Interview with aviation thriller author Ron Standerfer

Today’s guest is Colonel Ron Standerfer, United States Air Force (Retired). He’s written an aviation techno-thriller titled, The Eagle’s Last Flight, and is currently on tour with the novel.

During his tour, Ron will be giving away a battery-operated helicopter to a luck (US/Canada only) commenter. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase you chances of winning, feel free to visit other tour stops and enter there, too!


Ron Standerfer is a novelist,
freelance writer, book reviewer, and photographer whose articles have appeared
in numerous news publications including online editions of the Chicago Tribune,
USA Today, and the Honolulu Star Advertiser. He is a member of the
International Travel Writers & Photographers Alliance (ITWPA) and American
Writers & Artists Inc (AWAI). He is a retired Air Force fighter pilot who
flew 237 combat tours in Vietnam War. His novel,
The Eagle’s Last Flight chronicles the life of an Air Force fighter pilot during The Cold War
and Vietnam years. He also publishes an online magazine, The Pelican Journal.
Welcome, Ron. Please tell us about The Eagle’s Last Flight.
Skip O’Neill’s first assignment as a young lieutenant places him among
hard drinking World War II and Korean War era fighter pilots who quickly teach
him their ways. During the Cold War and Vietnam War, he proves to be a skillful
and courageous pilot who faces dangers of all kinds with equanimity. But the
greatest—and most deadly danger—materializes years after he volunteers to be an
observer at an atomic test site.
The Eagle’s Last

is a journey through a nearly forgotten era when Cold War veterans were placed
in harm’s way by our government and routinely lost their lives due to the
carelessness and mismanagement of their leaders. Given the current
controversies over adequate protection for our troops deployed in the Middle
East, it is likely that readers who take that journey will learn a lot about
how it used to be, but conclude that nothing much has changed. And that is a
lesson well worth noting.
What inspired you to write this book?
1998, my wife and I moved to Manhattan’s Upper West Side. It was a strange
thing to do for a guy raised in the Midwest, but it suited my wife just fine.
She was a big city girl from Warsaw, Poland and a lover of the arts as well. As
soon as we unpacked, she went back to work, leaving me to cope with the Big
Apple alone. Big mistake! I had way too much time on my hands. One of my
favorite pastimes those days was hanging out at a local bar and restaurant on
Columbus Avenue frequented by musicians from the philharmonic, opera singers,
TV camera men, and stage hands at the Met—and I became the resident war story
teller. Everyone seemed to like my stories and suggested I should write a book
afternoon after a particularly long lunch, I weaved my way home, struggled to
unlock the apartment door with unfocused eyes, opened the door, and found my
wife waiting for me. She had left work early. “You have to get a life,” she
said, “or you’re going to become an alcoholic.” She was right. The next day, I
decided to be a writer and write a book. It was cheaper than being an alcoholic
and a whole lot healthier.
Excerpt from The Eagle’s Last Flight:
Republic of Vietnam 1969
Four F-100 Super Saber jet fighters, looking sleek
and mean, circled the target like birds of prey impatient for the kill. Below
them, the Mekong River lay steaming in the hot, humid air, surrounded by lush,
green jungle, and red mud from the monsoon rains. Water-filled bomb craters
gleamed dully in the late afternoon sun. Meanwhile, the forward air controller,
or FAC, was scooting across the treetops in a small, propeller-driven aircraft,
coordinating the final details of the strike.
The fighters had been airborne for over an hour,
and Skip’s flying suit was drenched in sweat. He was hot, uncomfortable, and
impatient. Come on, come on, he thought, let’s get on with it. Rain showers are
moving in, and we won’t be able to see the ground much longer.
“Icon Flight, Banjo Two-One is rolling in for the
marking pass,” the FAC said.
Skip saw an orange flash as the marking rocket left the FAC’s aircraft,
followed by a burst of white smoke on the ground that rose in a tall, straight
“Icon Lead, that’s a good mark. Hit my smoke.”
“Roger, Icon Lead’s in. Got the smoke in sight,” he
“Cleared to drop, Lead.”
Skip rolled the aircraft onto its back, and then
pulled the nose through the horizon before rolling upright and into a steep
dive. Things were happening fast, as the airspeed increased, and the altimeter
unwound rapidly. When the target appeared in the windscreen, he began tracking
it with his gun sight. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see bright muzzle
flashes from a nearby tree line; then red tracers began streaming across the
nose of his aircraft. Don’t look at them, he thought. Keep your eyes on the
target. Steady now. It’ll be over in a second.
“Icon Lead, you’re taking ground fire,” the FAC
said. “Over to the left.”
“Roger. I see it. No sweat.” His voice sounded cool
and confident.
An instant later, two 750-pound bombs were sent
hurtling toward the ground. Trying to avoid the ground fire, he rolled sharply
to the left as he pulled out, and then back to the right. In the rear view
mirror, he could see the two bombs explode in a boiling column of mud and
“Good bombs, Icon Lead. Put yours in the same
place, Icon Two.”
Suddenly, Skip’s aircraft began to vibrate and
shake, and a series of warning lights came on in the cockpit, one after
“Lead, you’re trailing smoke,” Icon Two called out.
“Not to worry. I’ve…uh…got a problem.”
The aircraft was becoming harder to control as the
vibrations increased. Now the flashing, red fire-warning light was on. Okay. Be
cool. You gotta punch out. No big deal. Get more altitude…that’s the first thing.
“Lead, you’re on fire. The whole ass-end of the aircraft is on fire. Bail out!”
Icon Two’s voice was tense and demanding. “Roger that. I have to climb first
and head toward the water.”
The cockpit was unbearingly hot and filled with
smoke. He could hardly keep the wings level. It’s time to go, pal. You’ve done
this before. Raise the ejection seat handles, and the canopy goes. Squeeze the
trigger, and you go. It’s a piece of cake. Holding the control stick steady
with one hand, he reached down and raised the ejection seat handle, bracing for
the explosion and rush of air as the canopy left the aircraft.
Nothing happened.
No problem. Eject through the canopy. It’s been
done before.
Carefully, he squeezed the exposed trigger in the
handle, once again bracing himself for the shock.
Again, nothing happened. Starting to panic, he
squeezed it again…and again…and again.
“Lead, I repeat. You are on fire. Get out of the
fucking bird, now!” Icon Two shouted.
“Roger. I…uh…can’t. The ejection seat…it won’t…oh
The control stick went slack. The flight controls
were gone. Slowly, the aircraft rolled inverted like a wounded beast. Suspended
upside down, looking at the jungle below, he knew it was over. “Bail out! Bail
out!” Icon Two shouted one last time. Seconds later, the twilight sky was lit
by a bright, orange explosion that disintegrated into flaming shards of silver
aluminum drifting to the ground.
“Too late…” Icon Two said, in a flat voice, filled
with resignation.
What exciting story are you working on
In the mid-1980s
I travelled regularly to Lima, Peru on business. It was a dangerous place to be
for a foreigner in those days. The economy was in bad shape, street crimes like
armed robbery were common, and business men like me were considered prime
targets for kidnapping by gangs like the “Shining Path”. My book chronicles a
series of visits in Lima that culminated in a situation during which I was
absolutely certain that I was about to die. It was a scary experience to say
the least! The working title for the book is “Shining Path to Nowhere.”
When did you first consider yourself a
I have
always considered myself a storyteller rather than a writer. When anyone tells
me that they enjoy listening or reading my stories, that’s good enough for me. I’ll
leave the folks that teach English Lit 101 or write book reviews for the New
York Times to decided who is a good writer and who isn’t.
Do you write full-time? If so, what’s
your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find
time to write?
I have been
retired from the United States Air Force and the aerospace industry for quite
some time; hence, I am blessed with the time and resources to devote to my two
main passions, writing and publishing the works of unknown or undiscovered
writers. I try to allot four hours to each five days a week. The rest of the
time I devote to my family and to my hobby which is photography.
What would you say is your interesting
writing quirk?
I wouldn’t
call this interesting, much less a quirk, but I do all of my writing in my head.
When a paragraph or even a chapter looks just right to me in my mind,
then—and only then—do I sit down at the word processor.
As a child, what did you want to be
when you grew up?
A military
pilot. No big surprise there.
Anything additional you want to share
with the readers?
Yes. The Eagle’s Last Flight is not a typical
techno-thriller about military aviation and war—far from it. Inside its covers
are at least three story lines of interest to men and women, young and old
alike—the story of one man’s struggle against a system whose peers deemed him
not capable of succeeding; an enduring love story between a man and woman who
faced all hardships together; and the story of a government betrayal that
ultimately lead to the demise of a man who had given his all to his country.
Whichever story line interests you, I promise you’ll find the book to be a
great read!




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