What Are the Best Aviation Books?

Here are 10 of our top recommendations.

Whatever type of aviation book you have been looking to read, we have collected ideas from FLYING’s readers on what they feel are the best ones. We’ve compiled a list of the top-ten best aviation book options that are both excellent reads as well as informative in all the right ways. 

Not all nonfiction aviation books need to be boring—even when they cover technical information you can apply to your own flying. We’ve found a few here that make for easy and/or fun reading while you learn. 

From handbooks filled with the fundamentals to memoirs and biographies, your next read is sure to keep you hooked from the first page to the last chapter. Let’s review some of the top options here—and we would love to hear from you what your favorites are. And for more options, follow as editor-in-chief Julie Boatman talks about her favorite reads each month in View From Above.

Quicklook: Best Aviation Books

  1. Stick and Rudder: An Explanation of the Art of Flying 
  2. Weather Flying  
  3. Fly the Wing  
  4. The Thinking Pilot’s Flight Manual   
  5. Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge
  6. The Next Hour
  7. The Wright Brothers 
  8. Fate is the Hunter: A Pilot’s Memoir
  9. Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History
  10. Wings: A History of Aviation from Kites to the Space Age

10 Best Aviation Books Every Pilot Should Read

Whether you’re an aviation enthusiast reading for pleasure or a student pilot expanding your knowledge of flight, the best aviation books are out there for you to read! 

Stick and Rudder: An Explanation of the Art of Flying 

Author: Wolfgang Langewiesche

The elemental basics of flying haven’t changed since this book was written nearly 80 years ago, and this book explains the process of flying as an art form. Wolfgang Langewiesche wanted those curious about aviation to understand what actually goes on for pilots when they’re flying—so it makes an excellent primer for those who want to improve their flying. 

A broad range of detailed descriptions of the phases of flight are explained in this book, and Langewiesche does it in language that anyone can understand what pilots really do in the cockpit. Both student pilots and those already certificated can learn from this fun-to-read and informative book.  

What We Like: With accurate details, this fun read makes it simple to learn the basics of flying. The true definition of an oldie, but goodie.   

Weather Flying 

Author: Robert N. Buck

Robert Buck is an experienced pilot who wanted to provide other pilots with an understanding of the weather they face in the air. Dynamic weather patterns can change during flight, and this book helps you understand how to safely deal with these changes. 

Keep yourself and passengers safe while remaining confident when you’re flying in any type of weather. This FAA-recommended book is beneficial for pilots at any stage of their journey. 

What We Like: Weather Flying can help prepare you by providing the practical knowledge you need when flying in any weather conditions. Buck reviews weather terminology within too much jargon so that even beginner pilots can gain from the book.

Fly the Wing  

Author: Jim Webb and Billy Walker 

If you’ve been considering a career as a commercial pilot, then Fly the Wing is a must-read. It’s a valuable asset any pilot can use to assist in their training. Insights and advice keep the conversational style of this book easy to read. You’ll gain an understanding of what is involved in being a commercial pilot when you’re finished with this read.  

What We Like: This book comes filled with a lot of helpful information you need to become a commercial pilot, yet it’s written for anyone to follow. We love that it helps prepare you for what lies ahead, and contains far more than just technical information. 

A pilot’s job can often take a toll on them both physically and mentally if you’re not prepared. This book offers solid advice for any commercial pilot. 

The Thinking Pilot’s Flight Manual  

Author: Rick Durden 

Looking to go a little deeper into the world of aviation? The Thinking Pilot’s Flight Manual is one of the best aviation books you can read after you’ve finished your flight training. Keeping your passengers happy is easy when you have this tool in your hands. 

Get the details you want in more areas of aviation. Common aviation myths are even addressed in this great read by experienced instructor and aviation attorney Rick Durden. If you enjoy the first volume, then The Thinking Pilot’s Flight Manual: Volume 2 offers even more. 

What We Like: This manual offers additional insight into the practice of flying that goes beyond the basic maneuvers. Durden fills in the gaps, so this is the book one read after you have your pilot certificate or anytime you have aviation questions. 

Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge (PHAK) 

Author: FAA; published by ASA

Published by the FAA, this handbook lays the foundation for the knowledge that a person needs to study when working towards a private or commercial pilot certificate. Also known by its acronym, PHAK, the handbook covers all of the subject areas you need to know thoroughly to fulfill the aeronautical knowledge portion of the knowledge exam and the practical test, or check ride.

Learn everything about flight instruments, weather theory, aerodynamics, aircraft systems, airports, and navigation—you name it, this book has it. 

