FORT WORTH, Texas — It's 9:37 a.m. at the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Fort Worth. The skies are clear, the weather is perfect, and for Maj. Thomas 'Puppy' Frey of the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 112 -- it's time to buzz a hangar.
Cruising at subsonic speeds, Maj. Frey approaches a handful of Marines on the ground, who spent a considerable amount of time on the F/A-18C Hornet he's test flying.
The sounds of his jet engine rip through the Fort Worth sky as he passes, it's a clear sign to everyone that the test flight is a success.
Maj. Frey casually climbs out of the cockpit, carrying confidence as if he can read my mind: "Damn, this guy has one of the coolest jobs ever."
"They changed out some flight controls, so, basically went up really quick to make sure the aircraft behaved normally. Took it through some aerobatics to make sure it behaved normally," Maj. Frey said.
"Wanted to fly it by the Marines, show them the fruits of their labor."
This kind of thing happens daily at the base. The reason WFAA wanted to see it up close?
This weekend, the much-anticipated sequel 'Top Gun: Maverick' will hit theaters, and we feel the world is about to fall in love with fighter jets all over again like it's 1986.
That's the year the movie 'Top Gun' was released, which is considered a timeless classic and pop culture fixture by many.
It was such a success that year, the U.S. military saw a massive recruitment boom in the months that followed. The U.S. Navy even set up recruiting stations outside of theaters.
If you haven't seen it, the movie follows actor Tom Cruise as he competes through the United States Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor program, often called TOPGUN.
The school is actually real and was set up in 1969 as the United States Navy Fighter Weapons School at Naval Air Station Miramar. In 1996, the school moved to Naval Air Station Fallon in Nevada.
Lt. Col. Todd 'Forest' Peterson knows the terrain well in that area.
The Houston native and fellow member of the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 112 graduated from TOPGUN in March of 2012.
"TOPGUN is designed to send guys to be trained to come back and be instructors in their squadron. We go through the most realistic and intense scenarios to learn to execute the right way, and then teach it to other pilots," Peterson said.
"So, it's bringing everyone up to a standard, and TOPGUN is the source to do it."
And being a graduate of TOPGUN -- brings a lot of questions.
"I obviously get asked about the movie," Peterson said with a laugh.
"Is it anything like it?" WFAA reporter Matt Howerton asked.
"Mostly, no," Peterson laughed. "I don't want to take anything away from it, though, it's a movie, and it served its purpose. It impacted me as a kid, and I think this new movie will impact future aviators."
Sorry, y'all -- no shirtless volleyball scenes.
"They also don't walk around in skinny towels!" Peterson's wife said with a laugh.
Yes, WFAA saw nothing of that on-base either.
But so many people are excited to see the 'Top Gun' sequel, primarily because of how it was filmed.
Tom Cruise went full 'Tom Cruise' and pushed things to the limits for the audience. Paramount Pictures and the larger-than-life actor developed IMAX cameras specifically for the cockpit of the F/A-18F Super Hornet.
Peterson and Frey fly the F/A-18C Hornet, an older model that's not a two-seater jet.
Simply put, all of the dogfighting scenes are real.
Six of those cameras are rolling as the actors of the film sit backseat of a two-seater Super Hornet, as a real pilot flies in the front seat.
As the real pilot maneuvers, the actors' expressions and movements look realistic on camera.
Peterson saw the movie Wednesday night at a special screening and said the flying footage is pretty phenomenal.
"These actors were actually in the aircraft, and you see the G forces on their faces and see the exhaustion," said Peterson.
However, Peterson told WFAA that he wished more of the movie focused on the maintainers.
Those are the guys who do maintenance on aircraft daily.
"One thing that's missed is the maintainers," Peterson said. "They spend so many hours on these aircraft to make sure they can fly, and they're just as important as we are."
Still, the movie will offer a never-before-seen glimpse into a fighter pilot's world.
One that Peterson and Frey can't get enough of.
"I can't think of anything better," said Peterson.
One last question: does anyone actually quote the original movie?
"That's a fineable offense," Peterson said with a laugh.