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Regardless of whether you are a pilot or simply a flight enthusiast, reading the right books about aviation can be a great source of insight and inspiration.
Flying a plane is exhilarating and the magical feeling of being in the air attracts so many aspiring pilots to get their wings - with a lot of them beginning their journey to the sky by reading a classic book about aviation. There have been many incredible books published about flying over the years but with so many to consider, you want to make sure that you pick the best option possible for you based on your interests.
The best books about flying, flight, and aviation are Stick and Rudder, Fly the Wing, Into the Abyss, Weather Flying, The Wright Brothers, Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History, Pilot’s Handbook, and Wings: A History of Aviation from Kites to the Space Age.
When it comes to gaining aviation knowledge, there is no better way to understand the feeling of flying and the skills needed to pilot an aircraft than to read a book about this topic. Books about aviation are often written by experienced pilots who have first-hand knowledge of the most technical aspects of flying, which results in the experience feeling a lot like a mentorship. A lot of people are often reluctant or even intimidated to pick up a book about aviation because they feel that the material is going to be too technical and challenging to read. Although there certainly are dense books out there about flying, flight, and aviation - so many of the best reads are very palatable and enjoyable. If you want in-depth information and guidance about aviation, a book is going to be an excellent resource to have in your back pocket when you step into the cockpit. To help you pick the right book, we have hand-picked the best options out there about flying, flight, and aviation.
After extensively researching aviation literature, I have been able to compile a list of the best books that cover this area of expertise. My research has shown me that the best books for flying are those that are going to cover the specific topics that you want to gain knowledge of in aviation.
Best Flying, Flight, & Aviation Books
Since the Wright Brothers had their first flight back in 1903, aviation has been embedded in human culture and it has revolutionized commerce, travel, and our military. With over a century of aviation experience, we have accrued a lot of knowledge of this technology - enabling us to expand this industry and its potential to greater heights than ever before.
A major component of this has to do with the ingenious engineering of aircraft technology, as well as the pilots that tested planes through various in-flight scenarios. Many of the greatest pilots in human history went on to write books about their experiences so that knowledge can be passed on to the next generation of flight enthusiasts. These books are incredible resources and present insight into the world of aviation that can greatly help pilots of all experience levels grow in this industry.
Whether your aim is to learn about in-flight safety procedures, technical flying strategies, or are simply curious about the history of aviation, there is an incredible book out there waiting for you. The key thing is to pick a book that is going to be aligned with your aviation goals, as each option that we cover will bring a different level of insight and will touch on a specific area of expertise within the industry. With that being said, let’s dive right into the best books for flying, flight, and aviation.
Stick and Rudder: An Explanation of the Art of Flying
To this day, Stick and Rudder: An Explanation of the Art of Flying remains the ultimate classic in the world of aviation literature. Although this book was first published in 1944, it still holds water in the modern world of aviation given that the principles of flying have not changed in the last 75 years.
This classic book about flying was written by the legendary pilot, Wolfgang Langewiesche - a German immigrant who moved to the United States in 1929. His words and insight on flying are the most referenced in the entire aviation industry, which is why Stick and Rudder: An Explanation of the Art of Flying is such a monumental book for pilots.
Wolfgang Langewiesche dives into the fundamentals and methodology of flying, as well as the intimate experience that a pilot goes through while in-flight. Langewiesche vividly describes the emotions, thoughts, and sensations that you can feel when you pilot an aircraft, which in many ways translates to a first-person psychological analysis of flying.
The book is a pilot’s guide to understanding the reality of flying before ever stepping into an aircraft. While at the same time, it is an excellent reminder for experienced pilots about the fundamentals of flying. Although there are newer books that have come out since Stick and Rudder: An Explanation of the Art of Flying, many pilots will still tell you that this is the best piece of literature that you can buy on aviation.
What is also great about Wolfgang Langewiesche’s book is that it is incredibly easy to read. The language is intuitive and although technical aspects of flying are discussed constantly throughout the book, it was written in such a way that it is palatable to virtually any reader that picks it up, making it an amazing option for anyone - pilot or not.
