In the middle of shooting Top Gun, producer Jerry Bruckheimer realized he had a huge problem: With the exception of Tom Cruise, all the actors playing Navy pilots kept vomiting in the cockpit. “Their heads were down, and when they got their heads up, their eyes were rolling back,” Bruckheimer says. “It was terrible. They were all sick.”
On a scrappy budget with clunky 1980s technology, an untrained cast, and new studio leadership, filming eventually moved to an L.A. soundstage, where those actors could settle their stomachs while pretending to fly on a gimbal instead. The disrupted, piecemealed experience stuck with Cruise long after—despite the movie’s eventual massive box office success and canonization as a modern classic, the A-list actor had little desire to revive Pete “Maverick” Mitchell. “Originally, I wasn’t interested in doing a sequel,” he told Total Film magazine, at least not until technology—and his castmates—could “put the audience inside that F-18.”
Three decades later, Bruckheimer and director Joseph Kosinski flew to Paris to convince him they could. During a 20-minute break on the set of Mission: Impossible—Fallout, Kosinski pitched a sequel centered on Cruise’s aging fighter pilot and his strained relationship with his best friend Goose’s son. “I wanted it to be a rite-of-passage story for Maverick,” says Kosinski, who tried appealing to his star’s extremist sensibilities by promising to shoot everything practically. The director had seen Navy pilots use GoPros on their flights, documenting a first-person experience above the clouds that was “better than any aerial footage I’d seen from any movie,” he says. “I showed that to [Tom] and said this is available for free on the internet. If we can’t beat this, there’s no point in making this movie—and he agreed.”
Over the next 15 months, Kosinski collaborated with naval advisers and aerospace corporations, building six specialized IMAX cameras for an F-18 cockpit, mapping out highwire action sequences through tight canyons, and developing a specialized “CineJet” with aerial coordinator Kevin LaRosa II to capture it all from the air. “A lot of what we did was cutting-edge,” LaRosa says. “That technology came to fruition as the story came to fruition, and Top Gun: Maverick became a real thing.” At the same time, Cruise started his own preparations, vetting a cast of young pilots—Miles Teller, Glen Powell, Jay Ellis, Monica Barbaro, Greg Tarzan Davis, Lewis Pullman, and Danny Ramirez—before developing a specialized flight training gauntlet so that everyone could conquer the sky. “He knew the goal was to not only get his footage in the plane, but to get them all in the planes,” Kosinski says. “He just wanted them to be prepared, and he knew exactly what it was going to take.”
Leaning on years of his own piloting experience, Cruise put together a detailed aviation curriculum, connecting actors with trusted flight instructors, building up their G-force tolerance to unthinkable levels, and readying their transition into the F-18 cockpit. The result is breathtaking, a collage of immersive, madcap flying sequences and high-octane performances—a testament to Cruise’s unrelenting drive to pack as much thrill-seeking euphoria into Top Gun: Maverick as humanly possible. “He will do whatever it takes to give audiences the ride of a lifetime,” Powell says. “It’s so infectious to be a part of.”
Part 1: “I Never Signed That Waiver.”
Because Top Gun: Maverick would be shot practically, Kosinski and Bruckheimer needed actors who were unafraid to fly and could subject themselves to intensive training. Not everyone who auditioned was truthful right away.
Joseph Kosinski (director): I made it very clear from the very first meeting: We’re going to shoot this for real. This means you’re going in a real F-18 and flying in these scenes. A lot of people tapped out.
Lewis Pullman (Robert “Bob” Floyd): You go to an audition like that and you’re like, “Damn, that would be cool but it’s never going to happen.” Then they said, “We want to sign you up as long as you’re not scared of flying.” I fly all the time commercially—Spirit Airlines, all the greats. They were like, “It might be a little different than that.”
Monica Barbaro (Natasha “Phoenix” Trace): Joe asked me if I was afraid of flying, to which I said, “No”—then he told me that we’d be flying in jets. I got goosebumps.
Greg Tarzan Davis (Javy “Coyote” Machado): I lied to Joe. I was just given a piece of paper for the audition saying, “Are you afraid of flying?” “Are you afraid of heights?” Of course I said, “No.”
Danny Ramirez (Mickey “Fanboy” Garcia): We had to sign a paper before we stepped into the audition room because otherwise I would have lied to him, and that would have started the relationship on the wrong foot.
Glen Powell (Jake “Hangman” Seresin): I keep hearing all the other guys talk about signing a waiver that you were not afraid of flying. I never signed that waiver.
