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How The Pilots Of Top Gun *didn’t* Get Their Callsigns

How the pilots of Top Gun *didn’t* get their callsigns

Tony Scott’s Top Gun flew into theatres in 1986, and landed in our hearts forever. Besides the generic love story the decade is so well known for, the movie introduced us to a cast of the top pilots the Navy has to offer – each just as cool, calm, and collected as the next.

Each of these pilots had a callsign that they were referred to a majority of the times in the movie, so much that we often forget they have real names. While their callsigns are cool and likely handpicked to be that way, real life in the Navy isn’t that perfect. Most people get their callsigns from a funny incident, personality trait, or another thoroughly random way, leading the less cool sounding, but equally meaningful, ones such as “Nemo”, “Ice Cream”, and “SNIFF”.

So, we asked ourselves, what would the origin stories of the callsigns of each of the main characters be? (Wrong answers only)

The Top Guns

Pete “Maverick” Mitchell – Mitchell once called himself a bit of a “maverick” in passing while introducing himself to the squadron. However, his baby face and momma’s boy demeanor ensured it stuck.

Nick “Goose” Bradshaw – A good friend and back seater to Maverick, Bradshaw got shit on by a goose from a few hundred feet above during his graduation ceremony at the Academy. There’s no getting away from that.

Tom “Iceman” Kazansky – During shore leave, Kazansky slipped on some spilled ice while out at a bar, resulting in a broken arm that took him out of commission for a month. He had to explain what happened to the rest of his crew.

Ron “Slider” Kerner – The self-proclaimed pride of Dogtown, Kerner prided himself as a skilled “boarder” until, while trying to demonstrate his prowess in front of everyone, he had to bail and slid down the entire halfpipe.

The Other Guns

Rick “Hollywood” Neven – Hailing from a sleepy town in the Midwest, Neven moved to LA to chase the dream before joining up. However, he hasn’t seem to have fully let go yet..

Leonard “Wolfman” Wolfe – Ever since he was a kid, Wolfe took his family name to heart. Seriously though, with a last name like that, the callsign comes naturally.

Bill “Cougar” Cortell – On his first night out as a new recruit, Cortell was hit on relentlessly by an older woman (although Cougar insists that the age difference is greatly exaggerated).

Sam “Merlin” Wells – Star of the skies and stage, Wells starred in the local production of Broadway’s Merlin before joining the Navy.

Charles “Chipper” Piper – Won’t ever shut up. It’s as simple as that.

Marcus “Sundown” Williams – Consistently flipping from uber serious aviator to party animal precisely at sundown, Williams is the epitome of the phrase “first impressions never last”.

The Head Honchos

Mike “Viper” Metcalf – During a hunting trip in is younger days, Metcalf was bitten by a viper in an unfortunate place. The callsign stuck, although it definitely sounds cooler than its origins suggests.

Rick “Jester” Heatherly – With an unbreakable no nonsense demenour, Heatherly was always the most serious pilot in the academy. His callsign is a natural fit, clearly.

Top Gun was a smashing success both at the theatres and at home. It has stood the test of time, and due in no part to its memorable characters. While these characters are an integral part of the story and action sequences, we hope that this little bit of made up history helps establish just a little more of a backstory to each, enriching the experience on your next rewatch.

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