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Topgun Days: Dogfighting, Cheating Death, and Hollywood Glory as one of America's Best Fighter Jocks Hardcover – June 1, 2010

70 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The author is a retired Naval flight officer, who made several cruises aboard various carriers as the radar operator in the back seat of an F-14. One of those cruises included an ejection when the ship’s arresting gear failed to arrest the F-14 before it went overboard. Even more challenging were his two assignments to the Topgun program, the Navy’s elite fighter-training school, first as a student, then in the coveted position of an instructor. During that second assignment, he also helped with the Navy’s support and the flying sequences of the classic movie Top Gun. (See above for the correct spelling.) The author is a straightforward, even plain writer, but he also has an eye for detail, and gives those details in full measure about experiences for which there is an abiding, even devouring, curiosity among aviation buffs. They will enjoy. --Roland Green

Review

“The author is a straightforward, even plain writer, but he also has an eye for detail, and gives those details in full measure about experiences for which there is an abiding, even devouring, curiosity among aviation buffs. They will enjoy.” (Booklist)

“Dave Baranek isn’t just an observer in this world; he has flown with and taught the best.” (Ed Ruggero, author of The First Men In)

“An engagingly written retrospective.” (Barrett Tillman, author of Victory and Clash of the Carriers)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing; First Edition edition (June 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616080051
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616080051
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 6.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #423,980 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By CAPT Spike Prendergast, USN (Ret.) on June 21, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this book and thought it was exceptional. The cover subtitle may be deceptive since the book is really an excellent six to seven year mini-biography of the author's long journey from being a brand new Naval Flight Officer ensign out of flight training, through transition training to become a Grumman F-14 Tomcat Radar Intercept Officer (RIO), through his first squadron tour and two deployments, to his time as a Topgun instructor. During his two years in Topgun, "Bio" worked hard to become a polished and highly respected instructor giving threat and tactics lectures, flight briefs and, of course, flying on regular training exercises. During the latter part of his tour he became involved, as many others at NAS Miramar did, in the filming of the major motion picture "Top Gun" and in making it the success it was. His behind the scenes descriptions about the filming of the movie and his helping make the actors dialogue more creditable is fascinating and informative. Additionally, his insider perspectives on the natural tension between "absolute reality and authenticity" and the often competing requirements of creating a compelling and commercially successful cinematic experience, and how the major active duty Navy pilots and RIOs assigned to the project were able to strike a balance and make credible compromises between fact and fiction are compelling and make for a greater understanding of the movie version.
First and foremost, however, "Bio's" narrative is an exceptionally un-affected and honest telling of the trials and tribulations of a "new guy" trying to learn all there is to know about flying the F-14, adapting and finding his place in squadron life, and the growing pains along the way.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Russell S. Novak Jr. on May 25, 2010
Format: Hardcover
'Bio's' exeptional narrative style really puts you in the cockpit and tells it like it must have been back in the Topgun glory days. I've never seen a clearer, easy-to-understand description of carrier flight operations. This is a must-read for anyone who is interested in behind-the-scenes insights into the making of the Topgun movie, and should be required reading for future and aspiring naval aviators. The book's photos themslves are worth the purchase price! Great read!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By R. Spell VINE VOICE on January 2, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you want to know every detail of being a Top Gun pilot this is the book for you. Dave "Bio" Baranek describes in detail what it is like to be a rear seat radar officer in an F14 and other planes. But rather than just describe life as a pilot he also backs it up with a crash that is downplayed as both pilots survive when the ending could have been much different, his experience as a Top Gun student and instructor and also what it was like during the filming of Top Gun the movie on which he had significant technical and flying involvement. The book specializes in highlighting the redundancy that is required for safety. And probably its highest point is describing in detail the technical nature of the task of a Top Gun instructor and student. But this book is not for everyone and frankly, I'm not sure I would have kept reading if one of his fellow instructors wasn't also a close friend of mine. That's not meant as a negative. I read for entertainment. This book is about detail and those really wanting to know about flying high performance planes for the Navy and it does an exceptional job of this. Just make sure you are ready for a technical book of mundane tasks involved like passing your "murder boards" to be able to instruct your first class and the time necessary to write an upgrade of a class.

These guys are real heroes and incredibly talented and this book demonstrates the talent and commitment necessary to be a top pilot. But it doesn't read as a fast action book but rather a summation of the job of the pilot/instructor.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By GuyG on February 28, 2011
Format: Hardcover
For anyone who's ever wondered what it would be like to fly a front-line fighter jet, survive an ejection over the ocean, be a Topgun Instructor teaching the art of aerial combat, dogfight against the best pilots in the world and generally live the dream of ultimate flying, then this book will give you the ride of your life.

So thumbs up, salute and hang on!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By G. Bruce Greer on February 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I had the pleasure of knowing the author, and the cast of characters in the book well. I too was an F-14 RIO who flew F-14s and attended TOPGUN. Bio does a very nice job capturing the life of an F-14 RIO, life in a fighter squadron on and off the carrier and attending TOPGUN as a student. He dives deeper once he is assigned to TOPGUN as an instructor; what was required, how the training was done, what students and instructors experienced, and particularly how complete the environment was on teaching tactics, and how professional the instructors were in teaching their subject areas. At the same time, the language, content and style of the book make it very easy for a complete outsider to follow along and understand. His sidebar boxes with explainations of key areas help guide the reader. Many may enjoy his comments on the making of TOP GUN during his tenure and his role, and those of other instructors in making the movie, and the impact of its release on all of us. I have some other memories of the shooting, but after the release, having attended TOPGUN was repected outside of the Fighter Community, and we were no longer automatically assumed to be in the Air Force as we flew.
As a side note, two of the TOPGUN instructors with Bio went on to get four stars in the Navy.

Bio has captured a piece of history and time very well.
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