Book review – Topgun Days

Topgun Days: Dogfighting, Cheating Death, and Hollywood Glory as One of America’s Best Fighter Jocks
Dave “Bio” Baranek
Skyhorse Publishing
2010

What it’s about:

Dave Baranek was an F-14 RIO who attended Topgunn and then became an instructor at the famed school. He happened to be on the Topgun staff at the time that the movie Topgun was produced, and was involved in several aspect of the film.

What I liked about the book:

  • Nicely written and vivid description of how Bio developed in his profession from a “nugget” new to the fleet to a Topgun instructor.
  • Good description of how the pilot and RIO worked together in an F-14.
  • Excellent photography by the author.
  • Pleasant writing style.

What could have been done better:

  • Nothing that I can think of.

Summary:

As one who has a enormous collection of aviation, aerospace and military history books, and a particular interest in the Cold War in which I participated as a bit player, this book would have seemed to be a natural for me. But to be honest, I judged the book by its cover. The mention of “Best Fighter Jocks” smacked of the bombastic egotism seen in some other books of this genre, and the making of a movie really didn’t interest me. But I was at the National Air and Space Museum when Dave “Bio” Baranek was signing books outside the bookstore, and I struck up a conversation with him. He was a nice and interesting guy, and I purchased a copy of the book. My prejudice was incorrect. In the book, Dave comes across as thoughtful, modest and genuinely respectful of a wide variety of people (i. e. none of the “if you ain’t a fighter jock, you ain’t #$%&” attitude). The aerial vignettes are fascinating, but so are the stories of how Topgun instructors bring their professionalism to the classroom (really, trust me). If you want to understand not only how fighters were flown in the early 1980s but also how an elite organization works, this is the book for you. Highly recommended.

Rating:

5 stars out of a possible 5.

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