Special feature

Twelve cracking aviation books

If the weather sees you holed up in an armchair – instead of the left seat – then an aviation book is the next best thing. And the FLYER team has chosen a dozen crackers…

The FLYER team has given us their favourite aviation books, although there are tons on the market to choose from. Some of these have featured before (hey, they’re great, and they’re classics), but some are new.  All of the prices are from Amazon, but obviously other outlets are available. Full disclosure, if you buy any of the books with the links we’ve provided, we’ll earn enough avgas to fly for about three seconds (as long as we’re flying behind a frugal Rotax at low power!).

Chinook Crew ‘Chick’

Liz McConaghy

This is a very special book. Liz McConnaghy spent 17 years with the Chinook fleet, deployed twice to Iraq (where at 21 she was the youngest aircrew member to deploy), and 10 – yes 10 – times to Afghanistan.  Although there’s plenty of Minigun action, this book is so much more, covering as it does, not just the reality of combat and of operating as a member of the Medical Emergency Response Team (MERT), but the battles that take place afterwards. Those battles led Liz to try to kill herself, and that in part led to this book. 


Mike Sutton

A fabulous insight into the mind of an accomplished fighter pilot and leader as he takes on the biggest challenge of his career – leading 1 (Fighter) Squadron and its Typhoons into operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Sutton’s honesty is clear throughout the book; struggles through flying training and his personal life, losing friends to suicide, times of self-doubt, the mental toll that operational flying can take – and his utter pride in his squadron as the man at the helm. Mike Ling

The Flight of the Mew Gull

Alex Henshaw

The Flight of the Mew Gull is about more than just a mere flight. It’s a story of how one young man decided to take up flying and, in the process, tackled the continent of Africa after many air racing triumphs in Great Britain.  Alex is best known for his London to Cape Town record, set in the confines of the Percival Mew Gull. You can sense real anxiety as tales of navigating over fog-covered jungles, vast expanses of desert and landing by night on soft sand are recounted in great detail. 

Harrier: How to be a fighter pilot

Paul Tremelling

How to be a fighter pilot… that’s a bold title to put on a book, but Paul Tremelling’s account of his progress through selection and training, then combat in Afghanistan – flying Sea Harriers for the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy – lives up to it. The most compelling chapters though are the two about real live combat, and Paul’s accounts are as close to being there as it’s possible to be, without breathing the hot air and dust, and having bullets whizzing past your ears. This isn’t a book for the faint-hearted. It’s a book for anyone who appreciates insight into how a fighter pilot trains, trains more, thinks (fast), handles the aircraft and onboard tech… then fights. DC

Rubber Suits & Lukewarm Soup

Steve Randall

This is the story of so many people in General Aviation. The challenges we face along the way and our aviation destinations may differ, but it’s a story that most pilots will recognise. Steve wanted to be a commercial pilot, but without the financial means needed to sign-up for a full-time integrated course, he went through, as many do, a myriad of jobs in order to fund the obsession… or is it an addiction?  Steve worked a bunch of non-aviation jobs before getting into Oceanic ferry flying which eventually led to him moving to the US where he’s now an airline captain and Chipmunk owner! A great read. ICS


Robert Mason

This book follows Mason’s journey from initial US Army helicopter flight training, through his deployment in Vietnam as a Huey pilot during the war and his subsequent return to civilian life afterwards. It’s not just another ‘Vietnam War’ book, and has to count as one of the very best books to result from the conflict. ICS

Fate is the Hunter

Ernest K. Gann

Set against the backdrop of Gann’s experience as a 1930s-40s airline pilot, each chapter is a mini-lesson in the perils that pilots of yesterday faced. Each story is well told and engaging in its own right, but considering many of the challenges we face in General Aviation today, aren’t much different than those faced by Gann in his DC-3 – each one takes on a special meaning for pilots of today. JF

First Light

Geoffrey Wellum

This, for me, is THE book about flying in WWII. Wellum was barely 18 when he signed up with the RAF in 1939, progressed through flight training and flew Spitfires during the Battle of Britain – the youngest, earning himself the nickname of ‘Boy’. Later in the war, he flew in the bloody Battle for Malta. His account is detailed and personal, amazingly so, given that it was written years later when Wellum was at a low point in his life. He wrote it to remind himself that he had once done something worthwhile. And he had indeed, as one of the Few. DC

Forever Flying

R A Bob Hoover

The late General James Doolittle referred to Bob Hoover as the greatest stick-and-rudder pilot who ever lived, and after reading tales such as the time he wrestled an F86 Sabre to the ground after the an experimental powered flying control system failed, landing at 240kt, you’ll be in no doubt Jimmie was right… EH

Voyage of the Southern Sun

Michael Smith

Smith set out to fly his two-seat, single-engine Searey amphibious light aircraft from Australia to London, made it, and decided to carry on, crossing the Atlantic to the US and working his way back to Australia.  It’s a well-written, highly personal tale, giving insight into his business and private life as much as the flying. If you’ve ever thought of circumnavigating the world, read this. It’s enough to make you get a Searey and follow his flight tracks. DC

We Landed by Moonlight

Hugh Verity

Imagine flying a Lysander at night, finding and landing on an unprepared strip by moonlight with nothing more than a map, compass and stopwatch, all while people are trying to kill you and the SOE / Resistance agents that you are carrying to and from France. An extraordinary story brilliantly told. ICS

Into the Black

Roland White

Probably the most complex machine ever to fly, when NASA created the Space Shuttle fly-by-wire was in its infancy and computer memory was measured in tens of kilobytes. A challenge for its test pilots, with its 10,000fpm descent rate pitched 20º nose down, and a flare that began at 2,000ft, and that was even before they lit the rockets to go into space. This amazing tale is full of fascinating detail. EH


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