With the release of Top Gun: Maverick, the highly-grossing sequel to Tom Cruise’s 1986 blockbuster Top Gun, there has been a lot of interest in his stunts in the movie. This movie, released in 2022, was a massive success and was widely praised for its realistic portrayal of fighter pilots. Intense stunts and daredevil action sequences have become a trademark of Cruise’s action movies, and his latest movie does not disappoint.
The movie follows the story of Pete Maverick Mitchell, a test pilot, and graduate of the United States Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor program, popularly known as Top Gun.
Cruise always advocated for realist portrayals in his movies and wanted the usage of CGI to be as minimal as possible. He performs most of his stunts, and even at 60, Cruise is still trying out new things and fulfilling his passions.
For Top Gun: Maverick, he ensured that all his co-actors were well acquainted with the workings of the aircraft and trained them himself. They also learned to film while working inside the planes, like Cruise had to do for a few of his previous movies.
The biggest question is, ‘Is Tom Cruise a pilot?’ The possibility of an actor having an aviation background can be unbelievable. However, for a movie star like Tom Cruise, who is constantly pushing the limits of his work, it’s not very hard.
Can Tom Cruise Fly a Plane?
Yes, Tom Cruise can fly a plane. He has held a pilot license since 1994. Cruise got his private pilot’s license in 1994 and then obtained his commercial license in 1998.
Although the US military did not let him fly the F/A-18 Super Hornet used in Top Gun: Maverick, he pilots the P-51 Mustang he owns.
It was speculated that money had something to do with it. The aircraft costs nearly $70 million, which was half the movie’s budget. Due to this, giving insurance for such an expensive plane must have been beyond the producer’s limits.
Another reason could be that Tom Cruise did not necessarily have enough experience or skill to pilot that sophisticated fighter jet, which was risky. Trained Navy pilots performed all the scenes with the F/A-18.
The P-51 Mustang, which belongs to Cruise, is seen in his appearance on James Corden’s The Late Late Show, where he takes Corden on two rides. Cruise’s level of aviation skills can be seen in this promotional video, as he easily maneuvers his P-51 Mustang and the Aero L-39 Albatros, borrowed from the Patriots Jet team. To be able to pilot such an aircraft, Tom Cruise must have over 1000 hours of jet flying experience.
Along with his Mustang, Cruise also owns a Gulfstream IV G4 jet. This luxurious aircraft, estimated to cost around $35 million, has a seating capacity of 19 passengers and has an in-built jacuzzi and movie-screening facilities.
In an interview with Hello Magazine, Cruise told them, “All I ever wanted to be was a pilot or an actor, so Top Gun was a huge moment in so many respects, including my passion for aviation.” It is indeed quite amazing to see an actor finding the time and motivation to fulfill all his passions.
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How Did They Fly a Plane in Top Gun: Maverick?
In the movie Top Gun: Maverick, the scenes with planes and flying were applauded for being highly realistic. Anybody would believe that the actors flew all the complicated aircraft and performed the stunts, but that is not true!
It was not feasible to let inexperienced actors fly the Navy’s assets, like the F/A-18. All the actors flew as passengers with military pilots. However, they had to undergo intense training to work efficiently in those extreme conditions. Tom Cruise himself headed these sessions for his co-actors. They had to prepare well to increase their tolerance to fly without getting sick and prepare for emergencies.
The team coordinated with the Navy to find the perfect spots to place their cameras inside the plane, which would not disrupt the plane’s navigation systems. The actors had to switch on the cameras themselves because of which, Joseph Kosinski, the director, could see the footage only after the planes returned to the ground. Moreover, the film’s aerial coordinator and camera pilot, Kevin LaRosa, helped them achieve this efficiently.
In an interview with the Men’s Journal, Miles Teller, who plays the role of Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw, spoke about the extent to which the team went, to ensure that the film was portrayed realistically.
