DES MOINES, Iowa – The sound of thunder wasn’t the only thing Iowans heard late Monday night. There was also a rumble that caught many by surprise.

Metro residents had a lot of questions after hearing a loud noise coming from the sky. 

“It’s a distinct sound. I’m sure people probably heard it,” Lieutenant Claire Clark, U.S. Navy pilot said.

Clark has the answer: fighter jets came to Des Moines. 

She’s one of the pilots who flew from Naval Air Station Lemoore in California.

“We got in at about 11:30,” Clark said. “The F35s got in a little bit earlier in the afternoon so if someone heard some noise, it was probably them coming in as well.”

Two F18s and two F35s took off from Des Moines Tuesday afternoon to do a flyover for Larry Spencer. They were in missing man formation for the veteran who was an American prisoner of war in North Vietnam for nearly seven years, the longest of any Iowan according to his obituary.

“To get to salute his service is incredibly humbling,” Clark said, “and also just a cool testament to the Navy’s culture and aviation community. Super proud to be a part of.”

There’s also a sense of pride for the pilot, whose call sign is “Gypsy,” to fly an aircraft that many have recently seen on the big screen.

“As an F18 pilot, it’s awesome to see the F18 in Top Gun,” Clark said. “Obviously it’s Hollywood, but it does a great job of capturing the fighting spirit of Naval aviation and the pride we take in being professionals.”

One thing the movie couldn’t fit into two hours is the time real-life pilots take to prepare.

“I think that’s one thing people don’t probably understand is before we fly, there’s hours of mission planning that go into it,” Clark explained. “And then when we land, there’s hours of debrief to include watching your tapes, reviewing what you did, discussing learning points. We’re pretty hard on ourselves but that’s how you get better.” 

For this young pilot, the sky seems to be the limit.

After spending time with family in Iowa, Clark will take off from Des Moines on Wednesday.