CENTRAL CITY — Watching “Top Gun: Maverick” takes Loren Lippincott back to the days when he roared through the air in a jet fighter.
Lippincott, who lives between Central City and Fullerton, was in the Air Force for 10 years.
He flew an F-16, while the Navy pilots in “Top Gun” fly F-18s, but the aircraft are similar, Lippincott said.
“Both airplanes are considered swing-role fighters,” he said. That means they’re built to handle aerial dogfighting. They’re also air-to-ground bombers, which means they can deliver rockets, missiles and bombs.
At Ramstein Air Base in Germany Lippincott was a member of a strike squadron. That means the pilots were certified to drop nuclear bombs if called upon.
Lippincott has seen “Top Gun: Maverick” twice.
Viewing the film was a flight back in time for Lippincott. A graduate of Central City High School and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, he was in the Air Force from 1980 to 1990.
When the first “Top Gun” film came out, he was an Air Force pilot. He saw the first Tom Cruise flyboy film at Sembach Air Force Base in Germany. That picture was “fun to watch,” he said, but he prefers the new “Top Gun” film. The aerial shots were better in “Top Gun: Maverick.”
The film differs from real life in some ways. For one thing, the filmmakers keep all the planes within view of the camera. “Tactically you would not do that,” he said. But it’s a Hollywood product, “so it has to be understandable to the audiences.”
Lippincott, 67, is currently running for the District 34 legislative seat. In the May primary, Lippincott captured 69.7% of the vote, and his opponent, Michael Reimers, another veteran, totaled 30.3%. The two men will face each other again in November for the right to succeed Curt Friesen of Henderson, who was term-limited.
In addition to flying, Lippincott was an instructor pilot in the Air Force. Among other aircraft, he also flew a T38
He’s glad he was in the Air Force. “Absolutely. Positively,” he said. “It was a fabulous career, and I would really recommend that kids take a look at the military as a great career.”
There are a lot of “very high quality, motivated individuals” in the Air Force, particularly the pilots. The pilots are “extremely motivated, bright young men and they were an absolute pleasure to instruct,” he said.
“Top Gun: Maverick” made Lippincott nostalgic.
“Also, it made me very proud of our country and very thankful that our country has put so much money into making our military the absolute best in the world,” he said.
In the Air Force, Lippincott went to officers training school. To fly in the military, one has to be commissioned and a college graduate.
Lippincott’s pilot training class began with 63 students and ended with 39. In a flight screening program, the washout rate was about 40%.
The military wants people who have ability and who are “wired to fly,” he said.
Just because you got an A-plus in college physics doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to make a good pilot, Lippincott said.
“You’ve got to be able to multi-task,” he said.
Almost all of the pilots he flew with were good athletes. Hand-to-eye coordination is important. “Plus, you have to be able to think.”
After leaving the Air Force, Lippincott worked for Delta Air Lines for 30 years, serving as both a co-pilot and a captain. For 23 of those years, he lived just outside Atlanta. Delta employs 14,000 pilots, and more than 5,000 of them are based in Atlanta.
The rest of his time with Delta, he lived near Dallas-Ft. Worth.
In his career with Delta, he flew into 53 countries on five continents.
Lippincott, who is divorced, has two sons, who are 39 and 37.
He lives on a farm along Highway 14 north of Central City. The property used to belong to his family. He bought it back in 2018.
Lippincott isn’t the only member of his family to serve in the military. His brother Randy, who lives in Arizona, was in the Army special forces. Their late father, Dick, was in the Army during the latter stages of World War II.
Dick and his late wife, Rosalie, were also pilots.