It probably took
seven to eight
hours total to do the
helmet, including
disassembling it,
basecoating it in a
very dark navy
color, and then
painting on the
details in red and
white before sealing
it all up in a clear
gloss coat and
reassembling it.
I had thought about redo-ing all the patches on the outfit to make it 100% accurate,
and although I usually strive for the highest levels of accuracy, I realized that not
only is most of it hidden underneath all the gear anyway, spending the time and
resources needed to accomplish that wasn't worth the payoff.  So, the patches
aren't real (like on the other pilot figures out there), nor are they exactly right, but
when Tom stands in my display case with the light on him, nobody really cares!
Tom Cruise as "Lt. Pete 'Maverick' Mitchell"
in TOP GUN, 1986

For a guy with enough charisma to make flipping
bottles cool, I guess it wasn't too hard for Tom
Cruise to make being a fighter pilot cool, too.

For this figure, the inspiration kinda happened
backwards.  Usually, I pick a character and
        rack my brains trying to figure out how
          to make it.  In this case, I saw the
     Three Zero pilot, marveled at the detail,
 and then was blown away by the Hot Toys
pilots.  Then Dragon and Blue Box started
doing them too and I realized, with all these
great outfits and accessories floating around,
I'd love to have a pilot in my collection.  And
once I decided that, it wasn't hard choosing
the quintessential pilot character to
immortalize in sixth-scale...
Although the Hot Toys and
Dragon outfits are better made, I
decided to use the Three Zero
outfit because it is the smallest,
and in sixth scale is closest to the
size Tom Cruise would wear.  It's
a shorter Dragon body
underneath, so the scale is just
right.
Both Hot Toys
and Three
Zero's pilot
figures had
headsculpts
that were
obviously
supposed to
be of Tom
Cruise, but
neither was
accurate
enough to
make me want
to buy the
figure.
Not to sound cocky, but I
realized as my sculpting
improved, that perhaps a
decent Maverick custom was
finally within reach...
The head came out all right in the end.  
Decent likeness, real hair again (gelled
this time) and the size was far more
accurate than the tiny Three Zero head
that came with the figure.  Problem was,
that figure also came with an equally
undersized helmet.  So, I went and picked
up a blank helmet and custom painted it
to match the helmet in the movie.  I
couldn't get any stencils to lay flat on the
helmet, so I ended up just painting it all
freehand.
I got rid of the molded rubber boots,
which were also a bit undersized,  
that came with the Three Zero  
figure and opted for the leather
lace-ups that Dragon made a
couple years ago.  I also added a
Dragon wrist watch and aviator
glasses to the figure and that was
pretty much about it.  Figure
completed.
So thanks to the Three
Zero figure that I picked
up on eBay, this figure
came together rather
quickly, as far as my
customs go..  Too bad
they can't all be this easy.
ABOVE:  Here's a nice profile
view of the side detail on the
helmet.  Again, reference pics
from the internet were what
made this type of detailing
possible.