Americans are fascinated by the undeniable mystique of the elite world of Navy fighter pilots. In Bogeys and Bandits, Robert Gandt takes readers on a thrilling ride in the FA-18 Hornet, one of the fastest, sleekest, and deadliest aircraft in the world. Gandt lived and worked with several pilots learning to fly the Hornet: the identical twins from Middle America; the computer nerd with a penchant for speed; the grandson of a Tuskegee Airman, trying to live up to a proud legacy; and two women dealing with the post-Tailhook world of the Navy. Gandt weaves superb technological details of the Hornet and an insider's look at the highly demanding training program with portraits of the day-to-day lives of these very real people aspiring to fulfill a dream. Bogeys and Bandits will hold readers breathless as they soar through the skies in the cockpit of the fastest and deadliest fighter plane in the world.
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Tales from the cockpits and ground-training classes of those learning to fly the navy's most advanced fleet fighter/bomber jet- -the FA-18 Hornet. Gandt, a veteran navy fighter pilot (Sky Gods: The Fall of Pan Am, 1995), follows eight trainees from their introductory briefing to the difficult final exam and on to their service with the fleet, where they become accustomed to taking off and landing on a carrier pitching and tossing on the open sea. They must master a push- button, computer-controlled, $30 million marvel that routinely exceeds the sound barrier. Gandt notes that the ``Incredible Shrinking Navy'' has, since the end of the Cold War, far fewer openings for pilot trainees. Today's pilots are chosen with a heavy stress on college ranking, in contrast with wartime standards that welcomed any eager volunteers. Some high-ranking veteran fliers tell Gandt that they would not qualify under present standards and that they are amazed to hear today's sophisticated trainees discussing stocks and corporate jobs. Gandt also touches on more controversial matters: He calls the Tailhook incident a political witch hunt and suggests that, combined with the Clinton administration's decision to allow women to apply for combat duty, it has created serious new problems for the navy including a dangerous double standard. He claims that an unqualified female flier allowed to carry out a particularly difficult assignment was killed in a flawed carrier landing. The navy, he asserts, covered up the incident by attributing it to engine failure. While Gandt discusses these matters frankly, much of the book is taken up with the day-to-day reality of flying an extraordinary machine and the exhilaration that comes with it. His descriptions of flight sweep are vivid enough to transport the reader to the Hornet's cockpit. A fascinating look into an arcane, risky, high-tech world inhabited by bright, brave youngsters. (8 pages b&w photos, not seen) (Author tour) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.From Booklist:
Gandt adds to his three previous aviation histories the story of six men and two women undergoing the testing process for becoming carrier-qualified pilots of the navy's FA-18 Hornet. Except that two of them are a pair of identical twins, the eight constitute a cross section of the current generation of aspiring pilots in terms of their strengths and weaknesses and their reactions to various problems facing that generation, such as downsized armed forces, political correctness, and the sheer sophistication of modern fighter aircraft. Eventually, one of the trainees is killed in a flying accident, one of the women is fighting to retain her wings, and the others are on active duty. Gandt's is a detailed, powerful, and thoroughly absorbing account of a process that cannot be made either simple or safe and still accomplish its purpose, and it affords a revealing look into the contemporary naval aviation community at work. Roland Green
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