Bob Dorr never attained his dream of becoming an Air Force pilot due to a persistent hearing impairment, but that didn't stop the Oakton resident from pairing his interest and knowledge of the military and its armada of aircraft with his skill in writing. Nearly 60 books later, Dorr has released his latest endeavor, "Air Force One," a retrospective look at the world's most notable plane.
During his youth in Maryland, Dorr had two aspirations in life: to become a pilot in the Air Force and a writer. At the age of 15, he had his first article published, in none other than Air Force Magazine. He wasted no time enlisting after graduating from high school.
"I took the aptitude test, and they said 'Bob, you don't have aptitude for anything,'" joked Dorr, referring to his hearing impairment, which prevented him from becoming a pilot. "The only thing I had aptitude for was language. I studied Korean and listened to North Korean Air Force broadcasts for our own Air Force."
After his service, Dorr became a foreign service officer, working in embassies in Madagascar, Korea, Japan, Liberia, Sweden and England over a 26-year period.
"[My family and I] probably enjoyed the city of London more than any place else," Dorr said. "We almost didn't see the rest of the country because we loved the city so much."
His family consists of his wife and two sons, who he says attended six different schools during his years overseas.
Over the years, Dorr spent much of his free time writing dozens of reference books on various aerial topics.
"Bob is an authority on the matter, who has spent decades learning the business of aviation," said friend, fellow author and Oakton resident Tom Jones. "I'm an ex B-52 pilot, and I can say he wrote one of the best books on them that I have ever read."
Currently, Dorr and Jones are working on a book about combat flying during World War II.
Earlier this year, Dorr released "Air Force One," which covers the history of presidential flight from Franklin D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush. Dorr said he wrote the book for more than one reason.
"First off, I grew up near Andrew Air Force Base," Dorr explained, which is where the plane is kept. "That and my publisher suggested it," he joked.
A movie fan, Dorr said that although he enjoyed the Harrison Ford film "Air Force One," its portrayal of the aircraft's systems and accommodations was not necessarily accurate.
"There's no escape pod or weapons," Dorr said. "It does have passive defense systems to defeat radar and heat-seeking missiles. It also has a very elaborate communications system on board. It's a potential command post."
Friend and author Bill Bartsch said Dorr is meticulous when it comes to researching his information.
"He's put in very long years of research," Bartsch said. "He writes very well and is very careful in his research and doesn't make errors. He goes right to the source and focuses on individuals and their experiences."
Other lesser known facts about Air Force One are that it can be refueled midflight and that there are actually two planes used to cart around the nation's leader, both identical in construction.
As for the evolution of military flight technology, Dorr explained that planes currently being used in Iraq aren't necessarily all that different from the ones used in Desert Storm.
"The F-15s, for example, look the same as those used 12 years ago but have newer digital technology installed to communicate better with other forces," Dorr said. "They also have a new generation of precision-guided munitions."
Dorr has mixed feelings pertaining to our nation's actions since Sept. 11, which also happens to be his birthday.
"I think our action in Afghanistan was about right," Dorr said. "But I think it's clear that Iraq was never a threat and had nothing to do with the attacks. We've also really overreacted on our home front with security measures."
At 63, Dorr has no plans to slow down with his work. He currently writes a column for the Air Force Times and is working on another book, this time about helicopter pilots.
"I don't do much but work," Dorr said. "I have so much fun writing about the Air Force. Other than that, I just love playing with my Labrador retriever, Lucy, eating Thai food and enjoying my family."
"Air Force One" can be purchased at local bookstores as well as www.amazon.com.