As a student pilot, you may feel that you have enough to read with all the required textbooks. But here are some suggestions for reading that you might enjoy in addition to the syllabus stuff.
What follows are books that expand on the aviation subjects you are studying, books to inspire students, books of general aviation interest, and books that are just fun to read. Some are aviation classics you might not have heard of.
The first few are non-fiction and informative and complement the student textbooks in the Private Pilot Licence syllabus. The later books here are there to inspire you and for sheer enjoyment. All have been recommended by current and former students.
1. Stick and Rudder: An Explanation of the Art of Flying, by Wolfgang Langewiesche
Although published way back in 1944, this book has become a classic and continues to be recommended by both past and present aviation students. It goes over the main phases of flight, explaining them in detail, and providing more information than the standard textbooks.
It is worth reading for the beginner to fly, then returning to as a qualified pilot or even as an instructor! A book for the whole of your flying life.
2. Be a Better Pilot, by Alan Bramson
It is a very practical book packed with information on how to improve your flying techniques. It also has helpful information that is hard to find elsewhere, such as tips for flying in and out of small airfields, coping with crosswinds, and dealing with engine failure. Again, worth reading as a new student and coming back to later on.
3. Pilot’s Weather: a Commonsense Approach to Meteorology, by Brian Cosgrove
Meteorology textbooks can sometimes be boring for most students, but this book is different. It is eminently readable and includes color photos of what you actually see in the sky.
So it really brings meteorology to life.
It is another book for everyone, from new students to qualified pilots.
4. The Naked Pilot: the Human Factor in Aircraft Accidents, by David Beaty
Human Factors is perhaps the most misunderstood subject in the Private Pilot syllabus. This book brings it to life and demonstrates its relevance for all pilots. It analyses several well-known aircraft accidents, focusing not only on what actually happened but, most importantly, on why the accidents took place. It is, therefore, a useful and very readable book.
5. Fate is the Hunter, by Ernest K Gann
This brilliantly written book is another classic, which is still continuously recommended by students; one of these said on a well-known aviation website, “Reading this should be a part of pilot training; it’s a must.” It describes the history of one man’s life as a pilot, his incidents and the people he knew. Overall, it is a thrilling description of the author’s many memorable flying experiences. The title comes from the author’s belief that fate, or death, are constantly in pursuit of pilots. Definitely worth a read.
6. A Gift of Wings, by Richard Bach
It is another book often recommended by students. Written by the author of the better-known ‘Jonathan Livingstone Seagull,’ in this book, the former fighter pilot and long-term aviator tells of his lifelong passion for flight, his memories of friends from the past, and other flying-related memories. It is a book for any aviation student to enjoy and be inspired by.
7. Propellerhead, by Antony Woodward
At least one student has described this as the best book he has ever read, which is quite a recommendation. Antony Woodward learned to fly to attract girlfriends but found himself on a journey of airborne self-discovery, exploration, and fun. Read and enjoy – I’m pretty sure you will!
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8. Night Flight, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
It is another classic, a novel that made the author famous. Antoine de Saint-Exupery was a 1930s airline pilot who collected the experiences and reflections of his years of flying, which could then be recounted in Night Flight. Another book to be enjoyed when you’re tired of the standard textbooks.
9. Talk Down, by Brian Lecomber
This thrilling novel was a bestseller for many years. Experienced pilot Brian Lecomber tells the story of a non-pilot who has to land a plane and how she is ‘talked down’ by an airborne instructor in another plane. The book never once loses the suspense but also provides a wealth of flying detail, and flying students can learn much from it.
10. Slipping the Surly Bonds: Great Quotations on Flight, by Dave English
It is a book to dip into when you’ve had enough of aviation reading.
It is a collection of well-known and lesser-known sayings and poems about flight, from John Gillespie Magee’s famous “High Flight” to contributions from Charles A Lindbergh, Nevil Shute, Chuck Yeager, and many more. A book to inspire you to get that pilot license.
And when you’ve finished these ten books, you might want to read some more!