“There is no green screen in a Top Gun movie. Every shot, every stunt, was the result of the work, the real sweat, that we all put into it. The production was over the course of a full year, which was definitely the longest shoot I have ever been a part of.”Miles Teller
Talking about his flying experience and training, the actor sounded quite excited. “They would have me go up in an F-18 for an hour or hour and a half, pulling anywhere around seven-and-a-half Gs. Getting to fly around with the best naval aviators in the world.”
The team also had to pass tests for all their training. Teller told them, “Before we got into the jets, we had to pass the Naval Aviation Survival Training course in San Diego.”
Which Movies Has Tom Cruise Flown a Plane In?
1. Top Gun: Maverick (2022)
In his recent film, Top Gun: Maverick, we see Tom Cruise as a pilot, with his P-51 Mustang, and flying as a passenger in the F/A-18 Super Hornet. “I got to actually fly in an F-14 jet which was a dream come true, and play a character I loved in Maverick,” said Cruise about his experience while shooting for the movie.
Cruise wanted to reduce using CGI as much as possible and ensured that all his co-actors were well acquainted with the aircraft.
Top Gun: Maverick has also become instrumental in inspiring more young Americans to join the armed forces. The way the military has used films to exert their influence has always evoked a sense of patriotism and thrill and this movie is a perfect example of the same. The impact is an Instagram handle that recently posted about this.
The actors had to film themselves flying in the airborne cockpits, and the director could see the video only after they reached the ground. A lot of training went into ensuring that the actors could handle it. Kevin LaRosa designed an extensive training program for the actors so they could act and maneuver the aircraft. Even though Cruise did not pilot the F/A-18, all that training he received was enough to make his acting as realistic as possible.
In the original Top Gun(1986), Cruise did not do any flying. Professional navy pilots handled all the stunts and flying. Tom Cruise was either in the backseat of the fighter jet or in a set that mimicked a cockpit. Things changed a lot when the sequel came out in 2022. Cruise had a pilot’s license, and they trained the other actors too.
2. Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)
Mission: Impossible Fallout had Cruise piloting a helicopter. He completed over 2000 hours of helicopter flying to be well-trained. That was a long and dangerous sequence in the movie, and some of the stunts could have resulted in Cruise’s death if the execution had not been perfect.
In the same movie, Cruise also pulled off a HALO jump, the first ever to be done by an actor. He trained in a big, vertical wind tunnel. Cruise has over 100 hours of skydiving experience, and for this stunt, he jumped from over 20,000 feet and used a parachute at about 2000 feet.
3. American Made (2017)
In American Made, Cruise hones his aviation skills in a few scenes. The movie follows the story of American pilot Barry Seal, played by Cruise, who transports drugs for the CIA. A controversy did arise from this movie’s set when two pilots died while another was severely injured.
4. Mission: Impossible- Rogue Nation (2015)
Mission: Impossible- Rogue Nation, the fifth movie in this franchise, had Tom Cruise hang outside an Airbus A400M as it took off and completed the circuit. There were multiple retakes and Cruise was being supported by just a cord. His commitment to performing such stunts as realistically as possible is commendable.
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How Did Tom Cruise Learn to Fly a Plane?
Tom Cruise is a multi-engine, instrument-rated commercial pilot. He has a private and commercial pilot license. After the first Top Gun movie, he was motivated to undergo training to obtain his pilot license. In the first movie, Cruise could not handle the experience in the cockpit with the flight pilot and felt nauseous. Now, he can easily pilot the plane and perform complex maneuvers.
Cruise must have hired a private instructor to train him. He owns a few planes as well, and he regularly practices and flies them. His first step was to obtain a private pilot’s license.
The process of obtaining a private pilot license is not very complex.
- After an orientation flight, the interested person can apply for a student pilot’s license. They should fulfill certain conditions– should be of the eligible age (14-16 years and above) and be well acquainted with English.
