BOUNTIFUL, Utah (ABC4) – It’s been nearly 40 years since the original Top Gun movie came out. For one Utah man though, it has nearly been the same amount of time since he served in the Top Gun program.

The Top Gun program was created in 1969 as a way to reduce aviation deaths and teach pilots fighter and strike tactic techniques. The 1986 movie ‘Top Gun’ famously covers this “best of the best” pilot school.

Bert Alvey of Bountiful has lived a life similar to what you’d see in the Hollywood movie. Alvey served in the U.S. Navy as an aviator and was selected in the early 80s to serve in the Top Gun program. Alvey made his way through the difficult 13-week program and eventually became an instructor for the program.

While serving in the Top Gun program, Alvey suffered a major loss similar to the death of Goose in the film when his best friend and fellow pilot, Tom Sanders, was killed due to a mechanical malfunction during a flight.

Alvey spoke with ABC4 about his experience.

“Not everything you see in the movie is like real life,” said Alvey. “We didn’t play volleyball, ride motorcycles, or go chasing after wild women.”

Alvey said he started every day by waking up at 4:30 a.m. and would get to bed around 10 p.m. “We didn’t have time to do any of the fun stuff you see in the movie,” said Alvey. “Any free time we had in between flights would be spent studying.”

Alvey remarked on the difficult training in the Navy that would take him on cruises lasting at least 10 months at a time. “The only way we could communicate with our families was through letters. One letter took 3 weeks to get to its destination and then another 3 weeks to receive a reply.”

While the movie ‘Top Gun’ may have embellished some aspects of the program, Alvey spoke of the movie highly.

“I saw the movie the first day it came out of course,” said Alvey. “My wife sat right next to me holding my hand. As soon as that music started, and the first scene came on, my heart rate went up 20 beats and stayed elevated throughout the entire movie.”

Alvey’s wife Shelley supported her husband during his years in the Top Gun program, but it wasn’t an easy task. “He was gone a lot which meant I was at home raising three little kids,” said Shelley.

Similar to the movie, where pilots have call signs, Alvey was no exception with his call sign being ‘Spot’. Alvey became a pilot after his father had served in WWII. This tradition has continued with Alvey’s children, where two of his sons are pilots and one is training to be a pilot.

Bert Alvey currently lives in Bountiful, Utah with his wife. He has six children and 22 grandchildren. Alvey is among those honored at Bountiful Veteran’s Park.

Top Gun: Maverick is set to be released on May 27, 2022.