Pullman: It kind of snuck up on me what we were really doing. They were like, “You’re going to actually fly in these planes.”
Ramirez: I was absolutely terrified whenever I was on commercial flights. My routine was two glasses of wine and Bose headphones to tune everything out.
Kosinski: I looked at hundreds of actors, narrowed it down to my favorite two or three [for each role] and then I sat with Jerry and Tom and, drawing on their decades of experience, we selected our final team.
Jerry Bruckheimer (producer): You look at their body of work, you look at who they are. They sit down in front of you, look you in the eye, and you can tell that they’re committed and that they want to advance their career through a movie like Top Gun.
Kosinski: I think it’s gut instinct, really.
Barbaro: I genuinely love flying. I told Joe in the room that I weirdly enjoy turbulence, and he quietly looked down at his notes like, “OK.” I was like, “That was a weird thing to say.” And then later I thought about it—that was probably the perfect thing to say.
Powell: None of that stuff had ever fazed me. One of the reasons I decided to sign on to the movie was the opportunity to be in the back of real F-18s and shoot this thing all practically. I didn’t want to pass it up. I was all in.
Ramirez: The first week, Monica was like, “It’s crazy this is going to be the peak of our careers,” and Tom’s like, “No, no, no, don’t you repeat that.” He’s like, “We didn’t just cast you guys because you’re great for [your roles]. We cast you because we think you’re going to be the next great movie stars.”
Part 2: “It Feels Like You’re Strapped in by a Couple Shoelaces.”
As part of Cruise’s extensive training program, actors learned to fly inside single-engine Cessnas before graduating to the EA-300 and L-39—aerobatic planes capable of pulling more G’s—to mimic the feeling of being inside an F-18.
Pullman: Tom had personally designed a training regimen that would basically condense two years of flight training into three months—and it was all done in a way that Tom had wished he’d had for himself on the original Top Gun.
Kosinski: He’s a licensed pilot. He flies aerobatics, he flies helicopters, he’s very familiar with what it takes to be in these planes.
Ramirez: Before we even got on a flight, they taught us about what creates lift and the physics of flight. That popped the bubble of fear for me.
Davis: Tom makes sure you feel comfortable with it, then he lets the instructors do what they need to do.
Kevin LaRosa Jr. (aerial coordinator): My dad and I started training all the cast in Cessna 172s. Where to look, how to talk on the radio, how to take off and land, basic flying technique—where and how to look like pilots while flying.
Barbaro: We never flew solo because legally you can’t unless you have a pilot’s license, but we got to a point where we were talking with the tower.
Powell: I’d been cast first, so I’d had a couple more opportunities to be in the Cessna. But I’d never done a takeoff and landing.
Ramirez: We showed up at Van Nuys Airport. I see Glen’s car parked with a big Texas license plate, and I’m like, “Oh, I’ve seen this guy from Scream Queens, he was pretty funny.”
Powell: I remember grabbing a Subway sandwich, getting to know each other in the parking lot. And then it’s like, “All right you guys, ready to fly?!”
Ramirez: It’s my first time, so I’m also a little nervous. As we’re on the runway and taking off, I’m looking at Kevin LaRosa Sr.’s hands, but they’re really relaxed, and they slowly start slipping off. I look over and we’re taking off because Glen is the one pulling back on the controls. I just panicked: Glen Powell from Scream Queens is the first person in this whole movie that’s taking me up in the air? What the hell?
Powell: We got up in the air and I could see he was kind of breathing a little heavier than normal. I looked back and said, “Everything good?”
Ramirez: We ended up flying for about an hour. He lands the plane, and I was like, “I would have never sat in that Cessna had I known that Glen was going to be the one that took me up.”
Powell: We were thrown in the deep end. The amount of trust that these guys had in us from the get-go was wild.
LaRosa: There were definitely actors who were very forward-leaning—fearless, loved every second of it. And then the normal person who’d be like, “Oh my goodness, I can’t believe I’m going to do this.”
Barbaro: We moved on to an Extra-300, which does all kinds of crazy loops and can pull nine G’s with two people in it.
LaRosa: G-forces are created when we apply a velocity or direction change to mass. They can be formed by the jet changing direction. The best analogy is when you’re on a roller coaster and you enter a corkscrew or loop, you feel your body being pressed into the seat—that might only be two G’s.
