|Chino (the "Optics Dude")|
Check Six! by Bob Norris
Check Six, a novel that combines realistic information about aircraft carrier and F/A-18 operations, exciting air combat, and a suspenseful story line. Bob ""Banzai"" Norris was a US Navy fighter pilot for 20 years (F-14, F/A-18, and oddly enough, F-15 too!). So he obviously brings a wealth of experience to this book -- and he augments this with strong characters, solid writing, and a good imagination. The basic story line involves the integration of woman pilots into the F/A-18 ""community."" It is well-known that male naval aviators have not been enthusiastic about the arrival of women in combat flight roles, but in this book, some people seem to be willing to go to extremes to keep the women out. Suspecting a conspiracy, the CNO sends a controversial defense reporter, Jack Warner, to the USS Ranger (CV-61) to cover the story of two talented women nuggets joining the air wing as Hornet pilots. The CNO hopes that Warner will be able uncover the conspiracy while he digs for his story.
With this plot line, Norris has a book that is part mystery, part social science, and part ""flying story."" But don't worry -- he weaves it all together into a compelling page-turner. The book is written in the first-person voice of Jack Warner. His questions provide Norris with a natural way to explain a lot of technical points without sounding too ""teachy."" The pilot characters are also well drawn. Randi Cole is a solid nugget pilot who happens to be a woman. Joe ""Hoser"" Santana is her mentor -- a veteran pilot with nearly 1500 carrier traps, who also happened to be the best friend of Randi's father (yup, his wingman in Vietnam -- there are some things you just gotta have in these books!).
To top it all off, Libya is acting up again, and the President orders a strike to destroy a suspected chemical weapons plant. The Ranger gets the nod, and we observe the planning and execution of a large strike against a heavily-defended target. Does Randi fly on the mission? Of course. I won't spoil it for you, but the air combat action is exciting and realistic. As a bonus, ""kneeboard"" cards for the strike are reproduced in the front of the book. There's a really authentic feel to the descriptions of the Libya strike -- from the planning to the exciting air-to-air engagements. There are also good possibilities for Jane's F/A-18 missions in this material. I strongly recommend that you read Check Six. If you like carriers and Hornets, you are sure to enjoy this book.