'I am part of the real-life Top Gun – the film misses these crucial details'08/28/2023
Typhoon pilot Ben Chergui has shared what it’s really like to fly planes for a living, and it’s nothing like what we’ve seen in Top Gun.
Back when he was a boy growing up in Eastbourne, Ben, now 32, was lucky enough to have an airshow held in his town each year which initially sparked his interest in pursuing a career in the sky.
‘Every year and I just saw these awesome aircrafts rip roar into the sky and make loads of noise flying upside down and from that moment onwards I remember looking at those aircrafts going “I want to do that for a job”,’ he told Metro.co.uk.
‘I didn’t even realise they got paid to do it until I was a bit older.’
While he did watch 1986’s Top Gun soon after, once he became a professional pilot, he realised the reality was far from what was shown in the Hollywood blockbuster.
‘So, the first one is absolute bobbins,’ he shared.
‘It’s a great film and one of my favourites, but it’s so far from what the job actually is.
‘The new one (Top Gun: Maverick) definitely had some experts on board and a lot of parts are quite accurate but a lot of it is absolutely ridiculous.’
He added: ‘If I did half of the things that Maverick does in Top Gun, I’d be out of a job before I’d even landed.
‘But it’s not a documentary it is a movie and it’s really entertaining and there is some fantastic footage they’ve managed to get.’
However, for those wanting to find out what it’s really like to be a pilot, Ben was one of the professionals followed by cameras for the six-part series Top Guns: Inside the RAF, which provides an unprecedented glimpse into the day-to-day UK and global operations at one of the Royal Air Force’s busiest stations – Lossiemouth.
While Ben admitted he did have some reservations about appearing in the series, his concerns were quickly alleviated and he’s excited for any misconceptions, including those from his family and friends, to be addressed.
‘They think we just fly around for fun, so it’s been quite good to see our story is being told and it’s bringing some awareness to what we do,’ he laughed.
‘We are not just there to have fun and make noise and generate noise complaints at low level.’
However, one detail of the job many people would likely be surprised to learn is that because pilots are often in the air for hours at a time, they have to take pee bags up to be able to relieve themselves in the cockpit.
‘The pee bags are obviously a big one with no toilet on board. Things that I think are now normal and mention it in passing and people are like “what”,’ he laughed.
In the next episode of the series, audiences are given an insight into the life and death situations pilots like Ben regularly come face to face with.
While they undergo seven years of training, he said nerves still kick in once being sent out on overseas missions and the pressure to perform ramps up.
As he explained: ‘It’s not lost on us that when we are flying over places like Iraq and Syria and that there are people down there that want to do some very nasty things to us, so if the worst was to happen it is probably one of the most dangerous jobs in the world.
‘But everything we have in place has prevented that from happening. The job is safe, but if it does go wrong, it goes very wrong.’
After undergoing over 20 missions now, which each span about six hours each, Ben said many have become a blur.
‘It’s so bizarre because you’ll be sat there flying around and sometimes you can be bored waiting for a job to come in and once it does, straight away it is like a different person takes over and you are in a different mode and when it’s over you can barely remember what happened,’ he recalled.
‘You will land on the ground and the intelligence guys will want to debrief on what happened and I’ll have to say I need to check the tapes because I’m in work mode and it becomes a blur.
‘It’s quite reassuring to know the training just kicks in and you start to operate the aircraft as you are trained to do. And then it’s over and you go back to being Ben in the cockpit eating your peperarmi.’
While Ben is passionate about many aspects of his job, there’s one in particular he always feels pretty grateful for.
‘When you’re in the air sitting at 55,000 feet and see the curvature of the Earth and go from daytime with the sky being above you and then it’s dark and you see stars and the whole country, it’s epic getting to do that on a regular basis…it is a huge privilege.’
Going beyond the awe-inspiring aerial manoeuvres and state-of-the-art technology, the documentary series also delves into the collaborative efforts of the Royal Air Force with its allies and partners.
Top Guns: Inside The RAF airs Mondays at 9pm on Channel 4.
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