021 – The Real ‘Viper’

Few pilots ever have an opportunity to meet an enemy aircraft in aerial battle. Fewer yet come out victorious. And even fewer still—in fact, only one—then go on to be involved in arguably the most influential pop culture aviation film of all time.

Rear Admiral Pete “Viper” Pettigrew
Rear Admiral Pete “Viper” Pettigrew

That man is retired US Navy Rear Admiral Pete “Viper” Pettigrew.

Climb aboard this week’s episode and hear the harrowing tale of Viper’s shootdown of a North Vietnamese MiG-21 with an untrained RIO in the backseat of his F-4 Phantom. Then learn how he took the call to assist Hollywood as the military adviser to everyone’s favorite flying movie, Top Gun. Think it’s a coincidence that Tom Skerritt’s character—the CO of TOPGUN—was callsign ‘Viper’?!

After the interview we had a little extra time and so answer listener questions such as how likely it would have been in the real world for Maverick’s engine flameout to have occurred by flying through another plane’s jet wash, which cockpit arrangement I liked better between the F/A-18 and F-16, more on aircraft paint schemes, how Approach magazine was regarded, and the defining moment in my career I look back on with the most pride.

Episode art by Gary Meyer. Bumper music by Jaime Lopez.