- They should also have a medical form called Third Class Medical from an Aviation Medical Examiner(AME). After obtaining both these documents, the student should find a Certified Flight Instructor(CFI). Flight schools, flight training programs, or any certified person with an aircraft could teach you. After training, you should have a certain number of solo flight hours and other requirements.
- The FAA conducts a written test before the check ride. After this, you will have your “check ride” with a Designated Pilot Examiner. This exam has two parts- oral and practical. You can find additional information regarding this procedure on the FAA website.
- Based on the performance, the student will receive your PPL (Private Pilot’s License). Obtaining a commercial pilot’s license (after receiving your PPL) has almost the same procedure.
Cruise has a multi-engine instrument rating. This rating involves more training and tests because the usual pilot’s license is for a single engine. Obtaining a multi-engine instrument rating requires more aeronautical knowledge and flight training. The student has to be prepared for any scenario or emergency, as the examiners will evaluate their ability to handle complex aircraft and face any situation that could arise.
Tom Cruise should have followed the above-given processes to obtain his license. He also holds an aerobatic rating which helps him to perform all the stunts.
He must have acquired his helicopter license the same way, and the process isn’t very different. Tom Cruise pushed to gain over 2000 hours of helicopter flying experience for his movie Mission: Impossible- Fallout.
His expertise is evident when he performs complex maneuvers, in mountainous terrains, like the ‘corkscrew dive’ or the 360-degree downward spiral in Fallout.
To use the kind of aircraft he pilots (like the Albatros), Tom Cruise must have a type rating, a high-performance endorsement, and more than 1000 hours of jet flying. Type rating essentially means the license to fly a specific model of aircraft. A high-performance endorsement allows the pilot to be the pilot-in-command of heavier and more complex aircraft. The FAA conducts additional training and tests for interested people.
Who Are a Few Other Celebrities That Can Fly a Plane?
Many Hollywood celebrities own pilot licenses and, like Cruise, have fulfilled their aviation dreams. Some of them include the following:
- Angelina Jolie – Angelina Jolie is an award-winning actress and humanitarian who is also a pilot. She got her license in December 2004. Soon, she also bought a Cirrus SR22-G2, a single-engine plane. Her son Maddox was her inspiration to take up aviation, as he was interested in aviation at a young age. The actress has revealed that her son has taken up flying classes now.
- Morgan Freeman– Along with being a renowned American actor and filmmaker, Morgan Freeman also nourishes a love for aviation. He loved war films and eventually received an opportunity to become a fighter pilot. However, Freeman realized his heart was more inclined towards acting and left the Air Force. His love for flying remained, and he got his license in 2002. He owns two planes – a Cessna Citation II and a Cessna 414.
- Dennis Quaid– Known for his comedy and drama movies, Dennis Quaid, the American actor, is also a pilot. For the film The Right Stuff, Quaid overcame his fear of flying and learned the skill. He owns a Cessna 421 twin-engine and a Cessna Citation II and uses them frequently.
- Clint Eastwood– Clint Eastwood is an American actor, musician, and politician. He finds himself on this list since he owns a pilot’s license. In an interview in 1997, Eastwood revealed that his favorite hobby is flying and has held a chopper license for a long time. He also owns an Aerospatial AStar helicopter.
- Kurt Russell– He is an American actor who also loves flying. He has owned a license for more than 28 years and has received the Aviation Mentor Award. He also possesses multiple aircraft and has several hours of flight experience.
How Difficult Is It to Become a Pilot?
Theoretically, it is not very difficult in the USA. If the person is eligible and has the time and resources to train themselves, becoming a pilot is quite accessible.
The entire process was explained in the article in detail earlier. However, several factors could make it difficult for people to pursue their aviation dreams.
1. The Cost
Becoming a pilot is not a cheap affair. To obtain good training and to be able to practice sufficiently, you must have access to such resources. These can be very expensive. The minimum cost to acquire a private pilot’s license is nearly $7600. This rate could differ based on other factors, such as the student’s location and expertise.
