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The Inner Art of Airmanship

Stick and Rudder

These are books that should be on every pilot's shelf. How to handle an aircraft, placing wing through weather. From systems knowledge to thinking ahead of the airplane, you must know the technical aspects of flying like a painter knows the properties of paint and perspective. For only then can you transcend the merely mechanical and soar into the Art of Inner Airmanship.


Flying Know-How
Robert N. Buck

"Watching Jim, you learn how easy flying is, how effortless this wonderful art can be. But how do Jim Gannett and his like accomplish this simplicity? They study and practice, enthusiastically pursuing the art of flight, until knowledge gives them confidence and practice provides the skill to perform. It is there for all of us."

Reading this book you get to fly with the author, who's career at TWA spanned DC-2's to the B-747, and learn his distilled practical knowledge. Check lists, habits, emergencies, control smoothness — it is all here. People say that if you want to be successful in something, you should hang out with people who already show the qualities you desire. This book is a way to hang with a true master pilot. (If you were wondering, the Jim he is writing about is Jim Gannett, who was Boeing's senior test pilot.)

Stick and Rudder: An Explanation of the Art of Flying
Wolfgang Langewiesche

"Get rid at the outset of the idea that the airplane is only an air-going sort of automobile. It isn't. It may sound like one and smell like one, and it may have been interior decorated to look like one; but the difference is — it goes on wings."

Still the best way to get the fundamentals straight. In the 1930's test pilot Wolfgang noticed that the words and the realities of piloting did not seem to agree. After careful thought, he published a series of articles for Air Facts magazine that analyzed the true actions of stick and rudder. The book was released in 1944 and has been in print ever since.

Fly The Wing
Jim Webb

"Be your own greatest critic. Accept each flight as a challenge…. Work to your maximum ability; endeavor at all times to fly clearances exactly; stay right on your heading and course and altitude; try to fly so smoothly that the passengers will never know when you've made a mistake. You will know when you've flown a good flight, and your self-satisfaction will surpass any complement that may be given you."

Where Stick and Rudder is perfect for a Cub student Fly The Wing is perfect for the SAAB 340 or B-757 student. It's one of my most dog-eared books, as I try to read it before every simulator training session. Covers in detail all major procedures required to master handling a large airplane. