Essential reading

Giving recommendations for the best aviation books is sometimes difficult because of the many choices and styles out there. I’d like to offer some unsolicited advice (my wife says that comes more naturally to me than breathing) on my favorites. There are thousands of books that one can read to learn about flying. I know because I’ve read most of them. But of all the books I’ve read, two stand out. And as a warning and recommendation, both are full of technical stuff that you won’t be reading for fun at the beach. Incidentally, both are also great aviation interview prep.

The first is Mental Math for Pilots by Ronald D. McElroy. It’s only 116 pages, but it is filled with great short-cuts to figure out such need-to-know things like groundspeed, time/speed/distance, crosswind components, and more. Even for the seasoned pilot, it’s a great review in this day and age of glass cockpits. There was a time in the not-too-distant past when most pilots knew most of the formulas in this book as they flew steam-gauge airplanes from VOR to VOR. Nowadays, most of us need some help, or at least a reminder. McElroy also wrote Ace the Technical Pilot Interview.

The second book, Everything Explained for the Professional Pilot by Richie Lengel, is much more extensive. It runs more than 400 pages, and costs $50 or more depending on where you get it. But the price is well worth it. It is a collection of all kinds of meat-and-potatoes information, plus arcane trivia you likely don’t know, or knew that you wanted to know. It covers FAR 121 and 135 regs; aircraft systems; weather; and mental math formulas that are not all included in McElroy’s book. It’s also loaded with a lot of great cartoons and humor that help drive the points home. This book will save you loads of time and money in research, and you will wish that you had gotten it a long time ago. Don’t let the title fool you—you don’t need to be a professional to appreciate this tome.

Every pilot has his or her favorite set of resources. These two will save you a lot of Google searches, as well as teach and entertain you. Career pilots and weekend barnstormers alike will both gain much from each of these.

Have you read other books you can’t put down, or maybe you’ve read these and you have another opinion. What do you think?

–Chip Wright

  • Michael Maya Charles


    What? “Artful Flying” is not on your list?


    Michael Maya Charles

  • andrew h.

    The ‘Compleat (sic) Taildragger Pilot,’ by Harvey Plourde.

  • David

    I will vouch for Everything ‘Explained for the Professional Pilot’. I received it as a gift and it quickly became my go to resource for quick answers.