Tom Cruise’s Epic ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ Flight Mission Debunked by Neil deGrasse Tyson

by Caitlin Berard
(Photo via Getty Images / Clive Mason / Staff)

At this point, it seems everyone in the world has seen Top Gun: Maverick. Sitting just under $1.5 billion at the box office, the long-awaited sequel to the ’80s classic steadily climbed the ranks until becoming the highest-grossing film of Tom Cruise’s career and the 5th highest-grossing film in North American history.

Still in theaters across the country, Top Gun: Maverick continues to add to its record-breaking success five months after its release. Rather than watch in a packed theater, some prefer to enjoy a new film alone, or from the comfort of their own home. Among those viewers is famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Tyson’s opinions about the script, the acting, and the stunts are unclear. He does, however, have a bone to pick with the physics. According to Neil deGrasse Tyson, the scene in which Maverick safely ejects from a plane at 7,000 mph is completely illogical. The maneuver wouldn’t have just killed Tom Cruise’s Top Gun character, it would’ve done so in Looney Tunes fashion.

“Late to the party here, but in this year’s [Top Gun: Maverick], [Tom Cruise]’s character Maverick ejects from a hypersonic plane at Mach 10.5, before it crashed,” Tyson wrote on Twitter. “He survived with no injuries. At that air speed, his body would splatter like a chainmail glove swatting a worm. Just sayin’.”

Neil deGrasse Tyson Explains the Unrealistic ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ Scene

For most of us, watching Maverick eject from an impossibly fast plane and survive is just one of the incredible action sequences of Top Gun: Maverick. It’s just a movie, after all, and even if it were real life, how many of us are knowledgeable enough in physics to know the difference?

To Neil deGrasse Tyson, however, the Top Gun: Maverick ejection scene was nothing short of nonsense. “At supersonic speeds, air cannot smoothly part for you,” he said. “You must pierce it, which largely accounts for the difference in fuselage designs between subsonic and supersonic planes. For this reason, the air on your body, if ejecting at these speeds, might as well be a brick wall.”

“When Maverick ejected at Mach 10.5, he was going 7,000 mph, giving him 400 million joules of kinetic energy – the explosive power of 100 kg of TNT,” Tyson continued. “A situation that human physiology is not designed to survive. So, no. Maverick does not walk away from this. He be dead. Very dead.”

Fellow physics expert, Elon Musk, then chimed in as well. “Indeed, that kinetic energy scales with the square of velocity is not well-appreciated!” the Tesla CEO agreed. “A sealed escape pod with a heat shield would probably work.”