I won’t forget the date. Saturday June 4th, 2022.

This was the day my family walked into Wenatchee’s Gateway Cinema to watch “Top Gun Maverick” on the big screen, the second weekend of its release. The hype and anticipation was getting out of control as each and every person I spoke with, said MAVERICK was  “incredible” “worth the hype” “oh, you gotta see it on the big screen!” 

My family took time to pay a small fee to stream the original TOP GUN on Amazon Prime. This helped remind me and my wife of the back story, and help my son finally see it in its entirety.

I knew MAVERICK was gonna be a nostalgic tale of Maverick, Rooster, (the son of Goose) and Penny Benjamin…Maverick’s old flame, mentioned in the original, by Goose’s wife: Meg Ryan, as “The Admiral’s daughter”

If you read my bio, After graduating high school in 1986, I was a Navy ROTC Midshipman for my first two years at the University of Washington. My goal was to graduate and qualify for flight school in Pensacola, Florida. After my sophomore year, I took an eye exam at NAS Whidbey (Oak Harbor), My right eye tested 20/30. 

This meant that I was no longer eligible to fly jets for the Navy. 

My love of Naval aviation has stayed with me through today. Seeing the TOP GUN sequel was something I’ve anticipated since first reading about it in the late 10s. I was also exited to see it after hearing that some of it was filmed here in Washington State, as I’ll mention later. 

Finally getting to see TOP GUN MAVERICK in the theater was emotional for me. I watched it, with my hoodie wrapped around my face. I did this to cover my yells and some tears. The highly anticipated film WAS worth the wait.

A month later, my 11 year old son went to Summer Camp at Tall Timbers Ranch, located just North of Lake Wenatchee. One of the camp employees told me that TOP GUN MAVERICK film crews, in 2019, had set up shop at the campgrounds to capture some flight scenes of jets zooming low and fast over the campground. More Tall Timbers camp counselors raved to me about seeing “TOP GUN SIGHTINGS” each and every day. 


Then it happened.

My wife and I were driving back up to Lake Wenatchee to pick up our son from camp…we were less than a mile from Tall Timbers, when I heard an extremely loud SHRRRRREEEEEEAAAKKK rumbling the area around us. My brain made me believe that it was a bulldozer or some sort of heavy machinery in the area. In less than an actual second, after hearing the sound, a fast moving shadow streaked in front of our car. The shadow was from an EA-18 Growler, zipping along  - just above the treetops.

When I arrived at camp, I found my son, gave him a hug and asked how his week was then I asked:

“DID YOU SEE THE NAVY JET?”

 “YES! YES I DID! IT WAS THE LOWEST PASS OF THE WEEK!”

“How many times did you see those Navy Jets?”

“About 14 times, sometimes they flew by in pairs, sometimes all by themselves.”

“Wow”

The Navy jets that my son saw were from NAS (Naval Air Station) Whidbey Island. They use the Northern Cascade mountains as a great training area to prepare themselves for low level flying missions around the world. The purpose of an electronics jamming aircraft is to get in low and fast, then pour an incredible amount of electronic fuzz to jam any radar and communication systems that may pose a threat to the attacking aircraft flying in behind the Growlers. Part of the EA-18 Growler’s role as described by Boeing engineers: The INCANS system (that) will allow the EA-18G to conduct voice communications over ultra-high radio frequencies with friendly forces, while simultaneously jamming enemy communications” (circa 2005, from Boeing.com)

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photo credit: Connor

The mountains above Tall Timbers Ranch pictured above (from a pic I took while helping a wedding in late May) were used as the setting for the 3rd act of Top Gun Maverick, when <<<< SPOILER ALERT>>>> Maverick and his crew of fellow Navy flyers were flying in low and fast into enemy territory. 

My son described to me that the jets would fly in from right to left and around the left ridge in the picture. I wish I could have seen this in real time. By the way, If you haven’t seen Top Gun Maverick yet in theaters, you need to go see it on the big screen while you can. It was amazing.

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