Lieutenant Pete “Maverick” Mitchell’s (Tom Cruise) statement, “I feel the need -- the need for speed” in the 1986 film Top Gun sums up the desire ignited in a nation of the film’s fans.
Viewers expressed their needs as bomber jacket and Ray-Ban Aviator sunglasses sales jumped by 40 percent after the film premiered. The film was heralded as the highest-grossing film of the year, raking in $179.80 million. Then in 2015, the United States Library of Congress selected Top Gun for preservation in the National Film Registry, which indicates a film is “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
With the release of Top Gun: Maverick, the sequel to the cult classic, coming this December, fans will be looking for ways to get their own aerial excitement. Many of the scenes in both Top Gun and Top Gun: Maverick were filmed in and around Fallon, Nevada, and the Naval Air Station (NAS), a United States Navy air-to-air and air-to-ground training facility that’s southeast of Fallon.
Fans can experience the euphoria and adrenaline rush that comes with aerial experiences and satisfy the need for speed themselves during a Top Gun-inspired vacation. Head to Nevada to enjoy these unique aerial experiences that will take you from the silver screen to the Silver State.
1. Fly A Fighter Jet
Like Maverick, you too could say, “…because I was inverted” when you pilot your own fighter jet -- no experience necessary at Sky Combat Ace as an experienced instructor pilot has an identical set of flight controls to back you up. Their two Nevada locations take you to the skies above either Minden-Tahoe or Las Vegas.
The most popular experience at Sky Combat Ace? Of course, it’s the Top Gun Experience, a 2.5-hour flight that includes loops, rolls and stalls, upright or inverted spins, torque rolls, and more for $699. Not for the faint of heart, you’ll fly the plane through a complete aerobatic routine.
Or partake in so-called aerial dogfighting against another team as you practice aerobatics with your teammates. You’ll wage a battle for aerial dominance while flying with a trained Sky Combat Ace fighter pilot for $999 per customer.
Take it up another notch, and for $1,299 per person, try it all: aerobatics, air-to-air combat, and a dynamic low-level bombing run. It may leave you saying, “That’s right, Iceman. I am dangerous.”
2. Get A Bird’s-Eye View In An Air Balloon
If going full-on Maverick is a little too intense, you can still take in amazing Nevada scenery from the skies with Vegas Balloon Rides. You’ll go beyond the city to get a spectacular bird’s-eye view of the Nevada desert and mountainous surroundings -- Nevada is, after all, the most mountainous state in the Lower 48.
Arrive before sunrise to watch as they inflate the balloon. Then, just after the sun rises, you’ll lift off for a peaceful sky journey rising as high as 10,000 feet. The ride lasts about an hour and is followed by a champagne or sparkling cider celebratory toast, a light continental breakfast, and a commemorative flight certificate to memorialize your flight.
Join a group flight for about $199, or with a minimum of two passengers, book a private flight for $400 per person.
3. Blast Off In A Jetpack
Fifty miles from the Vegas Strip in Pahrump, thrill seekers find the world’s first jetpack oasis at Jetpack America. Soar up to 40 feet above the freshwater Lake Spring Mountain at Spring Mountain Motor Resort and Country Club. Dive into the lake and then blast off with a water-powered jetpack to see the sights from above the water. You’ll hover, spin, walk on water, and can even submarine like a dolphin.
The flight experience includes a brief instruction period -- typically under 10 minutes long -- for the average user to learn the basic maneuvers. Choose from a Flyboard Jetpack, or hover with a Jetboard for 30 minutes; rates run from $139 to $179. Or choose a combo flight for 40 or 60 minutes and try both hydroflight devices for between $269 and $349.
If you fall in love with the sport, you can purchase a Jetpack, Jetboard, or Jetbike and accessories to continue the experience on your own.
4. Take To The Skies With An Engineless Aircraft
Soar like a bird with Soaring NV in Minden. Pilot a glider with climb rates exceeding 1,500 feet per minute with both thermal and wave lift. See the beautiful Sierra Nevada Mountains, Yosemite National Park, and the White and Inyo mountain ranges while soaring. Bring your glider or rent one of theirs.
If you’re new to flying a glider, Soaring NV can help you earn a glider pilot certificate or an add-on rating to a private pilot certificate. Their instructors have thousands of hours of experience both with gliding and instructing. Learn to fly at the Minden-Tahoe Airport. Costs run from $7,000 to $10,000 and include instruction, glider rental, tows, ground study material, the written test fee, and the check ride over a six- to 12-week period of training.
You don’t need a pilot certificate to fly on one of the guided adventures, such as the Tahoe Sky Ride for $269, during which you’ll fly a mile above the ground over the Great Nevada Basin for a view of Lake Tahoe. You can even have your FAA-certified ride pilot guide you through taking control of the glider yourself. Or take the Emerald Bay Adventure for $480 and soar over the epic Sierra Nevadas down into the Tahoe Basin, over the casino corridor, past the Tahoe Keys, and over Desolation Wilderness and the spectacular Emerald Bay. Their most spectacular ride, you’ll even receive edited video of your flight to relive the experience at home.
5. Free Fall From An Airplane
Skydive for the ultimate adrenaline rush. Skydive Lake Tahoe in Minden operates out of the Minden Airport in Carson Valley and offers tandem skydiving for stunning views of Lake Tahoe, the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and the Carson Valley below.
What to expect: On the way up, you’ll experience the best views of Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada Mountains from their Cessna aircraft. You’ll fly to heights of over 12,000 feet above the ground to prepare for the jump. Leap from the aircraft and experience speeds increasing to over 120 miles per hour. Feel the sensation of falling through the sky and spend nearly a minute in an exhilarating free fall. The instructor will deploy the parachute at an altitude of 5,500 feet above the ground. Float under the canopy for the five-minute parachute ride and enjoy the views as the instructor guides you to the ground for a touchdown in the landing area. After, view your photos and the video of your skydiving event. The weekend cash price is $200.
6. Take A Helicopter Tour
Whether you prefer to see the Las Vegas Strip from above or want to venture to the Grand Canyon by helicopter, GC Flight can provide your ideal experience. For $98, take a 15-minute flight over the world-famous Las Vegas Strip to see the neon lights and resorts. You’ll arrive at the private helicopter terminal and enjoy a pre-flight glass of champagne before boarding the jet helicopter. The flight will take you past historic Downtown Las Vegas and its 1,149-foot Stratosphere Tower and over the resorts and bright light of the Luxor Sky Beam.
Or choose one of several Grand Canyon flights, such as the Grand Canyon Rim Helicopter Landing Tour for $387. This approximately four-and-a-half-hour tour flies below the West Rim of the Grand Canyon to land at the Grand Canyon West Airport. The flight there is narrated by your pilot, who will point out sites such as Hoover Dam and the stunning Mojave Desert before your arrival at the Grand Canyon. Once there, the helicopter will descend below the rim for a 15-mile aerial tour through the Grand Canyon before landing at the airport for the ground tour. There, you’ll explore the rim and the views of the Grand Canyon. Explore Eagle Point, home of the Grand Canyon Skywalk, for 30 to 45 minutes before boarding the helicopter to return to Las Vegas.
7. See Nevada From Above Via Drone
View the breathtaking beauty from above in Reno, Lake Tahoe, Las Vegas, and more in these drone videos. Appreciate the fiery red landscape of the Valley of Fire, view the natural wonders of Mount Rose and the Washoe Valley, or explore the desolate ghost town of Nelson from the comfort and convenience of your home, hotel, or vacation rental.
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