Maverick F-18 fighter jet flights cost $15,822 per hour


Authenticity has a premium. Just ask Paramount Pictures. As Bloomberg news stories, using an F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jet to capture these jaw-dropping aerial footage featured in Top Gun: Maverick costs up to US$11,374 / AU$15,822 per hour.

Government regulations prohibit non-military personnel from handling any Department of Defense asset other than small arms in training scenarios, says Pentagon Entertainment Media Bureau Chief Glen Roberts. So neither Tom Cruise nor any of the other cast members were allowed to touch the controls – despite the man behind Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell’s actual aviation credentials.

Instead, the actors mounted a shotgun behind real F/A-18 pilots after undergoing required training on how to eject from the advanced fighter aircraft in an emergency. and survive at sea.

RELATED: Tom Cruise pilots a helicopter on an aircraft carrier for the premiere of “Top Gun – Maverick”

“The Impossible mission star – famous for his own stunts – insisted that all actors portraying pilots on the long delay Top Gun: Maverick film fly in one of the fighter jets built by the Boeing Co. so they can understand what it’s like to be a pilot operating under the pressure of immense gravitational forces,” write Daniel Flatley & Kelly Gilblom of Bloomberg.

“Cruise, 59, had also flown in a jet for the original Superior gun – a smash hit in 1986. He ended up making over a dozen outings for the new film.

“Tom sort of built like a flight plan for me and all the other young actors that were going to be on the jet,” Miles Teller – who plays Lt. Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw – revealed to BH in a recent interview. .

“We started with the Cessna, which is the base plane you start with if you want to get your pilot’s license. So we started with that and kept going… the flight training got more and more aggressive. And yes, it’s really difficult, as you said, to get in a fighter jet with these pilots and attend a briefing.

“It was a lot. There were a lot of things you had to think about while on the jet, but it was worth it. They didn’t think we would be able to have a camera in the cockpit. We managed to put six. »

“It’s a pretty special feeling to be able to work with an actor of the magnitude of Mr. Cruise,” Jon Hamm – who plays Vice Admiral Beau “Cyclone” Simpson – told BH in the same interview.

“He’s one of the last real movie star types with a capital ‘M’ and a capital ‘S’.” They don’t make them like that anymore, really. It was kind of fun coming to work, I will say.

RELATED: Tom Cruise is the last real movie star, says Jon Hamm

According to military publication SOFREPHowever, the true the cost of operating an F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jet is closer to double the amount making headlines, hovering around the US$22,000 benchmark – meaning Paramount Pictures director Joseph Kosinski, as well as the wider Top Gun: Maverick the production may have landed a good deal.

Here is the explanation of an article titled “Why Sloppy Accounting Is Destroying the US Fighter Inventory” written by former F/A-18 Hornet pilot and Harvard Business School graduate Brett Odom, CFA+CMA (All $$ $ = USD):

Consider the two-seat, twin-engine F/A-18F. The DOD rate for the aircraft is $10,507 per flight hour.

The Hornet burns about 1,100 gallons of jet fuel in an hour. At $3 a gallon, the cost of fuel comes to $3,300. We assume aircrew pay rates for an O-3 with more than 6 years of service and add 35% to account for markups such as taxes, health care, and vacation. For a pilot and weapons system officer each earning $125,000 per year, flying 200 flight hours per year, the cost is $625 per flight hour or $1,250 for both crew members.

Rotating elements – the multitude of parts and components with unique lifespans – must be taken into account. These range from a $100 oil filter with a life of 50 hours to a $4 million engine with a sequence of inspections and overhauls over a life of 4,000 hours. We estimate about $1,500 per flight hour for each engine — $3,000 total for the Hornet — and about $500 per hour for the other rotables.

"Top Gun: Maverick"  F-18 fighter jet rides cost $15,822 per hour

The sorties depend on a dedicated team of squadron maintainers, non-commissioned officers and administrative staff to support air operations. With a strength of 180 enlisted and officers (not including aircrew), at an average salary of $50,000 plus markups, we calculate the squadron’s labor costs at $12 million. For the average Hornet squadron flying about 4,000 flying hours per year, we calculate a cost of $3,200 per flying hour. (Note that we have ignored facilities and other costs, such as travel, for simplicity).

Adding these costs together, we arrive at a number remarkably close to DOD’s published rates: $11,250 versus $10,507 (or $11,140 for non-DOD users).

But what about the capital cost of the aircraft? The reported cost of flying the F/A-18F is approximately $65 million. With an expected life of 6,000 flight hours, the amortized capital cost of the asset is $10,800.

There are valid reasons for ignoring capital costs and treating them as sunk costs in certain situations. However, by ignoring capital costs, the MoD implicitly states that its fighter jets are free or, like the pyramids, can operate indefinitely.

The true cost of operating the Super Hornet is closer to double the DOD’s published rate – about $22,000, not $10,507, per flight hour.


Either way, the cost of running an F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter (or more) hasn’t just paid off in a visual sense – it’s already recouped at the box office. after Top Gun: Maverick was officially cleared for takeoff last week.

Scoring US$151 million / AU$210 million from North American cinemas and US$109.5 million / AU$152 million from international cinemas in its first weekend alone, the long-awaited sequel has already surpassed US$260 million / AU$362 million. in revenue against a production budget of US$170 million / AU$236.5 million.

In terms of cultural hype and revenue, this bad boy is poised to become the biggest Tom Cruise movie of all time. How good is this.

Now that you’ve read all about the amount of fighter jet footage featured in Top Gun: Maverick cost, check out our spoiler-free review here and our one-on-one interview with cast members Jon Hamm and Miles Teller here.


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