High-flying action in Bangor

Published: Jul. 30, 2022 at 7:16 PM EDT
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BANGOR, Maine (WABI) - “Top Gun: Maverick” is now a billion-dollar movie.

If you missed the high-flying action on screen, you might be able to see something similar in Bangor just by looking up.

The Maine Air National Guard has been a staple of the Bangor community for the last 75 years, and if you’ve ever stepped foot in town, you’ve most likely heard them flying overhead.

When they’re flying over Bangor, they’re keeping their skills sharp performing training exercises similar to those shown in the “Top Gun” films.

The base is known for housing the KC-135, a refueling plane that’s designed to help keep other aircraft in the sky instead of having to land to refuel.

The pilots here in Bangor that operate the KC-135′s come from many different walks of life.

For some, being a pilot is all they’ve ever known.

“I started flying when I was seven with my grandfather, and that’s kind of what got me on to it. And then, I wanted some help with college. So, I enlisted, and then, while I was out here, I realized that my love for flying continued,” said 1st Lt. Kyle Blanchette, KC-135 pilot.

For others, the Air Guard provided them an opportunity when they wanted a new direction in life.

“Graduating college, I was in the health sciences, and I started flying general aviation shortly after that. I realized the passion I had for aviation, and I was looking for an opportunity to serve our country. I applied all over the country, and I heard a lot of good things about Maine. So, I ended up getting hired out here,” said Capt. Michael Hillmer, KC-135 pilot.

It’s also given them a chance to see the world.

“One of the coolest places I’ve ever been, I guess, just the other week, took a flight out to Japan, stopped into Hawaii on the way back, and then, made the trip back here at Bangor, so that was a pretty awesome trip,” said Capt. Andrew Duplessis, KC-135 Pilot.

While you may know the names “Maverick,” “Rooster,” and “Iceman,” meet “Cupcake.”

He’s a Navy F-18 pilot who flew into Bangor to execute low level training.

During which he got the chance to see the state of Maine in a way very few have.

“Honestly, coming in here, I was like, holy crap, I’m the luckiest guy in the world that I get to see this landscape from this vantage point,” said Lt. Charlie “Cupcake” Peck, F-18 pilot.

Peck is looking to head to Top Gun himself and says getting to soar through the sky is unmatched to anything he’s experienced in life.

“Nothing even comes close to the thrill of a Super Hornet going from zero to 150 miles an hour in about two seconds. No matter how many times you do, it never gets old, and honestly, it’s pretty awesome,” said Peck. “I was fortunate enough to get picked up to go into the FAA team pipeline and carry on getting to do the best job in the world.”

Of course, none of this would be possible without the team around him.

“I can’t say enough about the guys that keep these jets flying and fully mission capable those guys work their butts up day in and day out to make sure we can fly as machines and do the missions that we’re tasked to do,” said Peck.

The Air Guard says they provide opportunities to more than just those who want to sit in the cockpit.

“The Maine Air National Guard can provide so many opportunities, you know, whether you’re fresh out of high school or you’re looking for a career change. Whether it’s education benefits, health benefits for your family, you get the opportunity to serve right in your backyard,” said Tech Sgt. Brittnie McHugh, production recruiter.

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