Pullman: Tom figured you could pull more G’s in the Extra-300 than the F-18, so if we could master that without a G-suit, once we got up in the F-18s, it would be like we had been running with weights on.
Powell: It’s almost like you’re spiraling down in a tornado formation, and you get these big wide turns that get smaller and smaller to increase the G’s until you’re on the verge of blacking out.
Davis: I have video footage of my face being distorted to the maximum. All the life drained out of my body.
Pullman: When you go inverted and you’re upside down, you’re just dangling over nothing. It feels like you’re strapped in by a couple shoelaces. I basically took it upon myself to go skydive. I was like, “If I can jump out of a plane willingly, then I can do all this stuff.”
Powell: Monica and I had this amazing competition every time where we could see who could pull more G’s. You’d do these fake bombing runs over and over, and I think Monica and I got to 6 or 7 at one point. That girl is tough.
Barbaro: We moved on to an L-39 jet. We did some dogfighting with each other, and then we got to fly in the F-18s. And then as refreshers we would fly in the EA-300 just to keep up with our training.
Pullman: We would do these little surveys after each flight. You write down how many G’s you pulled, what maneuvers you did, what challenges you may have had.
Davis: It was like a review-all questionnaire. How do you feel up there? What did you learn? How can we improve on your experience to make you more comfortable?
Pullman: In the beginning, we were all just filling them out not really thinking, Who is reading this? But whenever we saw Tom, he would come up to us and say, “Hey man, I saw that on your last flight you had a little trouble pulling zero G’s. Here’s what I do.” It was like, “Holy smokes, Tom Cruise is taking the time out of his jam-packed day to give me personal tips.”
Kosinski: We had our hands full. It was great to have Tom.
Bruckheimer: He checked the log, found out if somebody didn’t show up. He made sure everybody was there and did what they had to do.
Davis: He’s like the greatest Yelp reviewer ever.
In addition to the aerial training, the cast also needed to pass a Naval Aviation Survival Training course to simulate an ocean landing.
Kosinski: For people who didn’t like to swim, it was really difficult.
Ramirez: Tarzan didn’t even know how to swim when the whole thing started. We all felt like little tadpoles, but our instructor was a U.S. Olympic coach.
Pullman: I grew up swimming a lot, but it’s still different from swimming. It was like forced drowning. They drag you on a zip line to simulate being ejected overseas.
Davis: We had to gear up in about 40 pounds of Navy equipment. The helo-dunker submerges itself in water and flips upside down—it’s a complete 180, and you’re tied to a chair and you have to make your way out through a window.
Pullman: You have to have one hand on some part of the cockpit at all points, and if you have both hands off, you get disqualified. It was a challenge, to say the least.
Davis: Then we had a few tries with blackout goggles on our faces, and that’s when Lewis tried to drown me. [Laughs.] He couldn’t get out the window fast enough.
Pullman: I also had a 101-degree fever that day and I couldn’t change the appointment so I basically had to do it all while incredibly sick.
Powell: You’re literally in a washing machine under water blindfolded and strapped in.
Ramirez: Glen and I had just passed the blindfold test, but Tarzan had failed one of the runs, so Glen was like, “Let’s go in there with him out of solidarity.” I felt a little cocky like, “Hell yeah, I’ve done it already.” We’re upside down, and I keep trying to open this harness, and Glen’s like, “All right, see you later.”
Powell: I’m literally blindfolded trying to find my way out like he is. He tells this story like I looked at him in the eyes and then abandoned him. Danny, you know that’s not how it happened, man.
Ramirez: I’d forgotten the emergency sign for the scuba divers to pull me out. I was about to open my mouth and swallow a bunch of water. Finally the harness slightly opens up, I squiggle my way out of there, break through the window, breach, and take the biggest gasp of air I’ve ever taken. I went up to the guys: “You didn’t see me down there unable to get loose on the screens?” And they were like, “No dude, we thought you were just chilling, you looked so composed and collected.”
Powell: I thought it was really fun, but if you’re having trouble with your harness and something gets stuck, it’s a pretty scary environment. I never panicked, but that moment for Danny I know is pretty scary. If I knew he was having a problem I would have totally gone over to help him. But I had a blindfold on.
Pullman: At the end of the day, everyone was always checking in on each other, making sure nobody was falling behind. It felt like a very safe space and everyone wanted each other to succeed.
Ramirez: The swim element was more like trauma-bonding.
Part 3: “You Can See the Tunnel Start to Close.”
