Tomcat Rio: A Top Gun Instructor on the F-14 Tomcat and the Heroic Naval aviators

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TOMCAT: RIO

Dave Baranek was born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida, where he grew up drawing airplane pictures and putting together scale model airplane kits. In his early teens he set his sights on becoming a jet fighter pilot or radar intercept officer. He attended Georgia Tech and participated in the ROTC to qualify for officer training, then entered the Navy in 1979. Shortly after he joined his first squadron he received the callsign “Bio,” which many of his former squadronmates still call him.

He enjoyed a successful and satisfying 20-year career in the Navy, starting with assignments to F-14 Tomcat squadrons and the elite Topgun training program, and later assignment to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the US 7th Fleet. At one point, he commanded an F-14 Tomcat fighter squadron, responsible for nearly 300 people and 14 aircraft worth about $700 million. He completed his career with 2,499.7 F-14 Tomcat flight hours and 688 carrier landings. His logbook also records 461.8 flight hours in the F-5F Tiger II.

While serving as a Topgun air-to-air combat instructor in 1985, he had the unusual experience of flying aerial sequences used in the film “Top Gun,” starring Tom Cruise and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson. He also served as a dialogue advisor on the project, and took some of the few available photographs of the movie’s black F-5 fighters in flight.

He retired from the Navy in 1999, and works as a defense contractor. He is married and lives in Satellite Beach, Florida.

Throughout his Navy career and afterwards he was chosen to write articles, reports, and other products where compelling, high-quality writing is important. He wrote classified articles for the Topgun Journal professional magazine and also wrote and presented briefings to General Colin Powell and Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney when he was on the Joint Staff.

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