Fighter Pilot: The Real Top Gun is a 2019 three-part documentary about trainee pilots in the RAF.
In the second episode, the fighter pilot students at Britain’s very own academy for Top Guns turn their attention to dogfighting. Learning air combat is a key skill if they want to reach their goal of flying solo, and eventually the brand new F35 Lightning.
While Andy has aced his flights and passed every one so far, Sedge has previously failed one and knows he must keep up his standards to progress. He says: “There’s a different kind of pressure, bit of pressure to perform today. I wouldn’t say I was nervous, I just want to get in and go now.”
Meanwhile, fighter pilot trainee Danners has made safety mistakes and failed the same sortie twice, putting her place on the course in jeopardy. She says: “The flying training system here effectively operates a three strikes and you’re out policy. I’ve failed the same trip twice now. So, there are some significant consequences potentially after my next trip. I feel like I’ve taken on board the learning points and it should go well, but at the end of the day if it doesn’t then that could be me removed from training.”
In South Carolina, 617 Squadron commander Butch is learning to fly the F35 and has reached the next stage in his training – refuelling. The fighters refuel in mid-air using long hoses and nozzles from a Royal Navy Voyager plane, complicated by the fact the hose is just 10cm wide, making it potentially deadly for all involved. Butch says: “This is a bit like if you are driving along in a car and you are trying to drive alongside another car and shake the person’s hand in the passenger seat.”
Junior pilots Chris and Liam are also learning to fly the new F35 in South Carolina, having graduated from the school as exceptional students. The only issue is, they have no combat experience. If they are going to be ready for the frontline by the end of the year they’ll need to learn how to drop bombs. Chris says: “The last three or four months has been relentless.They’re just trying to push you to get as much as you can done, so that we can get finished by July when the squadron comes home.”
Now both must take the next step – trying to hit two shipping containers on a range with a payload of dummy concrete bombs. Liam’s flight is delayed by technical issues, but Chris manages to get into the air. He says: “I wouldn’t say I’m nervous about it. I guess slightly apprehensive, having a live bomb strapped to you is part of the job. It’s good to have at least had the practice before the real one, because I guess the next time after this could be for real.”
Fighter Pilot: The Real Top Gun Series
You can find a full index and overview of Fighter Pilot: The Real Top Gun here.
Production & Filming Details
- Production: Blakeway Production.
- Distributor(s): ITV4.
- Release Date: 27 August 2019.
- Running time: 47 minutes.
- Rating: PG.
- Country: UK.
- Language: English.