Lubbock native soars as stunt pilot in Top Gun: Maverick
LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Lieutenant Commander Heflin was commissioned for the Navy more than a decade ago.
Now those skills are highlighted in one of the most popular movie franchises in history: Top Gun: Maverick.
As a Lubbock High graduate, her road to the sky started right here in the Hub City.
“What inspired me initially to become a fighter pilot was my dad taking us out to Reese Air Force Base to see, to watch the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels fly,” Heflin said.
The Air Force and Navy show squadrons helped set Heflin on the runway. Another inspiration, her older brother who is diagnosed with Down syndrome.
“He’s the one who inspired me to join the military in general,” Heflin said. “Just because watching him wake up with a smile everyday and be ready to tackle the world and accomplish some amazing things in his life.”
Now Heflin has as well. With West Texas wind beneath her wings Heflin became a pilot in 2013. She served multiple deployments overseas during her 11-year service.
“Being strapped to that aircraft is a rush,” Heflin said. “It is an absolute roller coaster ride every time you strap in and it is fantastic. So getting shot off that carrier is an absolute blast.”
But a new challenge was waiting, one she had never taken on before: as a stunt pilot for the new Top Gun film.
Lieutenant Commander Heflin says her attention switched from tactics to optics.
“Now I have to be worried about lighting. I have to be worried about if the person in the back is getting sick. I have to be worried about where I’m placing the aircraft as far as the scenery that’s put in the background,” Heflin said. “Which is very different than when I’m worried about tactics and when I’m worried about dropping bombs.”
Even with her real-life experience, the film pushed her skills as a pilot at times.
“It definitely pushed my skills,” Heflin said. “I think it pushed everybody’s skills a little bit because we wanted to present not only for Tom Cruise and Paramount, but for the world. We wanted to show them what we’re capable of.”
Heflin doubles for actress Monica Barbaro who goes by the call sign “Phoenix” in the film. A name almost as good as her real-life call sign: “Bacon.”
“‘Cause everybody loves bacon,” Heflin said.
Lieutenant Commander Heflin says she enjoyed working on the film but she doesn’t expect to be on screen again.
“It was an incredible experience,” Heflin said. “Working with Tom Cruise, Lewis Pullman, Monica Barbaro. They are amazing people. I do not think that has opened any doors for me to go to Hollywood or stunt fly for anyone. It was an absolute blast.”
Lieutenant Commander Heflin just completed her service in the Navy recently.
Now she says she is dedicated to building her family.
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