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Topgun Days    by Dave Baranek order for
Topgun Days
by Dave Baranek
Order:  USA  Can
Skyhorse, 2011 (2011)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

This is a memoir that not only delves into the author's life as a Navy radar intercept officer (RIO) and instructor at the famous Fighter Weapons School (Topgun), but it also offers a behind the scenes look at the making of the Hollywood classic Tom Cruise film, Top Gun.

As he shares the adventures of his twenty year Naval career, Baranek gives his reader a good idea of what it was like to be part of an elite group of officers who flew the legendary F-16 fighter off the decks of huge aircraft carriers.

'Before becoming an instructor at Topgun I flew in hundreds of dogfights, which usually lasted about two minutes each, and logged more than a thousand hours of flying time in the F-14 Tomcat, the Navy's premiere fighter and at the time one of the world's most capable aircraft,' explains Baranek.

'As a radar intercept officer, my seat was six feet behind the pilot's, so I got the same ride as he did and I was critical to our mission. I launched real missiles at targets, escorted Russian bombers probing our ship's defenses, regularly flew a few feet from other aircraft to accomplish aerial refueling, and made hundreds of head snapping catapult launches and arrested landings ...'

Since this year marks the 25th anniversary of the release of the film Top Gun and Baranek was one of the advisors for the film and also involved in some of the aerial action scenes, he focuses a good portion of his memoir to describing how the movie people worked together with the Naval personnel assigned to the project.

Writing in a conversational tone that flows nicely, Baranek keeps the technical jargon to a minimum, plus he provides a glossary for the terms he does use in the book.

Referring to it as eye candy, the author also provides a collection of fifty full color photos with the text, which offer the visual support necessary to make a book like this come alive and enhance its attractiveness.

Anyone interested in the Topgun flight school and the movie of the same name will find this a fascinating book. The perspective Baranek provides as both a student and then instructor at the school is as interesting as his role in the making of the movie.

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