Yeah I just realized that training aircraft needs to have dual crew cockpits, I forgot whether they were stunt or training planes.
Of course Genette is with Pops as you've mentioned I just don't know who Kirk is with. I suppose it could be anyone, but it's strange he doesn't talk at least during that flight.
I'm not sure what you mean by AC5 mechanics and what you didn't like about them. If you're talking about wingman commands, I didn't have an issue with them, although they seem to have little impact on the battle unlike AC6 with ESM. If you're taking about the optional choices where you asnwer YES or NO, I also had no issue with that. It at least places the player inside the game more than just being completely mute. If I recall correctly, some of those choices affect the missions you get to do, so there is a bit of replayability as well.
As for the story, it's not perfect, and there are a lot of cliché elements and odd choices, but overall it holds up, even though the premise of the whole both presidents get kidnapped and the villain is actually Belka, is kind of over the top, but well executed. Where as in 6, the story concept is not bad, but just so poorly executed that my head hurt.
The squadron is a bit cliché as you have "the girl" that is reserved and morally strong, but I don't think she's that one dimensional. For one, she's the pivot of the Razgriz story and she swings the pendulum of being emotional and disconnected. She's also not perfect and has been in danger of being shot down twice, with the second time being nearly fatal. She's also the second narrator and once again, shows the Razgriz part of the story.
You have Chopper, who is a typical show-off, loudmouth, annoying, funny, cocky, disorganized, wingman. Yet he also hates dog fighting, suggesting that he loves the sky, but hates war. He also cares about his country and is willing to give his life. He not only creates the atmosphere of the tight knit squadron, but introduces a bit of relief from the seriousness of the battle taking place. He makes the game feel more human.
Grimm is the newbie and sort of a rising star much like Blaze. He proved himself in the Sand Island raid and has been a good wingman. He's respectful, intelligent, but also shows fear and isn't afraid to admit when he's uncertain. Although a minor detail, but during one of the missions, he hears a transmission from his brother in one of the ground battalions and it makes the human element that much more real.
Snow, is familiar, but he always feels a bit removed from the squadron, I don't really have much to say about him other than being a more military version of Grimm. I don't know if the racial diversity hypothesis holds because I don't think people care that much. We have plenty of games with little to no black people and it's hasn't been an issue. More often than not, the issue of race becomes an "issue" when minorities are represented in a bad way. For example the Resident Evil 5 setting in Africa that people were outraged about and the recent Bioshock Infinite racism within the game dialogue referring to black people even though it's just historically correct. It's like saying that in a game about WW2, it would be racist to depict concentration camps.
The Kestrel part was nice, but I didn't feel anything when it sunk, which is unfortunate.