As an F-14 Radar Intercept Officer (RIO), Dave Baranek routinely strapped on 50,000 pounds of fire-breathing hardware and took to the skies in defense of our country.
On the ground he was appointed by Hollywood executives to consult them on the making of the movie "Top Gun."
In his amazing new book "Topgun Days," Baranek separates the glamor of Hollywood from the reality of life in the cockpit of what was the world's most advanced fighter jet, the F-14 Tomcat.
Remember the finale at the end of "Top Gun" when "Maverick" and "Iceman" fought those Russian Migs?
Baranek was actually inside one of those sleek, black jets simulating an enemy engagement thousands of feet in the air.
The book is a must-read for anyone who's a fan of the iconic film. It begins with a riveting account of the day those dogfight scenes were filmed.
Off the coast of San Diego, "Top Gun" director Tony Scott flew with his film crew in a Learjet with a specially modified window. The flying was extremely demanding, and Scott challenged the pilots in order to get the shots for which he was looking.
For the reader, this account is just the beginning as the adventures in the sky jump off the pages.
In the chapter titled "Rocket Ride" Baranek (whose call sign is "Bio") re-lives the time a malfunctioning arrestor cable sent his Tomcat over the edge of the carrier USS Constellation. Baranek and his pilot were forced to eject as the jet fell over the side. Blacking out from the force of the rocket firing under his seat, the ejection sent he and his pilot nearly sideways as their chutes opened just before they hit the water.
Both men survived and continued their careers in Naval Aviation.
For Baranek that career would lead him to Topgun. A squadron he would return to as an instructor. In a sense the book contains memoirs of a man who wanted to be the best RIO (Radar Intercept Officer) he could possibly be. We learn about the true importance of the RIO's position in a high speed, intense "G" pulse-pounding dogfight. Identifying distance and closure rates of the contacts on the radar.
Head on a swivel looking for enemy jets.
Calling out their F-14's airspeed and other information crucial to the pilot in winning a dogfight.
Tune in "Top Gun" fans as Dave "Bio" Baranek will be our guest on NBC San Diego News in the Morning on Wednesday, April 20 at 6:15 a.m. You can get the book and meet him too as he has two book signings in San Diego this week.
Tuesday, April 19 he'll be at Warwicks on Girard Street in La Jolla beginning at 7:30pm.
If you can't make it you can catch up with him for lunch at his other event at a location where "Top Gun" was filmed. Kansas City Barbeque, downtown on Wednesday, April 20 at 11:30 a.m.