A list of the best aviation books from around the world
This is a list of some of the best Aviation, airline, flying, and pilot books from around the world. These include both fiction and non-fiction, including stories, traditions, culture, textbooks, theory, engineering principles and flight manuals
Classic Aviation Books
This section contains classic aviation books
Fate is the Hunter by Ernest K. Gann
Fate is the Hunter has been described as the finest book on aviation ever written. 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.
Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Saint-Exupéry describes his adventures—equal parts terrifying and exhilarating—flying above the Sahara Desert and the Andes Mountains and relates the deeper meaning behind the experience
The Wright Brothers by David McCullough
The Wright Brothers explores the courage and curiosity of the seemingly ordinary bicycle-manufacturing brothers from Dayton, Ohio, who went on to “invent the future of flight” for all humankind.
Sled Driver by Brian Shul and Sheila Kathleen O’Grady
Developed by Lockheed’s famous Skunk Works team, the SR-71 Blackbird was known as the fastest and highest-flying jet in the world. The aircraft flew so high that the pilots had to wear space suits. Best of all, the jet was top secret from the moment it first entered service for the United States Air Force in 1966—its alias being “The Sled.” Whether you’re an #avgeek or not, few humans walking this earth know what it was like to fly the SR-71, but in Sled Driver author and retired Blackbird pilot Brian Shul takes you on an exciting ride.
Herman the German: Just Lucky I Guess by Gerhard Neumann
Nicknamed “Herman the German” by his fellow volunteers in the Flying Tigers, Gerhard Neumann was more than a fan of flight—he was an avatar. Neumann catalogues his adventures, achievements and contributions within the tight-knit but burgeoning world of aviation in this winning memoir, which follows his journey from aircraft mechanic with the legendary Flying Tigers in China during World War II to a “master aircraft engineer” and eventually a highly influential executive in the post-war glory years at GE Aviation.
Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years of Lockheed by Ben R. Rich and Leo Janos
Ben Rich’s experience as the boss and chief engineer of what’s known as “America’s most secret and successful aerospace operation,” a.k.a. Skunk Works, a pseudonym for Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Development Programs.
The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe
The Right Stuff chronicles the feats of an elite crew of seven United States military test pilots who are called by NASA to serve as the country’s first astronauts for Project Mercury.
The Power to Fly: An Engineer’s Life by Brian H. Rowe with Martin Ducheny
The book is a free-flowing collection of anecdotes, remembrances, insights and lessons that all serve to pass along Rowe’s business and management philosophies while also telegraphing his zest for life.
The Next Hour – Richard L. Collins
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.
Wings: A History of Aviation from Kites to the Space Age – 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.
Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied all odds and made Aviation History – 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.
Aviation books on theory, flight, and exam preparation
The most popular aviation theory, flight and exam preparation books.
The Bob Tait theory books written by Australian aviation legend Bob Tait are a fantastic series of books that covers literally everything you need to achieve an Australian Private Pilot Licence, and then even further on to your Commercial Pilots Licence and advanced ratings such as the Instrument Rating Examination (IREX) required to be eligible for a Multi Engine Command Instrument Rating.
Geared towards passing the theory exam quickly and with some concise practical gouge and tips for your flying career, his books are straight to the point and no nonsense. His BAK and PPL books lead perfectly into his CPL and MECIR syllabus which will help you pass your commercial pilot exams, as well as assist in preparing for airline pilot exams.
Aviation Theory Centre
The Aviation Theory Centre books written by Dave Robson are a fantastic wealth of information. Available in both hard and soft electronic copy, the ATC books are considered the go to reference of Australian flight training and theory.
The Author, Dave Robson, is a qualified Test pilot and ex Royal Australian Air Force Fast jet pilot. He has even been contracted through the Aviation Theory Centre to write extensive reference material for the Australian Defence force – the ‘Professional ADF Aviator’s Reference Manual’ (or PAARM for short!).
The Aviation Theory Centre manuals are incredibly detailed which can at times leave you a bit lost on what to actually study or prep, but are a fantastic higher resource and contain a wealth of great information and operating information that will help you as a pilot. Completing his chapter reviews and practice exams will leave you very well prepared for your examinations, and form handy revision material for later down the track.
Aviation Supplies and Academics
Aviation supplies and academics provide a range of textbooks. Kershner authors a number of Private Pilot Licence textbooks and also branch out into aircraft specific manuals (kind of like a conversion textbook full of handy information on your new type) as well as detailed books covering ratings and endorsements such as aerobatics, low flying and even your initial multi engine conversion – which are incredibly useful to budding aviators and those brushing up on their theory and basics alike. With many titles to choose from, ASA provides a wealth of information.
Fundamentals of Aerodynamics by John D. Anderson, Jr.
Fundamentals of Aerodynamics provides fascinating intel on the ins and outs of aerospace engineering, and is written in a conversational, comprehendible style. If you’re looking to brush up your aerodynamic knowledge, read (or perhaps re-read) this aviation fan favorite.
Fundamentals of Aerodynamics was my go to textbook whilst I studies for my Aeronautical Engineering and Space Engineering degrees.
Stick and Rudder: An explanation of the Art of Flying – Wolfgang Langewiesche
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.
Fly the Wing – Jim Webb and Billy Walker
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
The thinking pilots flight manual – Rick Durden
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.
Weather Flying – 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.
Pilots Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge (Authored by 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.
Aerodynamics for Naval Aviators is the traditional text (NAVWEPS 00-80T-80) for Navy pilots. Also used by the U.S. Air Force, it remains the definitive work on applied aerodynamics for pilots. It effectively communicates the intricacies of aerodynamics in an accessible manner, and includes charts, illustrations, and diagrams to aid in understanding. This text is reader-friendly and great for any serious beginner as well as any experienced pilot
Flying the Big Jets – Standley Stewart
Flying the Big Jets presents the facts that people want to know about the world of the big jets. How does a large aircraft fly? How long is the take-off run at maximum weight? How much fuel is carried on a transatlantic flight? How do the radios work? What aircraft maintenance is required? How often are the tyres changed? What is the life style of a pilot? The answers to these and a thousand other questions are given in sufficient detail to satisfy the most inquisitive of readers.
These are some of the most influential and best aviation books I have read in my career – If you have any suggestions, let me know in the comments below!