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If it's Top Gun, it must be ... Nevada

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May 30, 1996
Web posted at: 1 a.m. EDT

From Correspondent Charles Feldman

SAN DIEGO (CNN) -- In a bid to consolidate operations, the Top Gun flying school, popularized by the hit movie of the same name, relocated its pilots and planes to Nevada. Wednesday, the school's last planes took off from the Miramar Naval Air Base in San Diego for the last time.

In all, some 600 pilots and family members are moving, not to mention a lot of impressive flying hardware. The school's new address: Fallon Naval Air Station, about 60 miles from Reno.

For 27 years the U.S. Navy stationed its so-called Top Gun school at Miramar in San Diego. Officially known as the Naval Fighters Weapons School, its mission is to train the nation's best jet fighter pilots. The school was established after the Navy lost a number of aircraft during the Vietnam war. (807K QuickTime movie)

Top Gun leader Cmdr. Rolland Thompson compared the school's long stay in Miramar to an enduring marriage. "It's like breaking up with someone after 30 years," he said.

The school's operation manager was quoted as saying that moving Top Gun was like moving the White House to Los Angeles.

While it was a day for nostalgia, some family members say they are used to moving, and welcome the change. The move means different things to the pilots and their spouses.

"It's exciting because I get to see different places and my kids get to move to different places," said Rhonda Ashliman, a pilot's wife.

"The range space here is wonderful," said Top Gun pilot Eric Shaw. "This is the hub for naval training, and pretty much everybody in the Navy and Marine Corps comes through Fallon at one time or another."

Nevada

His wife, Simone, welcomes the move, but for other reasons. "We grew up together in a small town, so to come back to this where it's small and friendly and so many things outdoors, we love it."

Because the Marine Corps will be moving into Miramar, replacing the departing Top Gun crew, the economic impact on San Diego appears minimal. Some community members are concerned about what promises to be a dramatic increase in helicopter traffic. While not as loud as the jets, they will take off and land more frequently.

For the tiny town of Fallon, Nevada, the Top Gun school is not only welcome, it's manna from heaven.

"I think they will bring a lot of ancillary jobs," said Fallon Mayor Ken Tedford.

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