10 Best Aviation Books for Pilots

By | November 21, 2017

Even when we’re not flying – whether because of weather, our busy lives, or something else, we still think about soaring in the air.  A great way to lose yourself in the love of aviation – without leaving the ground – is to curl up with good book and a cup of coffee.  So, we prepared a list of 10 of the best aviation related books, recommended by other readers to be on every pilot’s bookshelf.  Enjoy!


1. Airman’s Odyssey by Antoine de Saint-Exupery.  A trilogy of Saint-Exupery’s three novels – Wind, Sand and Stars, Night Flight, and Flight to Arras – Airman’s Odyssey is sure to please.  Saint-Exupery is better known for his children’s book The Little Prince, but was an aviator (and writer) in the heady days of early flight.  As such, he is able to conjure up the romance and the reality of the pioneer era of aviation.


2. Beyond the Checkride by Howard Fried and Gene Gailey.  A practical book, it’s also an easy read.  Packed with invaluable lessons from real-life experiences of hundreds of pilots, it includes rarely taught basics, including maneuvering speed, propeller safety and night flying, human factors that affect flying, interactions with air traffic control, flying with your pet, and more.  Legendary flight instructor Howard Fried was the original author and the book was thoroughly revised by veteran pilot Gene Gailey.


3. Aircraft: The Definitive Visual History by Philip Whiteman and The Smithsonian.  Aviation enthusiasts of all experience levels will enjoy this comprehensive and beautiful showcase of “virtual tours” of iconic aircraft in each era of flight.  Split evenly between military and commercial aircraft, the book is beautifully illustrated and offers history in a high quality color printing.


4. Skyfaring: A Journey with a Pilot by Mark Vanhoenacker.  A New York Times Notable Book and a Best Book of the Year by Kirkus Reviews, Skyfaring takes the reader on voyages through the air with the author as he shares his love of aviation and the joys and mundanity of his profession as an airline pilot.  Readers delight in the shared “magic” experienced in flight and the details that are shared, which transport you to the co-pilot’s seat next to the author.


5. Say Again, Please: Guide to Radio Communications (5th Edition) by Bob Gardner.  One of the most intimidating aspects of flying, talking on an aviation radio and understanding the instructions given by air traffic control, Say Again, Please tackles what to say, what to expect to hear and how to interpret and react to clearances and instructions.  It also explains how the ATC system works and why you should take full advantage of it.  In its fifth edition, many readers have found it immensely helpful, especially for a beginning or student pilot.


6. The Realization of a Boyhood Dream: The Path to my Private Pilot License by Gary Mascelli.  Especially for those who are yearning to start flight training or those who are already in it, this book provides the “cockpit details” of the author’s flight training experience – the excitement, the frustrations, the challenges and finally, the culmination of his hard work and years of dreaming.


7. Fighter Pilot: The Memoirs of Legendary Ace Robin Olds by Christina Olds, Ed Rasimus and Robin Olds.  The life of Robin Olds is told from his days as a West Point football All-American lineman to aggressive fighter pilot double ace to racer in the Thompson Trophy race and only U.S. exchange officer to command an RAF squadron.  In the tabloids, he was a dashing pilot hero who married glamorous Hollywood actress Ella Raines. To current day fighter pilots, he’s best known as the leader of the F-4 Wolfpack in North Vietnam.  He was all these things and more, exhibited roundly in this gripping narrative of America’s greatest aerial warrior.


8. Fate is the Hunter: A Pilot’s Memoir by Ernest K. Gann.  An up-close and exciting tale of the treacherous early days of commercial aviation, as Gann began his amazing flying career as a new-hire at American Airlines in the 1930s and became a cargo pilot during WWII.  Gann is able to bring you right into the cockpit, telling a riveting true story about colorful characters, mechanical failures, human error and weather that almost did him in.  You’re brought right in to the triumphs and terrors of pilots who flew when flying was still new – and anything but mundane.


9. The Killing Zone by Paul A. Craig.  While we don’t necessarily like to think about it, there is a “killing zone” in aviation – the period from 50 to 350 flight hours when new pilots are most likely to die in a general aviation flying accident.  Learn the 12 mistakes most likely to kill you (and avoid them).  Presents the evidence and provides guidelines for avoiding, evading, diverting, correcting and managing risks. Includes a “Pilot Personality Self-Assessment Exercise” for individualized survival strategy.


10. The Thinking Pilot’s Flight Manual: Or, How to Survive Flying Little Airplanes and Have a Ball Doing It by Rick Durden.  An excellently titled tome, this guide starts where flight training leaves off, delving into topics not taught (or not emphasized) during a new pilot’s initial education.  It probes aviation’s dirty little secrets, dismisses myths, how to keep your passengers happy, scudrunning, precautionary landings and how to survive a crash.  A worthy read for any pilot!