Today is the 30th Anniversary of the release of Top Gun, a movie that probably did as much for the legacy of the F-14 Tomcat as the aircraft itself. I remember seeing it for the first time 30 years ago with my Uncle Ron in Ottawa. At the time, I was a pretty precocious youngster and was aghast at all the technical errors and blatant bombast. However, as I've grown older, I've realized the genius of the movie itself. Rock music, aviation porn (the opening scene especially), fighter jets, and naval aviators who spout pithy catch phrases. What's not to love? Pure escapist fun. (Though I still have a hard time with line "Mayday, mayday, Mav's in trouble! He's in a flat spin, he's heading out to sea..." Huh, what?)
However, it is not well known that Top Gun was heavily inspired by (aka plagiarized from) the British film High Flight. Both feature young aviators flying the the newest fighter type at the time (Hawker Hunters in High Flight and F-14 Tomcats in Top Gun). Both feature a climax that involves combat with a vague enemy air force. The ending of High Flight is borrowed as the introduction of Top Gun and both High Flight and Top Gun feature a cocky anti-authoritarian pilot with daddy issues. Sadly, High Flight does not contain a line about seeing a MiG-16 do a 1G negative dive and some of the ladies may lament the lack of a volleyball scene. (It does, however, feature a RC model of a UFO.)
All this being said, there are two things about Top Gun that I never really understood: Maverick and the Tomcat. I've never been the cool kid, so it's hard to relate to Mr. Cruise and, sure, Tomcats are cool and all, but I'd much rather be the in-control seasoned professional - like Jester - flying the A-4 Skyhawk. I remember when Testors issued their Italeri rebox movie tie-in models. I bypassed the F-14 and built the A-4 instead. (Sadly, it was an A-4M and not the correct A-4F, but life was much simpler then.) I also lusted after the Airfix Top Gun boxing of their A-4 Skyhawk. Thankfully, it would be years before I would see that kit in person for the first time. That probably saved me a little childhood trauma. (Ugh, what a terrible kit.)
With Tamiya announcing a new 1/48 F-14A Tomcat last week - interesting timing, eh? - I'd still rather see a new tool 1/72 A-4 Skyhawk family. But then, that might just be me.
It's been interesting watching the online reaction to the Tamiya F-14 announcement. I remember back in the younger days of the internet when anything released by Tamiya was hailed with reverence by modelers. These days, some have already blasted the new release as "lacking detail" and dubbed it inferior to a vaporware kit that not only hasn't been tooled, but for which CAD drawings haven't even been released. Oh, poor Tamiya, to go from being top of the hill to has-beens and "so out of touch with what serious modelers want." I'm not much a gambler, but I'll bet Tamiya gets the last laugh on this one.