Ahrens, C. Donald. Meteorology Today: An Introduction to Weather, Climate, and the Environment, 3d ed. St. Paul: West Publishing Co.

A must – read for any serious student of flying, this venerable text covers the gamut of weather, from atmospheric optics such as rainbows and sundogs to the most obtuse concept of vorticity—one of the most fundamental principles of meteorology. Don’t miss the description of the “green flash,” which is one of the rarest occurrences in the sky. Once you learn about it, you’ll never stop watching for it.

Bach, Richard. Jonathan Livingston Seagull. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1970.

Bach is one of the “Holy Trinity” of aviation writers, alongside Gann and Saint-Exupery (see later in the appendix). This classic, Bach’s best work, contains not a single airplane, nor a pilot. Yet it is the fullest, most transcendental treatment of aviation ever written. No pilot’s bookshelf should be without his other greats, Biplane, Stranger to the Ground, and Illusions.

Bilstein, Roger E. Flight in America: From the Wrights to the Astronauts. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984.

Good “hole-filler” that bridges the gaps left in other texts, beginning with the birth of manned airplane flight and ending with the Space Race.

Brennan, T. C. “Buddy.” Witness to the Execution: The Odyssey of Amelia Earhart. Frederick, CO: Renaissance House, 1988.

Another take on the Saipan theory, which trots out a purported eyewitness to the execution of the noted aviatrix by Japanese soldiers. Brutal in its premise, a single source of untestable credibility is far from a solid foundation to build a theory on. Still, for the conspiracists and Earhart cognoscenti, this is an entertaining take on the case.

Buck, Robert N. Weather Flying, 3dEd. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1988.

Robert Buck’s book is in its second generation as an aviation classic. Buck doesn’t stop at describing weather theory, though he deals with the science deftly. He goes on to

bring the principles of weather straight into the cockpit, and adds a heaping helping of commonsense application. Cole, Duane. Conquest of Lines and Symmetry. Milwaukee: Ken Cook Transnational, 1970.

This is one of a pair of books by the “father figure” of aerobatics, whose books have nurtured more aerobatic pilots than any other author’s. Written in charmingly simple prose and designed with equally simple diagrams, this book should be a fixture in every aspiring aerobatic pilot’s library.

Conway, Carle. The Joy of Soaring: A Training Manual. Hobbs, NM: Soaring Society of America Inc., 1989.

Devine, Thomas E., and Richard M. Daley. Eyewitness: The Amelia Earhart Incident. Frederick, CO: Renaissance House, 1987.

A well – researched, breathlessly conspiratorial essay based on the premise that Earhart and her navigator died on the Japanese – controlled island of Saipan after missing Howland Island, a refueling stop on the most dangerous leg of her globe-circling voyage.

Donahue, J. A. The Earhart Disappearance: The British Connection.

Almost addictive for its sheer wackiness, this could be regarded as the most outlandish Earhart disappearance theory, if only for its elaborate futility. The British are probably innocent as charged, but it’s fun to go along for the ride.

Earhart, Amelia. Last Flight. New York: Orion Books, 1988.

With the eerie sense of impending doom, this collection of Earhart’s own cable dispatches traces her final flight from an aborted first attempt to circle the world to her Miami-Lae journey that, for some, has still not come to an end. The book was complied by her husband, publisher George Putnam, and features a foreword by aviation historian Walter J. Boyne.

Gann, Ernest K. Fate Is the Hunter. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1961.

Ernie Gann is to the aviation novel what Agatha Christie is to the parlor mystery. That is best exemplified by his novels The Aviator, which was turned into a powerful feature film, and The High and the Mighty. Fate… is Gann’s personal memoir of the power of fate—call it dumb luck—in determining life and death of pilots. Filled with haunting stories of survival told in Gann’s unforgettable style. Every pilot should know this book, because it defines the shared pilot psyche.

Gibbs-Smith, C. H. Flight Through the Ages. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Co., 1974.

A pleasant journey through aviation history with hundreds of drawings so quirky that they border on camp. Delightfully detailed.

Goerner, Fred. The Search for Amelia Earhart. New York: Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1966.

Thirty years after Amelia Earhart’s disappearance in the Atlantic, radio broadcaster Goerner patches together an off-kilter theory in a fast-paced, readable book that

makes it fun to join, at least for a moment, the conspiracist camp. His conclusions are probably wrong, but Goerner does know how to write an investigation adventure tale.

Harrison, James P. Mastering the Sky: A History of Aviation from Ancient Times to the Present. New York: Sarpedon, 1996.

An authoritative account of the high and finer points of the history of flight.

