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Hagerty Employee

A fighter pilot tells us what the real Top Guns drive to work

John Gillespie Magee, Jr., an American serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force flying in a Spitfire squadron in Britain during the Second World War, wrote eloquently of having “[S]lipped the surly bonds of earth, and danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings; … wheeled and soared and swung high in the sunlit silence” and “flung my eager craft through footless halls of air.” Though he was tragically killed in a midair collision at the tender age of 19, Magee's poem “High Flight” remains a favorite of pilots the world over. What his moving prose fails to adequately describe is the stark brutality of aerial combat. It’s akin to a knife fight in a phone booth, only with the combatants’ knives worth multitudinous millions of dollars.


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New Driver

Oh yes, more please! Great writing style and a subject that probably interests most gear heads. Sign this guy up and give him a column.

Intermediate Driver

Wow.  Not only is "Josh Arakes" the real deal and knows what he's talking about, he can engagingly write about it too.  I'd love to read more.

New Driver


as a young teenager in the era of Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis, I have imagined fast jet combat as "sport", where you "race" against your opponent. I know about life and death a bit more today, but I still see your job as "driving your vehicle at the limit against other guy".


Could you, in future article, elaborate somewhat about potentially transferable skills for driving (sorry for the terminology) fast jets and cars? Do capabilities that make someone good race driver help with flying fast jet, and vice versa.




This Arakes sure has had some fascinating experiences and an impressive perspective. Let’s hear more from this guy!

Pit Crew

Thanks for a well written article.   I'll have to add my own bit of second hand insight.   My first wife's father was a career Air Force man and so she got to meet quite a few fighter pilots.   She said they were very competitive and she said they were all assholes.   Her own father would go through all the cards in the Trivial Pursuit game so he would always win.   She didn't like playing games with her father because he was such a poor loser.   Here's hoping today's generation of Air Force men are different.


Sounds like the mix of fast cars is about the same as when I went to flight school a few years after Top Gun came out.  I had my 4 cylinder notch back Mustang which I figured was a bit cooler than a Ford Tempo which was the same price.

New Driver

An amazing piece of writing. Looking forward to seeing more in the future. 

Intermediate Driver

Thank you for your Service!  And thank you for the interesting article.  Looking forward to more.

Intermediate Driver

I went from Boot Camp to Blue ID (Retired) in a 1985 Pontiac Fireo SE with a four banger and a 5 speed. It was fast enough for weekend trips all over Florida and when I did three month deployments on a Submarine I never worried about that car while I was away. When I joined the Navy a Vietnam era Marine I worked in a garage with told me he would sell me his Corvette convertible for less that I was going to pay for the Fiero. He then told me that if I bought the Corvette I would spend more time worrying about it when I was deployed and that car would probably get me killed without being behind the wheel. I sometimes wish I had taken the Corvette but I am absolutely sure I made the right decision. He did let me drive the Corvette when I was home on leave a few times so it was all good.