Though none of the actors actually flew F-18s by themselves, they rehearsed repeatedly on the ground with their professional pilots to mimic each other’s movements and maneuvers, making it easier to perform and stay coordinated in the air. Still, sustaining eight G’s and flying at low altitudes provided all kinds of challenges.
Kosinski: We would do a two-hour brief every morning where we would go through everybody’s work—storyboard by storyboard, line by line, where the sun had to be, what the terrain had to be, what the choreography of the planes had to be. We had to make sure the Navy pilots and actors were in perfect sync.
Pullman: That was pivotal. Once you’re up there in the cockpit, you’re kind of on your own. You can’t walk down to Joe Kosinski and be like, “Did we get that take? Can we move on?”
LaRosa: He can’t be in the air with his cast, so he’s so involved in the planning and briefing stage. We always went through the same formula: What are we going to do on this flight? How are we going to obtain all of that on this flight? And we end it with safety being paramount.
Kosinski: After that we would move to something called “the buck,” which was a plywood mockup of the F-18 cockpit with all the instruments and switches in the same place, but on the ground. We would walk through the entire day’s work shot by shot—spray the sweat on, turn the camera on, turn the camera off. It was a very tedious process to go through.
Pullman: Tom would sit on the outside of the buck and run the scene with you and give you direction and tips about how to make it more dynamic or more intense. Because these cameras are more stagnant and fixed onto the frame of the F-18, you have to kind of create your own dynamics within the frame.
Barbaro: There were four cameras facing us that were fastened to the cockpit, and two pointing toward the front of the plane over the shoulder of the actual pilot that was flying us.
Ramirez: As weapons system operators, [Lewis and I] had a tougher task of being back there and not looking in the direction we were flying. When we were banking to the right, we’re looking to the left.
Barbaro: We would have to sort of direct or remind our pilot exactly where to line up with the sun. For example, if I was flying in a certain direction in the morning and Lewis was flying with the same pilot later in the day, they had to fly in the opposite direction so that there was continuity.
Kosinski: I wanted it to be muscle memory because when you’re pulling six or seven G’s, you don’t want to think about anything.
LaRosa: Typically, jets would go on an hour-and-a-half mission, return, and then debrief. We’d sit there and watch all the footage with the pilots and the cast and Joe would say, “Oh I need you to look a little more this way, need you to fix your mask here, furrow your brow more.”
Powell: You’re running cameras, you’ve got to remember your lines, you’ve got to [remember] sun position and keep that consistent, know where the other airplane is so you don’t run into another aircraft, the altitude, the airspeed—all these things have to be together. When you’re up there, you’re the pilot in command, you’re the only one who is in charge of this stuff. It’s a very empowering experience.
During a training run in Top Gun: Maverick, in which the pilots must ascend at a vertical angle to eclipse a mountain peak, Coyote (Davis) blacks out at eight G’s and descends into a free fall before regaining consciousness. One of the movie’s most extreme scenes, it epitomizes the physical toll required to be an F-18 pilot.
Kosinski: It was one of the first sequences we shot, and it was such an important one because the footage that Tarzan got on that flight was so spectacular that when we put it on the big screen, it really motivated everybody.
LaRosa: There’s a shot from behind the F-18 slow-rolling toward the ground. That is a real, practical shot. That’s me in the CineJet chasing an F-18 toward the earth as if the pilot has passed out. We’re doing 400 miles per hour.
Pullman: What we learned in preparation of getting into the F-18 and pulling G’s was you have to do this thing called the “Hick maneuver” to stop the blood from leaving your brain and rushing to your legs. You flex from your calves, to your thighs, to your core, to your chest, to your head in succession so it flushes all the blood up to your head.
Davis: I realized if I were to do the Hick maneuver well, I’m not really passed out, and the audience would see that on camera. So as I’m going, I am literally dying not being able to do the Hick maneuver—and I still have to act.
LaRosa: For Tarzan, he’s on a jet rolling toward the ground.
Davis: I definitely have to trust my freaking pilot. He also played limp, so they could match the cut in the edit. I’m like “Yo, when are you going to pull up?” At one moment we were really close to the ground. Pull up! Pull up!
Kosinski: He swore to God he didn’t pass out, but we all think he might have.
Davis: People thought I really passed out. I did not—that was just some damn good acting.
Barbaro: It takes a lot of core strength and a lot of clenching to stay awake and control the aircraft.
LaRosa: You have like 1,700 pounds of pressure on your chest.