What We Like: As an official FAA handbook, it’s no surprise this book is filled front to back with all the basics you need for flying and more. Written for pilots of any level training for any certificate, it’s your go-to manual for a solid flying foundation. 

The Next Hour 

Author: Richard L. Collins

Former FLYING editor-in-chief Richard Collins approaches the seriousness of flying with the right attitude in this book. Navigating any difficult situation in the air is the hallmark of becoming a good pilot, so Collins helps you to prepare yourself as best you can by reviewing the stories and practical advice that Collins shares from a lifetime of flying. 

The first-hand wisdom this book provides is unmatched for pilots anywhere in their aviation journey. One of the last books written by Collins, he also tells the story of when he knew it was time to stop flying as pilot-in-command—a great lesson for all pilots.

What We Like: This book helps you understand some obvious and not-so-obvious risks found in piloting light aircraft in particular, and how you can prepare yourself best to mitigate those risks in your own flying. 

The Wright Brothers 

Author: David McCullough

Celebrated biographer David McCullough dives deeply into one of the most well-known set of brothers—but often a pair misunderstood by those outside of aviation. If you are looking for more insight into the first flight of a powered airplane, this is one of the best aviation books for you to pick up, whether you are a pilot or an aviation enthusiast. 

McCullough goes into the new source material in order to weave together the Wright Brothers’ tale and journey towards making the first flight at Kill Devil Hills. It’s hard not to appreciate this determination they had had knowing the risks they took on their path to creating a viable heavier-than-air aircraft. 

What We Like: David McCullough makes it easy to engage with the inspirational history behind the origin of the first flight. Many have written about the Wright Brothers, but McCullough explores more deeply than those before him.  

Fate is the Hunter: A Pilot’s Memoir 

Author: Ernest K. Gann

As both a wartime pilot and an early commercial pilot, Ernest Gann’s stories are like no others. Commercial aviation has come an incredibly long way, but Gann lets you hear about what it was like flying in the 1930s. His language evokes the sights and sounds of aircraft such as the Douglas DC-3, and other early airliners.

Pilots aren’t the only ones who love reading Fate is the Hunter, and while this may be a pilot’s memoir, his clear writing is enjoyed by all. 

What We Like: Gann makes you feel like you’re right in the cockpit with him through every triumph and struggle. Learn about the history of commercial aviation through his first-hand accounts. 

Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History 

Author: Keith O’Brien 

You certainly don’t have to be a woman or in aviation to appreciate all that these women went through in order to pave their way to the skies. These women weren’t afraid to stand up in a male-dominated industry and they helped ensure that the women who came after them would be able to fully explore their potential in aviation and as pilots. 

Among the stories are those of Florence Klingensmith, Ruth Elder, Amelia Earhart, Ruth Nichols, and Louise Thaden, who excelled at racing airplanes–and then translated this skill to other aviation pursuits.

What We Like: O’Brien flawlessly writes about the exciting and sometimes heartbreaking experiences these women went through, particularly during the air races in which they took part. Many of their stories remain unknown outside of aviation, but their fearless spirit can be appreciated by all.

Wings: A History of Aviation from Kites to the Space Age 

Author: Tom D. Crouch

Tom Crouch, a curator emeritus of the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum, helps you follow some of the greatest pilots and other people in aviation history. Aviation wouldn’t be where it is without their contributions. He tells the story of both amateurs and experts beautifully and leaves you with a great understanding of just how far we’ve truly come. 

What We Like: Wings is a heartfelt story of the history of aviation. Crouch does a great job providing a thorough analysis of aviation history thus far and writes in a tone anyone can follow. 

Find a Book on Aviation You’ll Truly Enjoy! 

Pilots of all kinds continue to write in a compelling way that allows other fellow pilots as well as flight students and aviation enthusiasts to find a good read. The best aviation books are different for every reader, but we’re sure there’s one to keep you hooked from the moment you pick it up. 

There are guidebooks filled with all the basics you need as well as memoirs that open your eyes to the realities of flying. When you’re ready for a new book to read each night or in between flights, let FLYING Magazine help you choose the best aviation books out there. 

FAQ

What books should I read to become a pilot?

The best aviation books to read on your path to becoming a pilot can depend on what type of reading you enjoy. While guidebooks and handbooks remain a necessity, there are other aviation books that will help guide you along the way as well. 

What to study to become a pilot?

What you will need to study to become a pilot can depend on the type of pilot you want to become. Physics and mathematics are two main areas professional pilots will be required to complete. For a private pilot certificate, knowing the ins and outs of every airplane you fly is essential for safety in the air.  

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