Fighter/writer pilot

Viper Pilot: A Memoir of Air Combat by
Dan Hampton
If you’re all about adrenaline
and testosterone in your reading (which sometimes I am), this book will make
you very happy indeed.  
Hampton, a (now-retired) Air
Force Lieutenant Colonel, flew an F-16 as a Wild Weasel, which means that his
job was to intentionally draw enemy fire in order to locate the enemy and
destroy them. So: nervy flying.
And his book is filled with some
of the best fighter pilot writing I’ve ever read. He puts you right there with
him, and that’s a pretty spectacular feat.
Dude flew on 9/11 (scrambled and
told to take down any unidentified aircraft), in the Iraq war, and before that in the
Gulf. And some of the stories are just plain stunning. At one point, I gasped,
“No!” and nearly dropped the book into the bathtub. (Don’t worry: his wingman
didn’t actually die. It just looked really bad there for a few.)
And he gives a solid sense of
what life is like for would-be fighter pilots—the endless training and
opportunities to wash out. It’s really kind of a miracle anyone survives it and
then goes on to survive the kind of flying they do.
And this section, near the end
of the book, made me further look in awe upon their work:
     “Attacking a target in a modern fighter is
a bit like playing several musical instruments at the same time. My left hand
constantly adjusted the throttle. My left fingers worked the radar, fanned the
speed brakes, and managed my electronic countermeasures. I also changed radio
frequencies and accessed any of the hundred different functions of the up-front
control head with my left hand.
     I flew with my right hand. The F-16 has a
side stick mounted on the right side of the cockpit, not coming up from the
floor like older fighters. My right fingers danced along the Digital Management
and Target Management switches while I flew. I also dropped bombs, launched
missiles, and shot the cannon with my right hand. I really never needed to take
my hands off the controls to do anything. It was a very well-designed cockpit.
It had to be, for one pilot to keep up with five or six types of weapons, fly,
navigate, and fight.” (pp. 268-269)
Guys, all I can say is: Dang.
It’s hard enough to fly a
Cessna, for pete’s sake.
This guy? Not only can he fly,
but he can write.
Here’s the book trailer, delivered by the man himself: