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The Pilot’s Bookshelf: Review of “Shoot Like a Girl”



Written in January, 2018


I’m not sure I’d ever experienced a “driveway moment” until the day I was listening to an interview with Mary Jennings Hegar, the author of “Shoot Like a Girl”.  I was listening to NPR[1].  I found the story of this woman so interesting that I parked outside my house and listened until the interview was over.  I immediately ordered a copy of her book and I was not disappointed.


I think that Ms Hegar was slightly ahead of her time.  The story of her experience both in the man’s world of military aviation and in her rescue from a firefight and the flight she made, standing on the skids while firing at the enemy and hanging on to the helicopter carrying her from her own wreck was absolutely compelling.  It preceded the “Me, too” movement by a year or so, but is certainly just as meaningful.  And Ms. Hegar not only has “skin in the game”, but she has blood as well.

I’ve always been fascinated by this genre. An incident takes place in seconds, yet is related in a book-length re-telling.  Capt.  “Sully” Sullenberger’s relating of his bird strike and subsequent ditching of an airliner in the Hudson River is one of the best examples of this phenomenon, but Mary Jennings Hegar’s story is equally riveting.

Of primary importance in this story is the fact that Ms. Hegar had not only to fight the enemy in the Middle East, but she also had to fight the forces of sexism in this country, not only during her quest to become a helicopter pilot but also to simply operate and thrive in the U.S. Military.  She doesn’t make a big thing about that, but anyone who thinks can not only hear what she has to say, but can also read between the lines and appreciate her struggle.

Don’t let the title of this book fool you.  It’s actually a quote from a shooting instructor, who offered her encouragement by pointing out some of his own observations, including that women tend to shoot extremely well and why.  His words sure sounded familiar to me, as some of the reasons he quoted, mainly the lack of ego involvement among female applicants, are some that I have found as a teacher of advanced flying.

We are always trying to come up with a good, appropriate subtitle for everything we write.  Perhaps the subtitle of “Shoot like a Girl” says it best: “One woman’s dramatic fight in Afghanistan and on the home front”.  I’ve said it before of other works, and I’ll say it again, especially about this account:  It belongs on every flier’s bookshelf.  Regardless of your sex or your feelings about the issue, this is a great book for fliers… and for those who thirst for true equality.

“Shoot like a Girl” is available from Amazon, or many other suppliers.  The jacket says that it will soon be a motion picture.  I hope that picture does this story justice.

Brian Lansburgh

[1] A link to NPR’s show, “Fresh Air” with Terry Gross is at    I don’t know how long it will be available, but if you can get it, you’ll be able to listen to the same interview that caught my imagination.