Air Warriors: The Inside Story of the Making of a Navy Pilot

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9780684814308: Air Warriors: The Inside Story of the Making of a Navy Pilot

A thrilling, behind-the-scenes account of a remarkable group of male and female Navy Top Gun pilot trainees, whose stories provide an intimacy never captured in movies or on the television news.Investigative journalist Doug Waller, who wrote The Commandos after observing the training of special forces soldiers, now chronicles the training of Top Gun pilots in Air Warriors. This time out, Waller provides even more exhilarating, you-are-there details -- because he was granted permission to actually participate in the pilots' grueling training program.From his birds-eye view in the passenger seat, Waller follows each Top Gun trainee through two years of intense preparation, documenting aerial dog fights that leave the pilots reeling with nausea; stomach-swallowing dive-bombing runs; high-speed tactical maneuvers that graze the desert floor; and one heart-stopping landing and take-off after another.Hurtling through the air at death-defying speeds, these pilots-in-training struggle to maintain their composure while surviving exercises that are designed to challenge them to the very limits of human endurance. In the tradition of George Plimpton, Waller offers a gripping and utterly extraordinary story that will inspire and amaze military readers -- or anyone who loves a heroic human interest story.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

Varied views from the cockpits of Navy planes and the ultracompetitive flight schools that process the best-trained flyers in the world. Waller (The Commandos, 1994), a Time national-security correspondent, was allowed to participate in the long, intense, and risky programs to develop pilots for the navys most up-to-date planes over a two-year period, and here he presents sketches of the young students lives. Waller notes that modern navy training features safety, and very few mistakes by the students are allowed. (In the 1950s, the navy air wings had about 2,000 major air accidents that killed up to 600 pilots every year compared with about two dozen accidents a year today.) Instructors are expert, seasoned veterans who are strict but helpful teachers. Waller takes us along on hair-raising maneuvers and dogfights, and introduces us to young pilots such as Tuba, a musician-turned-aviator, and Rosie, the first female in her squadron. Waller thus also takes us inside the social norms of a bureaucratized, sexually integrated force. The Tailhook sex scandal had a major impact on the world of navy pilots. The author describes how the old breed of cocky fighter pilots became almost extinct after the shock of Tailhook. Hundreds of pilots resigned, and about half of the vacancies were filled by so called ``corporate management types who achieved high marks in college. Waller writes that fraternization between officers and enlisted men and women is now punished more severely than ever, and everyone in the navy is obliged to take several sexual harassment courses. Waller reports on life onboard the carrier Eisenhower experiment with 400 women and 4,600 men on the first ``co-ed cruise.'' An eye-opening account of how our new vastly reduced, gentrified navy works, short of recruits, given more global peacetime missions than ever by civilian officials concerned with the military as an equal-opportunity employer. -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

After much negotiating with top Navy brass, Waller (The Commandos), the national security correspondent for Time magazine, was granted permission to perform an amazing journalistic feat. In the process of researching his book on the training of Navy pilots, Waller was allowed to take part in the program. He endured disorientation exercises in which he was deprived of oxygen, or spun in circles at nausea-inducing speeds. He was blindfolded and dunked, upside down, into a water tank. As reward for having passed those grueling tests, he was permitted to ride in the cockpit of most of the training flights recounted in this thoroughly documented work. Waller resists the easy temptation of presenting a book centered on "my adventure with the Navy"; instead, he relies on his eyewitness experience, plus interviews with more than 200 aviators, to craft an in-depth profile of the Navy's aviation training program and its participants. Readers expecting to follow a core of main characters from start to finish may at first find the format disorienting. Waller offers quick takes on individual students, both male and female, going through a particular phase of pressure-cooker training, then moves on. But once readers catch on, they won't want to put down this engrossing saga that will likely become an unofficial recruiting tool for naval aviation. Throughout, the would-be aviators are revealed as supremely talented, courageous and intelligent young people. And by showing how individual aviators have been unfairly tarred by the Tailhook scandal, Waller offers a powerful argument that repercussions from the infamous sex-capade have gone too far. The Navy will love this exemplary book; but so will the vast corps of military supporters and adventure-lovers. Photos.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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