Those wishing to start flight training are often overwhelmed by the plethora of books and resources available on the topic. I am often asked for book recommendations from my students and decided to make this post to help clarify things.
There are a few reasons why it is almost impossible for a flight student to accurately select study material. First, there are simply too many sources available. Searching flying books in amazon will yield over 34,000 returns. Then there is the issue of rampant recopying and repurposing material in aviation texts. It would be easy to buy four different books and find a 50% similarity in the material between then. This is obviously inefficient. Finally, the typical prospective student has little to no idea of what they actually need to know. Below I have listed five sources which will cover 90% of the information you will need to know to be successful in flight training. After the list, I have provided exactly what to read out of each so you are not reading more than you have to. Keep in mind that this list is tailored to a student seeking a private license in a light piston single (essentially all beginning flight students). Enjoy!
The best five aviation sources in no particular order:
1. Airplane Flying Handbook (FAA Source FAA-H-8083-3A)
2. Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge (FAA Source FAA-H-8083-25A)
3. Aeronautical Chart User’s Guide (FAA Source)
4. Everything Explained for the Professional Pilot (Richie Lengel)
5. Stick and Rudder (Wolfgang Langewiesche)
Airplane Flying handbook
What you will learn: This book comes directly from the FAA. It is a great book for clarifying flight maneuvers and aircraft operations. It is the only direct FAA publication that mentions flight maneuvers.
What to read: Chapters 1-10 and 16
Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge
What you will learn: This book comes directly from the FAA. It is the FAA’s reference for a significant portion of the knowledge tested on the private pilot check ride, thus it is an essential read. Sometimes called the PHAK (P-hack), this book reviews topics from piston engine operation to supplemental oxygen usage.
What to read: Chapters All, but skip 4-39 – 4-46, 5-7, 5-8, 5-12, 6-6, 6-11 – 6-14, 6-19 – 6-24, 12-22 – 12-24
Aeronautical Chart User’s Guide
Where to buy: Don’t buy it! Print the first 33 pages from the FAA Library
What you will learn: Best reference for learning sectional map symbology, which is heavily tested on practical tests. It is the only source available on the topic.
What to read: p. 1-33
Everything Explained for the Professional Pilot
Where to buy: Amazon (no freebies here)
What you will learn: Often times the FAA can be confusing. This book is especially helpful in clarifying FAA regulations, so much so that I do not recommend studying regulations out of the actual first party source at all. Although the title says it’s for the professional pilot, the book will be equally helpful for a beginning flight student. Richie Lengel does an excellent job at eliminating the confusion found in the lawyer speak of the FAR and does so with humorous approach.
What to read: Chapter 1, 2 – p. 30-32, 5 p. 167-169, 174-185, 193-204, 6 p. 205-211, 217-229, 8 p. 329-331, 337-346, 10, 11
Stick and Rudder
Where to buy: Amazon
What you will learn: This is the only book I have found that actually teaches you the fundamental skills of flying. This book will not tell you the visibility requirements in class C airspace, but will tell you where you should be looking on final approach. It is arguably the best book written on flying and if read before starting training, will reduce the amount of hours required to obtain your license.
What to read: ALL!
There you have it. Reading the suggested areas in those five sources will give you 90% of everything you need to know to be successful in flight training. Keep in mind that you will still be responsible for VFR flight planning and aircraft specific items like systems and limitations. Reviewing those specific areas should only take a few hours with your instructor.