy A-6E, F/A-18C pilot.

Do you remember Top Gun Air Boss Johnson?

He hates Maverick for buzzing the tower which causes him to spill his coffee on his uniform. He then goes to Jester & Viper and complains about the fly by that both Maverick and Goose did of his tower (after they broke the hard deck in the dogfight against Jester).

Johnson was also the Air Boss on the USS Enterprise during the dogfight with the MiG-28s in the final part of the movie. Maverick also requested a fly-by which Johnson denied again and the former performed it with Iceman, again causing Johnson to spill coffee on his shirt.

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In reality, after having broken the hard deck and buzzed the tower in full AB, Maverick would have lost his wings on the first day of his Top Gun training, as explains Tim Hibbetts, A-6E, F/A-18C pilot, on Quora.

‘The former is a training rule and the latter is a NAVAIR rule (set by the Chief of Naval Air Forces, CNAF),’ he says.

Breaking the hard deck. This is not a violation. You can break the hard deck all you want. Seriously; get in there; just motor boat that hard deck; tell it who’s boss. The only downside is that you’re considered to have hit the ground and are dead in relation to the current fight.

Naval Aviator explains what would have happened in real life to Maverick after having broken the hard deck and buzzed the tower in full AB on the first day of his Top Gun training

‘Hard deck, good God… what is it good for? Flying in general is all about managing your energy state and dogfights are the apex form. Most dogfights are energy depleting exercises, with fighters trading gas and altitude for position and nose authority. Dogfighting is also an art and not all the pictures are pretty. Sometimes a fighter thinks he has enough energy and altitude to perform a maneuver and is wrong. If we fought without the imaginary safety net, twisting steel all the way to the ground, there would be a lot more 200-meter-long black scars under the training area and fewer pilots to make them. Hence, we say that if you go below this altitude, you are considered dead, and we call it the hard deck. There’s a soft deck, too, but that one is for limiting certain maneuvers so that you can practice not hitting the hard deck.

‘So, flying below the hard deck means you killed yourself. Nothing illegal about accidently offing yourself (especially when it’s imaginary).’

He continues:

Buzzing the tower (ashore). This is a violation of rules set up by the three-star admiral in charge of all Naval aircraft. It’s also in many naval air station SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures). You will likely never fly a Navy aircraft again (as we’ve stopped flying rubber dog s**t out of Hong Kong for environmental reasons). You could also be charged under the UCMJ and find any number of fun other bonus options, as well.

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Buzzing the tower (at sea). This one is a blast and as long as you have the approval of whoever is on the radio when you call the ship, you’re good to go. Otherwise, see the above scenario.’

Tibbets concludes:

‘Not adhering to these simple rules marks you as untrustworthy, undisciplined, and unwise. Why in the wide world of sports should you be trusted with a $50 million airplane and the potential for world-wide embarrassment? Stick to tending bar, racing cars, and accepting missions from exploding cassettes.’

The following, popular video features Maverick defeating the hard deck after having broken the hard deck (for video and description of the famed Miramar tower fly-by scene CLICK HERE).

Photo credit: Paramount

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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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  1. Bob Graham says:

    As I commented elsewhere, I recorded video in Ready Room 8 aboard USS Ranger in VF-1 when CDR McElraft and pilot Stuart Broce dove from 25,000 feet below the hard deck of 10,000 feet down to “only about 3 or 4,000 feet” to take out an Iraqi helicopter about 90 feet off the ground. You might like my book GULF in the WAR STORY.

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