Fly the Wing
If you are looking for a pilot’s handbook that is more intuitive, reader-friendly, and palatable than your airline manual, Fly the Wing is going to be a must-read for so many flight enthusiasts and aspiring pilots. For nearly half a century, Fly the Wing has been an invaluable resource for so many pilots and aspiring aviators, as it contains in-depth knowledge on flying a commercial aircraft.
Written by Jim Webb and Billy Walker, this textbook-style book covers everything that you need to know about being a pilot from A-Z. Although the book is dense with information, Webb and Walker keep the tone conversational and casual from start to finish, making it an extremely comprehensive piece of literature.
For flight training, Fly the Wing is going to equip you with the technical insight that you need to become a pilot, as it will cover everything that you need to know to pass your ATP FAA Knowledge Exam. With that being said, this is also an excellent book for veteran pilots that want a refresher course.
Webb and Walker are excellent mentors for aspiring pilots who aim to get their wings. Fly the Wing goes in deep on the technical aspects of flying but it also dives into the physical, mental, and emotional challenges that pilots face. Dedicating your career to aviation is a major decision and although the job comes with so many perks, it does take a toll.
The authors of Fly the Wing have experienced all sides of piloting and they bring insight into these obstacles so that up-and-coming aviators are prepared for what lies ahead in their careers. If you are committed to becoming a pilot and want to be ready for what this job has to offer through thick and thin, Fly the Wing is going to help you overcome just about everything that you will experience in and out of the cockpit from a pilot’s perspective.
This is an amazing resource for pilots and flight enthusiasts that are legitimately interested in advancing their careers. However, it may not be the best read for flight enthusiasts, as this is still a textbook at the end of the day. If becoming a pilot is your goal in life, Fly the Wing is going to be a guide for your career like no other.
Into the Abyss
Not every book about flying, flight, and aviation needs to be a technical handbook made solely for a pilot’s reference. Into the Abyss is an incredible true story by Carol Shaben and it puts you into the pilot’s seat without the pressure of needing to physically prepare yourself to step into an aircraft.
Flying to this day is the safest mode of transport available to us but undeniably a plane crash makes a lot more headlines than your average car accident. Carol Shaben takes us into a horrific, tragic, and epic story of a plane crash that occurred in the Canadian wilderness in 1984.
Onboard the aircraft were a police officer, a pilot, a criminal, and a politician, as well as 6 deceased passengers who died during the crash. Shaben’s story involves an incredible tale of human survival - making this an adventurous and gripping story about the tragic events that can occur within aviation.
The mere fact that Into the Abyss is based on a true story makes the book so much more engaging and relatable. Shaben writes Into the Abyss with raw emotion, as the story is personally connected to her life given that her father was on board the plane when it crashed.
This is not going to be the best book for a pilot looking to get their wings, as the information will not be relatable to your flight school exam. However, this is an amazing read for anyone interested in a real-life story about the events that can occur within aviation.
One of the most vital books that you can read as a pilot is Weather Flying by Robert N. Buck. There are so many scenarios that you need to prepare yourself for before you a truly ready to pilot an aircraft - with weather conditions presenting some of the most unpredictable and dangerous situations that can arise.
Robert N. Buck goes in deep on weather conditions and how they can affect your ability to fly. Weather Flying is a book that is highly recommended by the FAA and veteran pilots within the industry, as the information that it contains can save lives and it will enable you to have better judgment when you step into the cockpit.
Weather conditions can change sporadically when you are in the air and this can be very intimidating if you are new to flying. Robert N. Buck takes you through virtually every kind of weather condition that you will encounter throughout your entire career as a pilot - giving you complete confidence when you are in the air.
With that being said, there are so many rare and unique weather conditions that can occur at random, which is why Weather Flying is not only a great read for up and coming pilots but even those that have worked in the industry for years. The author covers so many technical aspects of flying and weather pattern assessment, but he does so in a way that is very palatable and attainable for pilots of all experience levels - making this a very intuitive, hands-on piece of aviation literature.
The Wright Brothers
Flying is embedded within our culture and our society, but we need to keep in mind that this revolutionary form of technology is still relatively new from a historic perspective. David McCullough takes us back to the very beginning of flying airplanes by giving credit to the legendary Wright Brothers for their incredible achievements in aviation.
