AIR WARRIORS by Douglas C. Waller


The Inside Story of the Making of a Navy Pilot
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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 navy’s 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.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-684-81430-7
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1998


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