Hello! My name is LT Kyle “Washjob” Haith and I’m a pilot and instructor at the Navy Fighter Weapons School, commonly referred to as TOPGUN.

Like tons of other kids, I dreamt of becoming a fighter pilot when I grew up. When TOPGUN made its Hollywood debut, a stereotype about cocky pilots was born. But I’m here to set the record straight: not every flight is set to an 80s power chord soundtrack. There are shockingly few cheesy bar serenades and beach volleyball montages here. And at the real TOPGUN, ego doesn’t fly.

The men and women I have the honor to fly with are humble, approachable, and credible. Together, we share one unifying goal: creating the world’s best Strike Fighter Tactics Instructors to train the fleet and ensure victory in combat. We don’t fly for fame, and we’re not in the business of “good enough.” Ask me anything.

Proof: https://i.redd.it/yyxulcssw3a51.jpg

EDIT: Thank you Reddit community for all of your great questions! I had a ton of fun interacting with you, but I’ve got to go fly!

Comments: 2179 • Responses: 18  • Date: 

White2000rs2275 karma

Why did Kenny Loggins just rhyme "danger zone" with "danger zone" in his hit song, "danger zone"?

AmericasNavy1842 karma

To be in the mind of Kenny Loggins for one day...

east_tex2079 karma

Most people think "Maverick" or "Iceman" when they hear pilots callsigns. In my experience, I know guys named "Britches" or "Faceshot". Can you explain in general how pilots really get their callsigns, how they are actually used and...if you're brave enough, how you got yours?

EDIT: Holy crap guys-I throw up what I thought would be a fun gimme question, then had to spend the rest of the day doing warrant service in the pouring rain to come back to Gold. Thanks so much!

AmericasNavy3644 karma

Unlike the Air Force, Navy pilots aren’t allowed to have cool call signs. Even if it sounds cool, there’s always an embarrassing story behind it. Long story short, when we were underway on the aircraft carrier, I got sick prior to going flying. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize it until I strapped into the cockpit. Within seconds, I was leaning over the side of the canopy painting the side of the jet with my lunch. In the Navy, when the maintainers have to wash the aircraft, they call it a “Wash Job”. From then on, the call sign stuck.

scottimusprimus1142 karma

What is there that you don't see in the movies?

AmericasNavy2322 karma

For every hour of flying we do during a training mission, there’s countless hours of preparation, rehearsal, briefing, and debriefing. Just as important as being a good pilot is being humble enough to learn and being able to teach others.

hayrik990 karma

Thats an F-16 behind you in the proof photo, right? Is that used as an aggressor for training or are you guys flying that for another reason?

Whats your favorite plane to fly?

AmericasNavy1617 karma

Correct! The Navy has F-16A (single seat) and F-16B (twin seat) aircraft located at NAS Fallon, NV. We use the F-16 as an aggressor aircraft because it has a higher ‘thrust-to-weight’ ratio than the USN FA-18E/F Super Hornet. This allows the students to fight an aircraft with dissimilar performance, and trains them to use their strengths in combat and capitalize on the adversary aircraft’s weaknesses. At TOPGUN, I fly the FA-18E/F Super Hornet, the legacy FA-18C Hornet, as well as the F-16 Fighting Falcon, commonly referred to as the ‘Viper’.

Blue_Justice6679640 karma

How many flight hours do you or anybody you trained have logged per week? (Also, what’s the longest time spent in a cockpit that you know of?)

AmericasNavy1081 karma

During the TOPGUN course the students normally fly once per day, twice depending on the types of missions we’re training to (e.g. Dogfighting). On average we probably log 5-8 flight hours per week. As far as the longest time anyone has spent in a cockpit, I’ve heard stories from friends deployed overseas that have spent as many as 8 hours in the jet at one time.

ShotFish7531 karma

How do you train yourself not to pass out under the force of flying?

AmericasNavy908 karma

During flight school, every aviator has to undergo centrifuge training similar to astronauts in order to learn different techniques to withstand high ‘G’ forces. Also, the more frequently you fly and the more Gs you pull, your body begins to become used to it and it becomes less physically demanding.

MamaGoat65454 karma

What do you enjoy the most about being a “Top Gun” Instructor?

AmericasNavy628 karma

At TOPGUN, I’ve gotten to do some of the most exciting flying I’ve ever done in my career. However, to me the most satisfying part about my job is getting to teach the trainees that come through the TOPGUN course and watching them get better on a daily basis.

eepohboy214 karma

Could you give an example of what "exciting flying" is?

Also, is TOPGUN a train the trainer program? Or do your graduates fly combat?

AmericasNavy479 karma

One of my favorite training flights to instruct is 2v1. That’s where two aircraft have to establish air superiority over a certain location, and multiple bandits try to jump you from different directions and different altitudes. Sometimes they’re way down in the dirt only a few hundred feet from the ground. At TOPGUN, we train high performing aircrew to go back to fleet Weapons Schools to instruct other aviators in different squadrons prior to them going into combat. Once TOPGUN graduates are finished with their instructor tour, they return to the fleet as Training Officers where they are responsible for training aircrew in their respective squadrons.

tootitbootit410 karma

What’s the path you took to become a fighter pilot? Did you need to be the top in your high school class? College first or right into the Navy? What steps made you succeed to your position?

