This North Bay, Ont., pilot's life looks a lot like Top Gun

·3 min read
Air Canada pilot Nicole Parker of North Bay, Ont., says her life has mirrored the movie Top Gun in several ways. (Submitted by Nicole Parker - image credit)
Air Canada pilot Nicole Parker of North Bay, Ont., says her life has mirrored the movie Top Gun in several ways. (Submitted by Nicole Parker - image credit)

Nicole Parker's life has mirrored the story of Top Gun in many ways.

Parker, of North Bay, Ont., is a pilot with Air Canada and recently watched the long-awaited sequel Top Gun: Maverick.

Back in 1986, she was 15 when she saw the original action drama film, focused on students at the U.S. navy's elite fighter weapons school.

At the time, she was already interested in aviation and was an air cadet in Trenton, Ont.

"What it [Top Gun] did was just kind of reinforce my love for aviation and my love for flying," Parker said.

Two years after seeing the movie, Parker earned her pilot's licence. Several years later, her life mimicked the Tom Cruise movie in a new way.

In the original film, Cruise's character, Pete (Maverick) Mitchell falls in love with his flight instructor, Charlotte (Charlie) Blackwood, played by Kelly McGillis.

Parker was a flight instructor too. She had a contract to teach students at Kingston's Royal Military College. She also had a secret relationship with one of her students.

"I met him at a bar, you know, we talked and then, you know what? I showed up to the airport," she said. "Over the next week, I found out he was my student."

Relationship took flight

They dated secretly for two years before showing up at his graduation as a couple. The relationship grew. They fell in love, got married and were together for 16 years.

Submitted by Nicole Parker
Submitted by Nicole Parker

"My ex-husband was a bit of a maverick and somebody who kind of thought outside the box throughout his career and life," Parker said.

Like Cruise's Maverick, she said, her amour had a motorcycle when they first started dating.

"I remember going for a ride on the runway in Kingston and then getting a phone call from the tower there, saying, 'One of your students and some blond girlfriend is on the runway.'"

Submitted by Justin Wall
Submitted by Justin Wall

Parker's ex-husband, Justin Wall, confirmed the motorcycle story.

"That was before 9/11," he said in an interview.

"So they didn't have ... the security and everything. Certainly you weren't allowed to be on the runway, but at the time in Kingston, you would know if there's airplanes coming because the runway lights would be on."

Wall said the original Top Gun inspired him to become a pilot.

"I saw that movie and I'm like, 'That's it.' I was hell bent to go and fly jets off a carrier, but as a Canadian, you really have to move mountains."

Sequel 'a lot of fun,' Canadian pilot says

When the long-awaited sequel was released this past weekend, Parker watched the movie on opening night with their 17-year-old son.

"It was a lot of fun," she said about the film. "I think they did some really great flying scenes. So that just didn't disappoint me. Great soundtrack, lots of one-liners."

Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

As with the original movie, the filmmakers worked closely with the U.S. navy and attached a half-dozen Imax-certified cameras to each fighter jet featured in the film. Cruise also designed a five-month intensive training program for his young co-stars.

The movie has resonated with audiences and made $156 million US domestically over its opening weekend.

LISTEN | Pilot Nicole Parker of North Bay, Ont., details how her life mirrors the Top Gun story:

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