"It's time to buzz the tower:" Former F-14 RIO explains how legendary Top Gun tower fly-by scene was filmed

That time Air Traffic Controllers asked to an F-14 pilot to buzz the tower so that they could see for themselves a Navy Tomcat

By Dario Leone
Oct 5 2021
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‘The ATC guys apparently really liked it and thanked me profusely as I continued on to my destination,’ John Chesire, F-14 Tomcat pilot.

Designed in 1968 to take the place of the controversial F-111B, then under development for the Navy’s carrier fighter inventory, the Grumman F-14 Tomcat performed its first flight on Dec. 21, 1970.

Overall, the F-14 was without equal among Free World fighters. Six long-range AIM-54A Phoenix missiles could be guided against six separate threat aircraft at long range by the F-14’s AWG-9 weapons control system. For medium-range combat, Sparrow missiles were carried; Sidewinders and a 20mm were available for dogfighting. In the latter role, the Tomcat’s variable-sweep wings gave the F-14 a combat maneuvering capability that could not have been achieved with a “standard” fixed planform wing.

However the Tomcat was not only the carrier air wings’ most potent fighter but also a symbol of an era through its engagements with Libyan aircraft in the 1980s and flashing across the silver screen in the blockbuster motion picture Top Gun, which featured the F-14 crewed by Maverick and Goose buzzing the tower in one of the most memorable scenes of the movie.

VF-33 F-14A Print
This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. F-14A Tomcat VF-33 Starfighters / Tarsiers , AB201 / 19428 / 1982

Something similar happened during John Chesire’s career, a former F-14 Tomcat pilot.

As Chesire remembers on Quora, the event took place in the skies over Iowa.

‘I once flew across the plains of Iowa, low and slow on my way to an airshow in Cedar Rapids. Growing up as a kid on a farm in Iowa, I figured that some farm kid and their parents might enjoy seeing an F-14 for the first time, flying low over their farm. When near Waterloo, Iowa the Air Traffic Controllers could not believe that they had an F-14 under their control and so very low…500ft/152m. They asked me to turn around and circle them so that they could come outside their control room and see for themselves a Navy F-14 Tomcat.

‘While I did stay relatively slow, I was at 500ft AGL. I swept the wings back to 68 degrees from their full forward position and briefly lit the afterburners. I may have cycled both the wings and ABs a couple of times for them. The ATC guys apparently really liked it and thanked me profusely as I continued on to my destination.’

F-14 model
This model is available from AirModels – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS

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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