AmericasNavy767 karma

When I graduated from high school I went to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD. From USNA, I got commissioned into the Navy and an aviation contract. I spent two years in flight school, learning the basics of flying and learning to land on the aircraft carrier, as well as different skills needed to fly jet aircraft before I got my wings. After receiving my wings of gold, I was stationed in Lemoore, CA where I went through what is commonly referred to as the ‘RAG’, learning to fly the FA-18E/F Super Hornet and going through a final round of carrier qualifications prior to being sent to an active fighter squadron and going on deployment.

yesto1776221 karma

Hi, I’m a Mid trying to decide between Navy/Marine air. How often are you on carriers? And is the long pipeline worth it? Thank you sir!

AmericasNavy325 karma

I would say it ultimately depends on the type of aircraft you want to fly and if you’re interested in the ground jobs required of USMC aviators outside of the cockpit. The USN typically deploys their FA-18 Super Hornets and F-35C Lightning II on aircraft carriers, while the USMC will fly their F-35B off of amphibious ships or land bases. As a Naval aviator, I deployed once with my fleet squadron for 7 months, but the length of the deployment depends on your aircraft carrier’s mission and what is going on in the world at the time. No matter what service you choose, I would say the aviation pipeline is definitely worth it. This is the greatest job in the world!

eveningsand220 karma

Lieutenant Haith,

Becoming a Top Gun instructor is definitely a major notch in the career naval aviator's belt. You're going to be riding this high for awhile.

Where do you go from here? If you could pick your next Navy assignment, what would it be?

AmericasNavy276 karma

After I leave TOPGUN I’ll be heading back to the fleet as a Department Head in a VFA squadron. Being a Department Head isn’t as fun as being a Junior Officer, or ‘JO’, but the flying is still just as exciting.

OneEyeTheHard187 karma

What is the admission process like to become a fighter pilot? With fighter pilots being the 'rock stars' of the military, I'd imagine there's A TON of applicants one has to beat in order to get accepted into training.

AmericasNavy299 karma

Yes, Navy fighter pilots are highly skilled aviators, but being in the military is definitely a team sport. As a new guy in the squadron, you definitely don’t start off as a ‘rock star’. You rely heavily on the men and women in your squadron to train and instruct you until you gain the experience and skills you need to become an instructor yourself. It’s also important to remain humble, and realize that you can never stop learning, and there are always skills you can improve upon in the aircraft. It also takes highly skilled maintainers to ensure our aircraft are safe for flight and can perform the way we need them to in demanding situations, and thousands of people on and beneath the flight deck on the aircraft carrier to enable us to even do our job. The aviation training pipeline is a rigorous experience, but the instructors do everything in their power to ensure you succeed!

BathFullOfDucks150 karma

I've always been interested in the positive learning atmosphere I've heard about there, have you ever had a student that just didn't work for?

AmericasNavy269 karma

At TOPGUN, the bar is set high not only for an aviator’s performance in the jet but also their ability to teach others. The TOPGUN staff does their best to ensure all aviators who come through the course are put into a position to succeed. Unfortunately, there are cases every now and then where students don’t make it through. However, these students are resilient and still able to take the skills they learned from TOPGUN to be excellent assets to their squadrons when they return to the fleet.

bthff101 karma

What’s your favorite order at Azteca grill?

AmericasNavy167 karma

California burrito with extra fries.

moonhexx93 karma

Thank you doing this! So, during hands on instruction, do pilots learn or feel what the aircraft can do? Like after I get a new car, there's this feeling I get as if I'm one with the machine. I always wondered if fighter pilots get that too. Also, do you lose the sense of speed once you're away from the ground?

AmericasNavy146 karma

Definitely! Each aircraft has a distinct feel during different stages of flight, whether we’re flying at high speeds or extremely slow behind the aircraft carrier. The higher you fly, you do begin to lose the ‘speed rush’ that you get when flying at low altitudes and high airspeeds.

ploopy124782 karma

Becoming TOPGUN instructor is no small feat. What has been the most difficult part of the process that you had to overcome?

AmericasNavy114 karma

The TOPGUN course was extremely challenging, not only from a flying perspective but mentally as well. Luckily I had some amazing guys and girls in my TOPGUN class, and we all leaned on each other for motivation in order to make it through. Not every flight was perfect, but it was important to take what I learned from previous flights and continue to apply those things throughout the course until I got to the level of performance that I wanted to be at.

Capt-Save-a-SWO-50 karma

What would you rather do, be an AIC or be an AIC? Also I’ve heard the ACC SME is a cool guy.

AmericasNavy79 karma

Being an Air Intercept Controller is a really cool job. Even cooler than being an AIC is being an Air Combat Control subject matter expert.

Z400Rider10 karma

Thanks for your service.

Is it boring driving a car/truck etc after flying fighter jets for a living? Also, do road trips feel like they take forever?

AmericasNavy55 karma

It’s actually nice to ‘slow down’ for a change and take in the scenery. Road trips at times do seem like they take forever though. During a 5 hour drive to San Diego I couldn’t stop thinking about how the trip would only take 25 minutes in the jet.