Dave Baranek was born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida, where he grew up drawing airplanes and putting together scale model airplane kits. In his early teens he set his sights on becoming a jet fighter pilot or radar intercept officer. He attended Georgia Tech and participated in the ROTC to qualify for officer training, then entered the Navy in 1979. Shortly after he joined his first squadron he received the callsign "Bio," which many of his former squadronmates still call him.
He enjoyed a successful and satisfying 20-year career in the Navy, starting with assignments to F-14 Tomcat squadrons and the elite Topgun training program, and later assignment to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the US 7th Fleet. At one point, he commanded an F-14 Tomcat fighter squadron, responsible for nearly 300 people and 14 aircraft worth about $700 million. He completed his career with 2,499.7 F-14 Tomcat flight hours and 688 carrier landings. His logbook also 461.8 flight hours in the F-5F Tiger II.
While serving as a Topgun air-to-air combat instructor in 1985, he had the unusual experience of flying aerial sequences used in the film "Top Gun," starring Tom Cruise and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson. He also served as a dialogue advisor on the project, and took some of the few available photographs of the movie's black F-5 fighters in flight.
He retired from the Navy in 1999, and works as a defense contractor in the Washington DC area. He is married and lives in Burke, Virginia.
Throughout his Navy career and afterwards he was chosen to write articles, reports, and other products where compelling, high-quality writing is important. He wrote classified articles for the Topgun Journal professional magazine and also wrote and presented briefings to General Colin Powell and Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney when he was on the Joint Staff.
In 2004 he was contacted by BBC-TV and worked with them on a story about Tom Cruise and how “Top Gun” helped make him a superstar - screen capture at left from the program. Dave is also quoted and indexed in Andrew Morton’s Tom Cruise, An Unauthorized Biography (St Martin’s Press, 2008, pp. 86-87).
Dave has published articles in numerous aviation magazines. In an online feature on Airfighters.com, Dave describes the challenges of capturing the power of the F-14's afterburning engines [AIRFIGHTERS ARTICLE]. Some of Dave's photographs are available from Stocktrek Images.