The most important Top Gun: Maverick moment that almost every moviegoer missed

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Top Gun: Maverick has ticket sales worldwide that have already surpassed the $1 billion mark. If I’m an indicator, theaters have sold many of these tickets to regular customers.

If I hadn’t seen the film a second time, however, I would have missed the most important and revealing five seconds.

During my first observation, the scene completely escaped attention. The producers had wedged it between mission-centric drama and highly distracting high-G maneuvers. But I got it on my second screening.

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The scene takes place just before Tom Cruise’s character, Maverick, leads three more F/A-18 Super Hornets on the film’s climate mission. It breaks into two segments, one lasting about 1.5 seconds and the second about 4 seconds.

Tom Cruise returns

Tom Cruise returns in Top Gun: Maverick.

For me, these are the most significant seconds of the film.

The first 1.5 seconds shows the hangar deck of the USS Theodore Roosevelt. From the back we see Maverick and Rooster, who will fly the single-seat F/A-18s on the upcoming mission. We also see Payback and Phoenix flying with Flight Officers Bob and Fanboy in the back seats.

The six stars of the film stand in rows in front of the flight crew. These lines of men and women, dressed in shirts of different colors, look like a rainbow. Nobody gets a jet airborne without them.

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They are the indispensable and unsung team members who have maintained and prepared the plane that will fly the mission.

Those wearing purple shirts have fueled the jets; Red shirts armed them.

Green shirts have been servicing the engines and preparing the catapults and fishing lines.

Blueshirts will operate the ship’s massive elevators, unchaining the planes and clearing the wedges.

Yellow shirts will lock the plane in the catapults and have the aviators and their flight officers in the back seat firing from the deck.

Each brown shirt serves as an airplane captain; Most are under the age of 22 but have the responsibility of making sure their $70 million jet is ready. Often their names are painted on the plane along with the pilot’s. Aviators will generally admit that the aircraft captain owns the aircraft; the pilot simply borrows it.

American actors Val Kilmer and Tom Cruise on the set of the original

American actors Val Kilmer and Tom Cruise on the set of the original ‘Top Gun,’ directed by Tony Scott. (Photo by Paramount Pictures/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)
(Paramount Pictures/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis)

Everyone loves the sunglasses-wearing characters in flight suits; However, they are only the tip of a long spear. Every man and woman aboard Theodore Roosevelt enables these aviators to drop weapons on target and fulfill the ship’s collective mission of promoting national security.

The six stars of the film stand in rows in front of the flight crew. These lines of men and women, dressed in shirts of different colors, look like a rainbow. Nobody gets a jet airborne without them.

I learned this lesson aboard four deployed aircraft carriers and at bases like North Island, California; Pensacola, Florida and Bahrain while researching my book Fly Navy.

Tom Cruise attends the red carpet for the Japan Premiere of

Tom Cruise attends the red carpet for the Japan premiere of “Top Gun: Maverick” at Osanbashi Yokohama on May 24, 2022 in Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan
(Ken Ishii)

But the passage of time and the hissing of the new film’s leads almost made me forget that there’s a lot more to naval aviation than the men and women in the cockpits.

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The second part of the overlooked scene comes moments later. We see Cyclone, the three-star admiral in charge of the mission, addressing the assembly on the hangar deck.

“You all trained for that,” he says dramatically. Charged and inspired, each then leaves to fulfill his or her precise role.

At first I thought Cyclone was only talking to the six officers who were about to climb into the cockpits.

It wasn’t him.

Cyclone reached out to all of the aircraft carrier’s personnel, particularly those who worked on the flight deck. They had trained tirelessly for their specific duties, and success that day required them to shine as brightly as the aviators and flight officers. It was her mission too.

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As a civilian in the world of naval aviation, I found something extraordinary and surprising, and the film gives you a glimpse of it if you’re quick enough to see it.

I discovered a ship crew with unmatched skill and a sense of mission. I witnessed an operation that strengthens our country by protecting it from enemies. And I’ve seen this operation also produce the citizens America itself needs to thrive.

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On the flight deck, individuals from every background imaginable work together in a hot and dangerous crucible that forges skill, character and duty. The entire naval aviation enterprise makes America stronger. It serves as an example and reminder of how leadership and shared purpose can transform organizations and individuals, in uniform and out. It makes me proud.

So if you watch Top Gun: Maverick again – and let’s face it, you will – remember that the stars aren’t just the people with callsigns. Take a moment to realize that you are watching heroes working together, a navy and country at its best.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE BY ALVIN TOWNLEY

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