2. English Ability
The student should be able to read and comprehend English quite well. If this poses a problem for the student, it can be quite easily solved if the student is willing to take lessons for the same.
This is a requirement that migrants might find difficult to fulfill, but it won’t be too difficult to master the basics in a short period.
3. Medical and Physical Fitness
A pilot needs to remain healthy. The student’s health conditions determine the eligibility for the license. Therefore, it is essential to ensure that you meet the health guidelines issued by the FAA.
For a private pilot’s license, you only require a third-class medical certificate, but for further certification, you need advanced medical certificates.
From the accounts of the actors who worked in Top Gun: Maverick, it is quite obvious that air sickness, tolerance, and breathing are the first major difficulties that new aviators face.
They had to regularly fly and remain in shape during the entire shoot. Hence, it is quite important for pilots to be healthy and have strong bodies.
4. Demanding Lifestyle
The lifestyle and working hours in a pilot’s career can be challenging. When you consider being a pilot as a career path, you would have to prioritize your professional life over your personal life to a large extent.
Frequent traveling and staying from home for extended periods would become the norm. This work-life balance is not everybody’s cup of tea, so you should consider this seriously before taking aviation as a career.
If you are willing to put in time and effort consistently, it will not be too hard to become a pilot. Aviation enthusiasts who want to obtain a license for recreational purposes would not find the process challenging, especially after obtaining the license.
Discipline is required when it comes to the job, and you will have to sort out your priorities carefully.
An actor, a multi-engine, instrument-rated commercial pilot, a producer, and so much more is what makes Tom Cruise such an exceptional inspiration. Even after crossing 50, he hasn’t slowed down or given in to the limitations imposed on you as you age.
His dedication and drive to achieve what he wants are admirable. In a day and age in which anything is possible through CGI and editing, making the actor’s job much easier, Tom Cruise is an exception. It is quite enthralling to see an actor committed to giving maximum respect to the story and the action sequences.
With the resources and wealth that Cruise amasses, he does find it easy to fulfill all his passions. Hard work and perseverance brought him to his present glory, and he never disappoints. Cruise’s dedication to becoming both the things that he always wanted to be, a pilot and an actor, is something we can all learn.
The only limits are the ones we create for ourselves, and if we put our minds to them, we can achieve at least a few things we love and cherish. Becoming a pilot might sound like a scary path, but with the correct guidance, it is possible!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. Does Tom Cruise have a pilot’s license?
Yes, Tom Cruise has owned a pilot’s license since 1994.
2. Is Tom Cruise a real pilot?
Yes, Tom Cruise is a multi-engine,instrument-rated commercial pilot and owns several planes. He owns a P-51 Mustang and a luxurious Gulfstream IV G4 jet.
3. Is Tom Cruise a jet pilot?
Tom Cruise owns a pilot’s license that he uses for personal and professional needs.
4. Is Tom Cruise a certified pilot?
Yes, Tom Cruise is a certified pilot and owns a license. He has a private as well as a commercial license.
5. Is Tom Cruise a fighter pilot?
No, Tom Cruise is not a fighter pilot. He owns a private and commercial license but he does not work with the military.
6. Is Tom Cruise a helicopter pilot?
Yes, he has a helicopter license as well. He had trained for more than 2000 hours for the helicopter flying scenes in Mission: Impossible- Fallout.
7. How much is Tom Cruise paid per movie?
At the beginning of his career, he was not paid hefty salaries. He received around $50,000 for one of his early movies, Taps. Gradually, he gained international fame and recognition. His roles in the first Top Gun movie and the romantic drama Jerry Maguire contributed to the same.
Over the years, his paycheck has increased significantly. From the 1990s onwards, he has received almost $12 million to $100 million per movie through backend deals from his massively successful and profitable projects.