10 Best Books for Pilots and Aviation Enthusiasts

Man reading on airplane - 10 best books for pilots and aviation enthusiasts

Whether you're a brand new pilot or have thousands of hours in your log book, there's always more to learn. And one of my favorite ways to learn is from books. So I've put together a list of my 10 favorite books for pilots and aviation enthusiasts.

These books range from instructional to biographical so there's something for everyone. Just pick up one or two and slip them in your flight bag or on your e-reader for when your stuck at an airport with a weather delay.

1. Stick & Rudder: An Explanation of the Art of Flying by Wolfgang Langewiesche. 

The famous pilot who made his first solo flight in Chicago in 1934 shares the discrepancy in the aviation world that he discovered early on in his flying career: words and realities disagree.

In other words, what aviators said that they were doing when they were piloting airplanes and what they were actually doing when they were flying were two different things. Langewische aimed to provide more accurate and realistic descriptions of what pilots actually do when they fly.

His first attempt at making these explanations was a collection of articles that were titled ‘Air Facts’, which assessed the different techniques pilots used to fly aircraft. In 1944, the aviator’s book ‘Stick & Rudder: An Explanation of the Art of Flying’ was published.

Some of the key details that are discussed in this book include:

  • An explanation of the Angle of Attack, including what it is and why it is not visible, as well as how lift is created and the pilots role in creating it.
  • The reasons why planes stall.
  • The Landing Approach, including how an aviator’s acts in judging the landing approach and the visual clues that veteran pilots judge unconsciously to land their aircraft – including “The Spot that Does Not Move” and how novice pilots can learn and use these clues to their advantage.
  • The paradox of glide.
  • The “tail-dragger”, which highlights landing gear and explains why it can be difficult.
  • Why planes don’t feel the wind and hence, why they typically fly slightly sidewise.

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2. Fly Girls: how Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History by Keith O’Brien. 

This book captures the five women who offered incredible contributions to the aviation industry, and besides Amelia Earhart, are not well-known.

In addition to Earhart, the additional four female aviators highlighted in this book are Ruth Elder, Ruth Nichols, Florence Klingensmith, and Louise Thaden.

The author accounts the trials, tribulations, successes, and everlasting impact these women had on the aviation industry – an industry that is historically male-dominated – and how they paved the way for women pilots today.

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3. Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and Sacrifice by Adam Makos. 

This story tells the inspiring tale of Lieutenant Tom Hudner and Ensign Jesse Brown, the most famed duo pilots in the history of the U.S. Navy. Hudner was a white male who hailed from an affluent New England Family who forewent studying at Harvard to fly fighter jets in the Navy.

Brown was an African American from Mississippi, the son of a sharecropper, who became the first African American carrier pilot for the Navy and served a country at a time when Jim Crow laws prevented him from being served in restaurants and bars.

The duo manned fighter jets in the Korean War together and defend Marines who were cornered at the Chosin Reservoir. When one is shot down, the other must decide how to save his friend from certain death.

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4. Into the Abyss: An Extraordinary True Story by Carol Shaben. 

This is the true story of a commuter plane that crashed in the remote wilderness of, Canada in October, 1984. On board the plane were 10 passengers; 6 perished and four survived: the pilot, a politician, a police officer, and a criminal who was being escorted to face his charges.

The politician was Larry Shaben, the first Muslim Cabinet Ministor of Canada and the father of the book’s author.

The story recounts the real-life harrowing experience the four survivors endured and the life-changing friendships they forged under desperate circumstances.

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5. Weather Flying, Fifth Edition by Robert Buck. 

A resource guide that provides insightful and potentially life-saving tips that pilots’ can use to fly their aircraft in all kinds of weather conditions.

‘Weather Flying’ is regarded as the ‘bible of weather flying’, as it explains the vast types of weather a pilot may face and the appropriate ways to deal with that weather. This is definitely a must read for every new pilot.

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6. The Thinking Pilots Flight Manual: Or, How to Survive Flying Little Airplanes and Have a Ball Doing It by Rick Durden. 

This guidebook picks up where standard flight-training manuals leave off. The author illustrates topics that aren’t taught in flight-training school and encourages aviators to think about these topics in real-life applications.

Topics range from how to actually handle a preflight to handling difficult landings. It also offers details on aerobatics, flying float planes, and exposes some of the most common aviation myths you'll inevitably hear from other pilots.

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7. Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge by Federal Aviation Administration/Aviation Supplies & Academics. 

An official FAA handbook that has been required reading for pilots for more than three decades. It offers basic flying fundamentals for all types of pilots and all types of aircraft.

The guide offers required knowledge that pilots need in order to comprehend aerodynamic theory and earn a certificate.

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8. Squawk 7700 by Peter M Buffington. 

This book recounts the journey Peter Buffington, the author, took to achieve his childhood dream: becoming a pilot for a commercial airline.

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9. The Next Hour: The Most Important Hours in Your Logbook by Richard L. Collins. 

Author and aviator Collins shares his personal experience in the hopes that pilots of all experience levels and abilities will be able to learn how to navigate through the inherent risks that are associated with flying small planes. Topics include:

  • The three word emergency checklist all pilots should know
  • Why the thought process of a pilot is more important than his experience
  • The unique trials, tribulations – and rewards – of night flying.
  • How to effectively manage technology in the cockpit.

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10. Unusual Attitudes: Obsessions and Confessions of a Lady Pilot by Martha Lunken.

A collection of author and aviator Martha Lunken’s favorite Flying Magazine columns. Lunken collected these columns in her book in an effort to reach a wider audience. 

The stories highlight her experience in aviation and fellow aviators who shaped her career and had a lasting impact on her life.  

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What are some of your favorite aviation books? Let us know in the comments below.

  • February 18, 2020
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