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Once a Fighter Pilot, by Jerry W. Cook, Brig. Gen., USAF, ret., McGraw-Hill, New York, N.Y., $22.95.

It is a common perception among aviation editors, based on painful experience, that the majority of pilots can’t write–especially fighter pilots. Wrong! Jerry W. Cook can write, and very well.

The lead at first might seem rather passive. Who cares that this guy’s mother wanted him to be a doctor but that he quit college to enter the Aviation Cadet program to fly T-34s, T-28s and jet T-33s? Well, this reviewer certainly did, because it described me to a T. I also am an only child whose mother wanted him to be a doctor, but I dropped out of college and graduated in Class 57R at Greenville Air Force Base, less than two years before the author did.

Cook tells it as it was in the rigorous and often dangerous world of the combat airman. But he also tells his story with warmth and humor and in a smooth-flowing style that should make the book appealing even to readers whose mothers never wanted them to cure people instead of fly planes.

Cook sometimes gets a little chatty, addressing the reader as “you,” which at first bothered me. However, this is a book that he wanted to write for his grandchildren, and that fact has probably contributed to its charm and readability–and we outside readers have been granted the privilege of going along for the ride (er, flight). At one point, there are some nice touches. Cook the pilot gets a dream assignment and Cook the author writes, “You couldn’t have gotten the grin off my face with a bulldozer.

This is the best personal narrative of a fighter pilot’s complete career I have seen. It is both factually accurate and pleasantly readable. Not surprisingly, I highly recommend it. Cook’s story will captivate both the neophyte to the world of flying and the old hand as well.

Arthur H. Sanfelici