McCullough’s book, The Wright Brothers, goes through the lives of the two most iconic figures that propelled the aviation industry into what it is today by covering their first flight, as well as the events that led up to it. The Wright Brothers offers its reader intimate details on the lives of the two brothers that started it all and it gives us insight into the challenges that were faced and the obstacles that were overcome on their path to success.
This is an amazing book for anyone interested in aviation history and the autobiography of the Wright Brothers. The history of this story alone will make you appreciate the course of action and risk that was taken for flying technology to become what it is today. Airplanes have impacted all of our lives and the Wright Brothers are the two individuals that deserve more credit than anyone for this accomplishment in human history.
If you are looking to advance your career as an aspiring pilot, The Wright Brothers is not going to give you many pointers on passing your flight school exam. However, this book will give you a lot more appreciation for the history and impact that aviation has had on our society by taking us through the story of Orville and Wilburt Wright.
Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History
The aviation industry has traditionally been male-dominated and although the feminist movement began in the 20th century, women were not viewed as equal when it came to piloting an aircraft. Keith O’Brien’s book, Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History takes us through the incredible journey that 5 women went through to defy this prejudice within the industry.
When flying planes was still a relatively new form of technology, people were quick to turn aviation into a form of competitive recreation by racing against one another. In the 1930s, Louise Thaden, Florence Klingensmith, Amelia Earhart, Ruth Nichols, and Ruth Elder pushed the feminism movement further by entering a major air race.
Their participation was met with ridicule and bigotry by male pilots and observers. The 5 female pilots were not taken seriously and were criticized for even taking part in the race. Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History is an incredible story about 5 women who proved the world wrong.
Against all odds, Louise Thaden, Florence Klingensmith, Amelia Earhart, Ruth Nichols, and Ruth Elder showed the world that women are just as capable of piloting an aircraft as any man. Their participation in the event expanded not only the aviation industry to include more women but also pushed the feminist movement further into what it is today.
The 5 women that participated in this race did exceptionally well and Louis Thaden even ended up winning the Bendix trophy - becoming the first woman to ever do so. These women earned the respect of their male counterparts and their accomplishment is not only regarded as a victory for aviation but women everywhere around the globe.
Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge by Federal Aviation Administration/Aviation Supplies & Academics
There are a lot of great books about flying, flight, and aviation but if you want to truly understand the technical requirements of passing your flight exams and piloting an aircraft, there is no better option out there than the Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge by Federal Aviation Administration/Aviation Supplies & Academics.
For over 3 decades, this has been the official FAA handbook, and it contains every essential piece of knowledge that you need to become a pilot. The Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge by Federal Aviation Administration/Aviation Supplies & Academics is not only a recommended read but a mandatory one in many flight schools. This is the ultimate textbook that you will need to study to pass your exams and get into the seat of a cockpit.
This official FAA handbook will start you off with the fundamentals of flying and it will take you all the way to the most advanced details of becoming a professional pilot. If becoming a pilot is your career path, do not overlook this must-read. However, flying enthusiasts simply interested in planes and piloting for personal knowledge may find this book to be a bit too dense for their tastes.
Wings: A History of Aviation from Kites to the Space Age
There have been so many events and accomplishments that have contributed to the aviation industry. Tom D. Crouch takes you through every detail that has amounted to airplane technology becoming what it is today in his book Wings: A History of Aviation from Kites to the Space Age.
Airplanes have changed the world and have greatly shaped humanity - enabling us to travel and trade like never before. To think that just over 100 years ago, the Wright Brothers had their first flight and that now we are discussing colonizing planets within our solar system - humans have come a long way in aviation.
Tom D. Crouch writes about the incredible achievements and events that occurred in airplane technology. Wings: A History of Aviation from Kites to the Space Age is a very well-written book and it gives credit to both the amateurs and industry pros involved in taking the aviation industry higher.
This is a book that is an excellent read for anyone interested in aviation history, as it will take you through virtually every finite detail that you could be curious about. Although Wings: A History of Aviation from Kites to the Space Age may not necessarily help you pass your flight school exams, it will certainly expand your appreciation for flying and piloting an aircraft.