Good FLYING Reads: Barry Schiff’s ‘An Illustrated Guide to Flying’

The graphically rich handbook, Barry Schiff’s ‘An Illustrated Guide to Flying,’ serves as a primer for aspiring pilots and a reference for instructors.

‘An Illustrated Guide to Flying’ introduces key concepts and provides a solid orientation for those new to aviation. [Courtesy ASA]

Show, don’t just tell. It’s a key thing we learn as instructors—that few of our students get the message when we simply tell them a procedure or concept, without a picture or a demonstration to accompany it. Even the Aviation Instructor’s Handbook notes that the combination of sight and hearing accounts for 88 percent of what people learn—with only 13 percent for hearing alone—and regardless of what you think of that tome on learning theory, it rings true with my experience over the years.

An Illustrated Guide to Flying by expert aviation author and instructor Barry Schiff introduces key concepts and provides a solid orientation for those new to aviation using the effective combination of succinct words and copious illustrations and photos. The full-color, 216-page book, published by Aviation Supplies & Academics (ASA), came out this week, just in time to tuck it into a budding pilot’s stocking—or get it on your wish list for the new year. It’s a great first read for folks who have been considering learning to fly—or who are really anywhere in the process of initial flight training.

The guide launches with a brief primer on aviation history, presumably to help orient the reader, and a timeline of key events over the course of that history. Then, the book dives into well-chunked information on basic flight maneuvers, engines, instrumentation, navigation, weather, types of aircraft, ATC, regulations, and performance.

I’ve known Barry Schiff since I first worked with him as a young associate editor at the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA). Captain Schiff had retired from TWA after 34 years of flying the line, and he had contributed to AOPA Pilot since longer than I had been holding a pen, it seemed. I’ll never forget the fearsome first time I picked up the phone to query him about a potential error I’d found in his column. Turned out, I was right—and he was eminently gracious about it. He brings this same familiar yet expert style to An Illustrated Guide to Flying.

The guide covers a wide range of topics in an engaging style, such as basic aerobatic maneuvers. [Courtesy ASA]

Guidance from an Expert

I asked Barry about the genesis of the book, and what gap in the market he sought to fill with the guide. “I wanted to create something that would get people excited about the prospect of learning to fly,” he said. “The book obviously is not intended to prepare someone for an FAA written exam or improve their flying skills. Rather, it is intended to expose the reader to what is involved in flying. I would like to think that the book will inspire some readers to head for their local airports, visit their local flight schools, and take that first step toward experiencing that heady adventure of becoming a pilot.

“Simply stated, I am hoping that my book will inspire some readers to begin the exciting process of learning to fly.

“As far as selecting which topics to include in the book is concerned, I wanted to include those subjects that broadly expose the reader to what is involved in learning to fly.”

While there have been other entry-level manuals to explore the flying experience, An Illustrated Guide to Flying hits the mark with the level of the prose involved—neither too full of jargon nor too basic in a way that would condescend to a broad audience. The final chapter, on learning to fly, gives the reader just enough to tease them into doing just as Barry suggests: picking up the phone, heading to the nearest FBO’s website or social page, or dropping by a flight school on their next drive. And that’s the intention throughout—to give just enough information to spur someone on to want to learn more.

You can order the book directly from ASA for $19.95 in either a print, PDF, or eBook format, or from Amazon.

Based in Maryland, Julie is an editor, aviation educator, and author. She holds an airline transport pilot certificate with Douglas DC-3 and CE510 (Citation Mustang) type ratings. She's a CFI/CFII since 1993, specializing in advanced aircraft and flight instructor development. Follow Julie on Twitter @julieinthesky.

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