Authored by Dave Baranek
Dave Baranek (callsign “Bio”) was one of 451 young men to receive his Wings of Gold in 1980 as a naval flight officer. Four years later, seasoned by intense training and deployments in the tense confrontations of the Cold War, he became the only one of that initial group to rise to become an instructor at the navy’s elite Fighter Weapons School. As a TOPGUN instructor, Bio was responsible for teaching the navy’s and Marine Corps’ best fighter pilots how to be even better. He schooled them in the classroom and then went head-to-head with them in the skies.
Then, in August 1985, Bio was assigned to combine his day-to-day flight duties with participation in a Pentagon-blessed project to film action footage for a major Hollywood movie focusing on the lives, loves, heartbreaks, and triumphs of young fighter pilots: Top Gun. Bio soon found himself riding in limousines to attend gala premieres, and being singled out by giggling teenagers and awed schoolboys who recognized the name “TOPGUN” on his T-shirts. The book ends with his reflections on his career as a skilled naval aviator and his enduring love of flight.
Bio is one of those guys who was born to fly and was not deterred by having to do so in the backseat as an NFO. Committed to his craft and dedicated to self-improvement, this memoir is equal parts fun read and inspiration. Truly the timeless question, “where do we find such men?” continues to apply to naval aviation.
Fleet life in then-NAS Miramar and TOPGUN only 15-ish years after its founding was interesting, but I was particularly interested in the nuts and bolts of how the movie came to be. Bio regales the reader with the insider scoop on the filming of Top Gun scenes from the movie we all know and love, such as Maverick’s first brush with the “MiG-28” early on. He continues through the movies gestation, culminating with the featured premiere attended by him and the other involved naval officers.
If you are a fan of the movie Top Gun and want to know more about the background of how it came to be, you will enjoy Topgun Days: Dogfighting, Cheating Death, and Hollywood Glory as One of America’s Best Fighter Jocks.