The aviation community lost a living legend Saturday, December 4th, when Christopher T. “Boomer” Wilson passed away in San Diego, California after losing a hard-fought battle with cancer. The highly decorated 28 year veteran of Naval aviation was a member of the “Grand Club” with over 1,000 aircraft carrier landings and accumulated more than 5,400 flight hours in 30 aircraft types.
Boomer is credited with being the inspiration for Tom Skerritt’s “Viper” character in the movie Top Gun, and in fact worked as a technical adviser on the film. Rumor has it that some of the notorious “Maverick” stunts were also based on the real-life of Chris “Boomer” Wilson. During his speech at the 2010 “Living Legends of Aviation” gala, Tom Cruise, who played “Maverick” in Top Gun, made special mention of Boomer being in the audience that night along with Tom Skerritt.
Boomer’s aggressive cockpit performance during several combat tours in Vietnam earned him six Air Medals for heroism and eventually landed him as the Commanding Officer Naval Fighter Weapons School from 1982 to 1984, more commonly known as Top Gun.
In recent years, Boomer founded the volunteer program at the newly-opened Bird Aviation Museum and Invention Center near Sandpoint, Idaho. According to his bio on the museum website, Boomer held four separate commands totaling over seven years of command experience, and was directly involved in the development of “beyond visual range” (BVR) weapons and tactics which continue to be used by our Navy and Air Force today. Additionally, he held two of the Navy’s most critical and sensitive senior staff positions during the particularly turbulent time period immediately following the end of the Cold War.
After retiring from the Navy, Boomer assisted in the start-up of a small business providing support for the Medium Altitude Endurance Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD) which successfully resulted in the Predator UAV, the backbone of the U.S. tactical UAV force in use today.
Boomer closed out his civilian career as Director of Air Training Range Business Development for the Cubic Corporation, the world’s largest builder of instrumented air training ranges.
During his many-year fight with cancer, Boomer was assisting doctors in new cancer treatments. According to an April 22, 2010 press release on the John Wayne Cancer Institute’s website, Boomer “sought out Dr. Mark Faries, who was experimenting with a new treatment called percutaneous hepatic perfusion”, a treatment method which uses catheters to deliver potent chemotherapy drugs directly into the liver.
Boomer is survived by his loving wife Tere, son Todd, stepson Tim, daughters Lori and Kim, and several grandchildren. His wife Tere writes, “my loving, brave Boomer has taken his last flight to a peaceful and heavenly place. His suffering is finally over. Chris was a devoted husband, father, grandfather, uncle, fighter pilot, son, brother and friend. He loved family, friends, God, country and the CAL bears! His laugh was infectious.”
For more detailed information about his accomplishments, visit Christopher T. “Boomer” Wilson’s bio on the Bird Aviation Museum and Invention Center website.