Holley, John. Aviation Weather Services Explained. Newcastle, WA: ASA, Inc., 1997.

This companion workbook to the FAA’s Aviation Weather Services expands on the explanations of weather charts and forecasts included in the government publication. John Holley, a former professor of mine who planted a fondness for weather in me and hundreds of students at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, teaches pilots how to use the tools handed to them by the FAA’s authors. With his characteristic humor, he brings a potentially dry topic to life and puts pilots on a first-name basis with weather services offerings.

Kalakuka, Christine, and Brent Stockwell. Hot-Air Balloons. New York: Friedman/Fairfax Publishers, 1998.

Like most books about hot-air ballooning, this one is heavy on the photography, all of which is high-quality and appealing. From the history of the sport to the nuts and bolts of how the bulbous behemoths function, Kalakuka and Stockwell have created a book that will satisfy both the coffee-table browser and the balloon enthusiast wanting a reminder of what makes balloonists so passionate about their sport.

Kershner, William K. The Basic Aerobatic Manual. Ames, IA: Iowa State University Press, 1987.

Bill Kershner is as familiar to many pilots as their Dick-and-Jane books. From student pilot to advanced aviator, Kershner, through his books, is America’s aeronautics professor. In this book, he brings the same humor and clarity to aerobatics as he does to each of the subjects he writes about.

Langewiesche, Wolfgang. Stick and Rudder: An Explanation of the Art of Flying. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1972.

Though it was originally written in the 1940s, Langewiesche’s classic is as pertinent today as it ever was. It should be required reading for every would-be pilot, every flight instructor who teaches beginning pilots, and anyone who enjoys graceful writing about flying.

Lester, Peter F. Turbulence: A New Perspective for Pilots. Englewood, CO: Jeppesen Sanderson, Inc., 1993.

For the first time, the subject of turbulence has been pulled out of the hurly-burly of general meteorology texts where it was often tossed in as an afterthought. Lester has given it the prominence it deserves with this exhaustive, readable, and well-illustrated guide to phenomena from dust devils to clear-air turbulence.

Longyard, William H. Who’s Who in Aviation History: 500 Biographies. Novato, CA: Presidio Press, 1994.

A perfect browsing book for aficionados that captures in concise articles biographies of some of the rogues, rascals, and heroes of aviation. Lovell, Mary S. The Sound of Wings: The Life of Amelia Earhart. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1989.

This is the best of the Earhart biographies. Lovell has her eyes open when she examines the life of an aviatrix who was more comfortable as an advocate for women and equality than she was in a cockpit. Exceptionally entertaining. Well illustrated and indexed.

Mason, Sammy. Stalls, Spins, and Safety. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1982.

Sammy Mason has written the undisputed last word on stalls and spins, perhaps the most misunderstood and needlessly feared part of flight. Mason’s essay is a classic of explanatory prose.

Milne-Thomson, L. M. Theoretical Aerodynamics. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1958.

This is a volume you’ll be tempted to display in a prominent place in the front parlor in order to impress visitors. One thing you won’t be likely to do with it is actually read it. True, there are some nuggets nestled in the ore, but most of Milne-Thomson’s dense tome is closely reasoned formulas that defy comprehension and invite slumber. This book is on my list of the last book I’d want with me on a desert island.

Newton, Dennis. Severe Weather Flying. 1983.

Newton has written one of the best explanations of severe weather to reach the flying public. Newton’s explanations of the fundamental elements of severe weather, and the ways they combine and interact to make bad weather worse, are readable and memorable.

Rabinowitz, Harry. Conquer the Sky: Great Moments in Aviation. New York: Metro Books, 1996.

A well-illustrated guide to aviation history, from ancient times to the present.

Roessler, Walter, Leo Gomez, and Gail Lynne Green. Amelia Earhart: Case Closed? Hummelstown, PA: Aviation Publishers, 1995.

This book provides the details behind the most likely explanation to a puzzling mystery. Forget the Japanese execution theory, the lady-spy theory, and all the other crank solutions that this book handily refutes. Sometimes the simplest answer is the best one.

Saint-Exupery, Antoine de. Airman’s Odyssey. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984.

No writer evokes the mysterious union between plane, pilot, and sky like the Good Saint Ex. This volume contains his three best works: Wind, Sand, and Stars; Night

Flight; and Flight to Arras. Beyond his incomparable writing about Hying, Saint Ex was a pioneer of early international aviation, a French resistance patriot, and a war hero who was ultimately shot down during an airborne reconnaissance mission. His poignant death in an airplane renders his timeless writing all the more powerful.

