Throughout the movie, it is acknowledged that Maverick is a excellent pilot but has a dangerous and reckless flying style. Early scenes in the movie such as Maverick's encounter with an unnamed MiG-28, where he comes from above, canopy to canopy with the enemy pilot are proof of this. This both impresses some characters and annoys others due to the "danger" Maverick exposes them to.
Maverick's skills are not confined to flying. Early scenes in the movie show Maverick driving a motorcycle at high speeds. He is also quite skilled with the ladies, and manages to establish a relationship with Charlie. While at TOPGUN he meets Iceman, who becomes his rival as well as Hollywood and Wolfman.
During a training flight late in the TOP GUN program, Maverick's plane suffers a flameout in its starboard TF30 engine after flying through Iceman's wake turbulence ("jet wash"), while chasing Jester. It caused his plane to flame out and then enter a flat spin. While Maverick struggled to get to the ejection seat lever, Goose pulls the lever. As Maverick ejects, Goose is slammed into the canopy by his seat's ejection motors, breaking his neck and killing him instantly.
Even though he was cleared of wrongdoing in the accident, Maverick blamed himself over Goose's death. He turns to his mentor and friend of his father Viper for advice, and finds out the truth about what happened to him during the Vietnam War.
While at the TOPGUN graduation he finds that he, Iceman, Hollwood, and Wolfman are needed on the USS Enterprise. Merlin who was originally Cougar's R.I.O. becomes Maverick's new R.I.O. He & Merlin launch from the Enterprise after Hollywood and Wolfman are shot down. During the dogfight with the Migs Maverick is haunted by Goose's death which causes him to briefly disenage. As clings to Goose's dog tags & says "Talk to me Goose!" he reengages in time to save Iceman. Maverick shoots down three aircraft to Iceman's one, forcing the remaining enemy aircraft to retreat.
Maverick and Iceman return to the aircraft deck, and tell each other they can be each other's wingman. He tells Stinger he wants to be an instructor at TOP GUN.
More than 30 years after Maverick's friend, Goose, died, he is still in the pilot's seat, pushing the limits of what his body and his aircraft can do. He is currently doing all he can to avoid being promoted as that would leave in the one place he dreads - out of the sky. He is now training a detachment of young Top Gun graduates, including the son of Goose, Lt. Bradley "Rooster" Bradshaw.
In the script, Maverick's first name was Evan. It was changed to Pete in the final film as a tip of the hat to technical advisor Pete "Viper" Pettigrew, seen in the film as the man Charlie is meeting at the bar in her first appearance in the film.