Off beat: Life on the USS Enterprise good for the stories

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

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U.S. Navy veteran Keith Cupp and his dad Ted recently shared their family saga of sailing on two generations of USS Enterprise aircraft carriers. It turns out that a couple of other sagas were part of Keith Cupp's time aboard the ship, and one tale featured still another version of the USS Enterprise -- the starship.

Keith Cupp was a nuclear propulsion officer on the most recent Enterprise from June 1985 to December 1987. During that time, his ship played a role in two high-profile films: "Top Gun" and "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home."

The "Star Trek" film crew made a brief appearance on his ship, since exterior scenes were filmed on another carrier. It was a minor part of the movie, but Cupp got a close look at the scene with James "Scotty" Doohan and another actor.

"They teleported back in time to our engineering spaces. We actually had them in our engineering spaces to do the filming," Cupp said.

The "Top Gun" production crew spent a lot more time aboard.

"The filming was about 60 days," he said. In port, "They would film on the bridge, the hangar deck and the officers wardroom."

When the Enterprise was at sea, "The film crew would come on via chopper" to film the flying scenes, he said. On-film appearances by actual crew members were pretty much limited to roles as extras.

An online film commentary noted that most of the takeoff and landing sequences were filmed during normal air operations. Director Tony Scott wanted to shoot those scenes with the aircraft backlit by the sun. But during one sequence, the ship's commanding officer changed course.

When Scott asked if the ship could return to its previous course, he was told that it cost $25,000 to turn the Enterprise. According to an online account, Scott wrote a $25,000 check and got five more minutes of backlit shooting.

Off Beat lets members of The Columbian news team step back from our newspaper beats to write the story behind the story, fill in the story or just tell a story.