I Bet You’ve Never Seen A Private Jet Fly An Approach To An Aircraft Carrier Before

While the plot of the box-office smashing Top-Gun: Maverick will likely be known to many readers by now, the full story of how the film was made is still unfolding. Two and a half years ago, The War Zone reported on how many of the aerial sequences that would become the movie’s most impressive moments were being filmed. More recently, we discussed how Lockheed’s Skunk Works brought the film’s fictitious ‘Dark Star’ aircraft to life. Now we are seeing how special, extended aerial sequences were shot, including this wonderfully bizarre footage of an Embraer Phenom private jet flying a missed approach to the U.S. Navy supercarrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71).

The full video, originally posted to Instagram by Kevin LaRosa II, Top-Gun: Maverick’s Aerial Coordinator, gives a behind-the-scenes view of how some of the film’s aerial shots around the aircraft carrier were captured. Hand-held camera footage from within the cockpit of an Embracer Phenom 300E light jet, reveals a pilot’s-eye-view of how footage of aircraft approaching and buzzing over the aircraft carrier was obtained for the movie. Here, LaRosa flew with co-captain Jonathan Spano and camera operators Michael FitzMaurice and David Nowell.


Of course, actually landing a fighter jet aboard an aircraft carrier is a notoriously difficult task, which The War Zone has covered in-depth here. But, as you can see by the ‘meatball’ in the video on the first pass which was incredibly dramatic, right into the setting sun, the little Phenom was just a little low on glideslope as it crossed the fantail of the ship, before powering-up and going around.

A cockpit view from the Phenom camera ship just before it passes over the fantail with the setting sun in the distance. See the meatball on the left side of the deck. @k2_larosa/Kevin LaRosa.

The shot of the little Phenom from the carrier’s island, blasting over the landing area above a trio of Super Hornets, is almost comical. It is certainly unlike anything we have seen before. The second pass looked even better and seemed ideal for emulating the viewpoint of a fighter for movie-goers to enjoy.

A still from the footage posted by LaRosa depicting the Embraer Phenom jet flying above the landing area of the supercarrier. What a bizarre moment, definitely a first. @k2_larosa/Kevin LaRosa.

LaRossa comes from an air-minded family. His grandfather and father were both pilots, and it was his father’s work as a stunt pilot and aerial coordinator in the film industry which inspired him to become a camera jet operator in the first place. LaRosa is credited with working on a string of major Hollywood blockbusters in recent years; including multiple Marvel films and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018.)   

Compared to other camera jets, notably the L-39 Cinejet used for capturing high-octane dog fight sequences, the Phenom 300E proved instrumental for filming longer scenes.

“I flew the Phenom extensively on the movie and the platform excelled when we needed extended time on station or the reliability and added safety of two engines for over water operations,” LaRosa posted on Instagram.

Still from the footage posted by LaRosa, depicting the Embraer Phenom jet circling the supercarrier. @k2_larosa/Kevin LaRosa.

“It [the aircraft] was also unique in that the Phenom carried two F1 camera gimbals from @team5aerials allowing us to fly two entirely different lens options on the same flight.” He went on to credit Brian ‘Ferg’ Ferguson, the Navy’s technical advisor on the film, for helping to make the sequence happen from a planning and logistical standpoint.

The Phenom was especially useful on set, LaRossa has stated elsewhere, because it also “gave us longer sortie times. The Phenom carried more fuel and was able to stay on station longer. The back of the aircraft was configured with two operating stations [for filming.]”      

Behind-the-scenes footage like this provides a unique glimpse into what the film was like to make for the production crew and pilots tasked with capturing its breathtaking aerial shots. It’s clear that those involved in the film’s production enjoyed making it just as much as audiences have enjoyed seeing it in cinemas – perhaps even more!                

Contact the author: oliver@thewarzone.com

Oliver Parken Avatar

Oliver Parken

Associate Editor

Oli’s background is in the cultural and military history of twentieth-century Britain. Before joining The War Zone team in early in 2022, he was Assistant Lecturer at the University of Kent’s Center for the History of War, Media and Society in the U.K., where he completed his PhD in 2021. Alongside his contributions to The War Zone‘s military history catalog, he also covers contemporary topics and breaking news.