Serling, Robert J. The Only Way to Fly. New York: Doubleday & Co., 1976.

A masterful chronicle of Western Airlines, the national airline that traces its origins farther back in history than any other airline. Western Airlines helped blaze a trail for air mail, then became one of the most storied airlines in the world, and its tale is well-told by this veteran biographer of the great airlines.

Slepyan, Norbert, ed. Crises in the Cockpit: Other Pilots’ Emergencies and What You Can Learn from Them. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1986.

More than merely a collection of hangar stories—which it also has in thrilling, heart-pounding spades—this collection of real-life lessons in disaster and near disaster is readable and instructional from first page to last.

Slepyan, Norbert, ed. Defensive Flying. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1986.

Sometimes it’s not a pilot’s actions that get him into trouble, it’s the actions of a host of other people involved in completing a safe flight. From the fuel handler to the air-traffic controller, a defensive pilot is on the lookout for errors that can endanger a flight.

Smith, Hubert “Skip.” The Illustrated Guide to Aerodynamics. Blue Ridge Summit, PA: TAB Books, Inc., 1985.

Smith takes the fear out of aerodynamics. Even those of us with a fondness for the arcana of the forces acting on an airplane can get overwhelmed by some of the standard texts. Smith doesn’t shun the Greek alphabet that runs through aerodynamics, but the pace at which he motors through the subject allows us to follow him at a reasonably close distance. Clear and pertinent illustrations help immensely.

Spence, Charles F. The Right Seat Handbook: A White-Knuckle Flyer’s Guide to Light Planes. New York: TAB Books, 1995.

Spence has put together an important instructional guide that will familiarize pilots’ spouses and friends with the workings of the airplane, and even help them become part of an informal flight crew. There are plenty of things passengers can do to help out during a flight that will increase the safety of the flight and make it more fun for everybody. This charming little book opens up new adventures for passengers and pilots alike.

Trollip, Stanley R., and Richard S. Jensen. Human Factors for General Aviation. Englewood, CO: Jeppesen Sanderson, 1991.

The human element is almost always the weakest link in the safety chain, and until we replace human pilots with machines—which will be never!—pilots must continue to increase their awareness of how their decisions and physical condition affect the

outcome of a flight. This book brings the frailty of the human equation home to roost.

Whelan, Robert F. Cloud Dancing: Your Introduction to Gliding and Motorless Flight. Highland City, FL: Rainbow Books, Inc., 1995.

Williams, Jack. The Weather Book: An Easy-to-Understand Guide to the USA’s Weather. New York: Vintage Books, 1992.

If there’s one thing USA Today newspaper is good at, it’s explanatory graphics. This book is chock-full of them. Combine that powerful learning tool with Williams’ wideranging curiosity, and the result is a book so instructive that it’s almost addictive.

Williams, Neil. Aerobatics. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1979.

This is the best, most readable book on aerobatics ever written. Williams was a test pilot and aerobatics master who never forgot the soul inside the pilot and how aerobatics can be used in the same way that an artist uses color—as an expression of spirit.

Wirth, Dick, and Jerry Young. Ballooning: The Complete Guide to Riding the Winds. New York: Random House, 1991.

This soft-cover manual on the sport of ballooning reads as a celebration of the people who drag their gondolas out to the launch site before dawn and spend exhausting, rewarding hours working together to get a single bag of hot air into the sky for a few hours of breathtaking flight. Wirth and Young remind us that there’s a lot more to ballooning than the balloons—more than anything else, it’s a sport about people and camaraderie.

Aviation Magazines and Periodicals

Air and Space Smithsonian

The tender to the aviation culture. Photographically and editorially unsurpassed.


Airlines and commercial aircraft. Of interest to professional pilots and serious flying enthusiasts. Aviation for Women

Published by Women in Aviation International mostly for female pilots and aviation hobbyists. Aviation History

The planes and people that brought us this far.

Aviation International News Corporate aviation.

Aviation Week & Space Technology

One of the most comprehensive of all aviation publications, providing very “inside baseball” content. This is what the experts read.

Balloon Life

If you like mixing your champagne and propane, this might be something you enjoy.


This publication is considered the standard by which others are measured, though that might be too high a pedestal. Still, a good magazine and widely available.


Published by the Airplane Owners and Pilots Association, a powerful general aviation advocate, this is probably the best general aviation magazine on the newsstand. Plane and Pilot

One of the best monthlies serving general aviation.

Professional Pilot

Serves the corporate and regional airline industry. A must-read for the aspiring professionals trying to crack into the business.

Sport Aviation

If you want to subscribe to this magazine, you have to join the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), which isn’t a bad idea after all.

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