As we wrote here at SOFREP.com a couple of months ago, we were able to recently make the acquaintance of Dave “Bio” Baranek. We were interested in doing a review of his new book Tomcat RIO which hadn’t been published yet, But Baranek sent us a copy of his previous book “Topgun Days” which we reviewed back in June.
When Tomcat RIO arrived in the mail about two weeks ago, I was excited, since, if it was going to be anything like Topgun Days I wouldn’t put it down… and that was a very true statement. Because once you do begin, you will be enthralled.
Baranek was a Topgun instructor but at the beginning of this latest book, he got to return to an F-14 Squadron (VF-124) for refresher training, and then it was back to the fleet and to VF-2 onboard the USS Ranger (CV-61). Nearly all fighter pilots have very cool nicknames or call-signs. Baranek chose “Bionic” because it sounded like Baranek. But being thin, the Navy pilots didn’t believe he looked very bionic so it was shortened to “Bio.” He went into detail on how it is a Naval aviation tradition for pilots to pick (or be assigned) cool call signs.
During the summer of 1987, the Strait of Hormuz was a hotspot. Iran and Iraq were at war and an earlier cruise had a U.S. Tomcat fire on Iranian pilots. During the 13 weeks in the Indian Ocean, Bio and his pilot performed 45 landings, of which about half were night landings. He was assigned a new pilot (FNG). Once, when they were alerted for a mission, his pilot blasted over the bow and flight deck on full afterburners after takeoff, which earned him an ass-chewing… but the other pilots loved it.