Pullman: It’s sort of like your spine is sliding back into the chair and a rhinoceros just popped a squat on your lap.
Powell: In order to breathe in those face masks, you have to push out air in order to suck in air, so you’re almost hyperventilating in order to breathe. If you’re not doing the Hick maneuver correctly, you can see the tunnel start to close in and you’re like, “Oh no.” You just try to keep pushing blood back in your head so you don’t black out.
Davis: When you have motion sickness, they say to look at the horizon and it will settle your stomach. You can’t do that in the F-18 because the cameras are directly in front of you. You have to look inside the cockpit—that makes you even sicker.
Powell: I’ve got to give Lewis and Danny credit as WSOs. They’re looking all around this canopy and when a turn happens, they’re looking in the opposite direction, which is the easiest way to get sick. It is brutal.
Pullman: I tried [Dramamine] on the first flight, but you have to be so cognitively alert. I couldn’t have any fog, I had to be incredibly sharp up there. So I had to find some ways to settle the stomach.
Ramirez: Lewis and I will be the first to admit that we puked.
Powell: You keep your puke bag in your leg pocket. Sometimes when you’re pulling these really dynamic maneuvers with high G’s, you can’t even bend your body to grab that bag.
Ramirez: You just open it up and send your lunch back down.
Davis: You have to push through, you have to rally. You have to know once you get down, everybody’s going to be watching you.
LaRosa: If someone goes out in an aircraft and gets sick, typically you’re done for the day. You feel washed out and tired, you want to rest. We got our cast to a level where they would get sick and fight through it. There’s no pulling over.
Powell: The rite of passage after every flight is you have to go straight from the plane to the briefing room. You would show your empty puke bag to kind of be like, “Did it.” So I would end up taking two puke bags back there—one to puke in and one to show. And then at a certain point I just owned it.
Ramirez: Monica for sure never puked. She was also the person that pulled the most G’s on the EA-300. But Lewis has the most grit of anyone I’ve ever met. He was going to puke and instead said, “Not today,” and swallowed it all back down.
Powell: I’d have a stick and throttle in the back, and if I could put my hand on the stick and throttle and do some kind of maneuvers, there was something mentally [about] controlling the aircraft instead of being a passenger, it changed everything.
Kosinski: Every day was a struggle for those pilots—and the Top Gun pilots themselves. If you haven’t flown in a week or two, and you get back in that jet, they get sick as well. But you have to just learn how to work through it.
Ramirez: In college, I never learned how to puke and rally. So in a confined space, and to be able to push through it, I was very proud of it. I was like, “I don’t want to be cut out of this movie.”
Part 4: “Tom Cruise Is Maverick.”
Cruise’s reputation as an extreme stunt performer and adrenaline junkie preceded his arrival to set, but throughout shooting Top Gun: Maverick, his ambition and daredevilish feats blended with his character and continued to defy the cast and crew’s expectations.
Kosinski: We were shooting the third-act scene in the snow-covered mountains at Whidbey Island. One day, the weather was so spectacular and we had so much work to do, so Tom flew three sorties in a day. Most of our actors would fly once a day. On the last flight, he came back to the debrief room. I could tell he was exhausted and he just sat down on the chair and he put his black Ray-Bans from Risky Business on. I was like, “How did it go?” And he said, “We crushed it.” And he did crush it.
Davis: At one point we were too high up above the canyons, and Tom saw the footage and was like, “This doesn’t work, there’s no danger in this.” And when he says it, you’re like, “Oh, God, Tom, no.”
Bruckheimer: They were 50 feet off the ground, it’s unbelievable. When the pilot got on the ground, he turned to Tom and said, “I’ll never do that again.” Tom pushes them. He said, “We’ve got to make this look real, we’ve got to do this right, it’s got to be a love letter to aviation. We’ve got to be able to make people feel what it’s like to be in one of these planes.”
Powell: The rules are not the rules, the accepted boundaries are not the accepted boundaries. He’s a guy that is constantly pushing everyone around them to do things they never thought were possible.
Barbaro: He really was an incredible resource. Not only did he design the entire aviation training course, but he also taught us how to make a film, how to study film. He would really look you in the eye, and talk to you, and make you feel heard.
LaRosa: There was one day where he came out of the parachute and helmet shop and passed me to the F-18. He was in his Maverick helmet and his full getup. I just remember looking at him going, “That’s Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell.” Instant goosebumps.
Davis: You’re like, “Wow, this is Maverick. This is the real life Maverick.”
Powell: Tom Cruise is Maverick.
Davis: What is Tom not good at? I remember I threw a pass to him [playing football] and he just went gunning. He took off down the sideline in the sand in jeans, and nobody was catching him. I was like “OK, I’m glad you’re on my team.”
Ramirez: I had just finished my last F-18 flight—we were doing a really intense sequence. We land, we’re in the briefing room, we show the footage. Tom is super excited. “Ah, you nailed it.” We’re all hyped. And then Tom’s like, “You heading back to L.A. today? Grab your bags.” So, Tarzan and I are flying back with Tom in his private jet. He’s like, “Yeah, I just bought this.” We land, and then he just jumps onto his motorcycle and hauls ass away. We’re like, “What the hell?” It was the most Hollywood thing I could have ever imagined.
Davis: He may seem intense, because what we’re doing is serious, but he’s a character.
Bruckheimer: I work with actors that can’t wait to go home. It’s so much fun when you have an actor like Tom who understands all this.
Powell: On this movie I’m doing next with Richard Linklater, Tom’s already given me notes on the script, how to build character. That level of TLC and the fact that I can actually call him a real friend … he’s not just bouncing after wrap, he’s really special.
Pullman: There was this moment where Tom brought us into his trailer to show us the first trailer of Top Gun: Maverick. I will always remember Glen Powell looking at Tom and sort of jokingly going, “Tom, you realize now the only way to top yourself is to shoot a movie in space.” Everyone was laughing. And with a sense of seriousness, Tom just nodded: “Yes, that’s true.” Like, this is what’s next for me, this is my duty. And I think he is going to space with Doug Liman.
Powell: You’ve got to watch saying things like that, because Tom will figure out a way to get there.
Part 5: “Welcome to the Skies.”
During the more than 10 months of shooting (and 800 hours’ worth of footage), Top Gun: Maverick pushed everyone’s technological, physical, and mental limits to the brink, creating an instant bond and camaraderie between the cast and crew.
LaRosa: It is no joke what they were doing every single day.
Kosinski: Nothing was easy on this film. We’d only get a few minutes of usable stuff every day, but it’s the only way to get what we got. That was the way it had to be done.
LaRosa: With practical aerial stunts and aerial cinematography, it’s a more visceral feel. You’re not watching a cartoon, you’re not looking at anything fake. You’re looking at something that actually happened. And that means something to people.
Bruckheimer: When the aerial stuff was done, that was my biggest relief. Machines can break, they can have problems. But the pilots were so terrific; the Navy was so great surrounding us with the best mechanics, best aviators—and the precautions that Tom took, which he always does, made sure our actors were all safe.
Barbaro: There was a scene we shot before we did all our pilot training. But after we learned how to become pilots, we apparently walked with more swagger. They were like, “Oh, you guys are walking differently, we have to go reshoot that scene.”
Davis: When you see us in the bar, those are some cocky mothersuckers in there. Why? Because we went through it.
Powell: I’m really proud to look back and go, “Wow, I accomplished way more than I ever thought was possible,” and it’s because of a guy like Tom, who has been pushing for 40 years.
Barbaro: It’s kind of incredible, we stay in touch all the time. Ten months after being in a particular character’s world, it takes a minute to shed that.
Kosinski: It was clear there was a natural chemistry there that got stronger as they went through the flight training and swim training—and the shoot itself.
Pullman: I definitely miss it. I miss going up there.
Powell: For Christmas, Tom gave all the young guns the iPad with ground school on it, and so we all had the opportunity to study it and pick it up.
Pullman: Everyone wants to continue their aviation journey in some sense or another.
Barbaro: I’m almost done with ground school. I’m kicking myself for not just doubling down during the pandemic, but I have every intention of doing it.
Powell: I started flying on my own, and Tom was with me every step of the way. After I got my private pilot’s license, there was a note waiting for me on the ground from Tom that said, “Welcome to the Skies.”
Davis: Tom got us skydiving lessons. Then we went through drifting lessons. Then weaponry training. Dirt bike lessons. I’ve done everything I can think of.
Pullman: I was craving those adrenaline spikes because there’s nothing like it.
Davis: There’s nothing I can say I’m afraid of. Maybe a bee. Other than that, I can do whatever the hell I want now.
Jake Kring-Schreifels is a sports and entertainment writer based in New York. His work has also appeared in Esquire.com, GQ.com, and The New York Times.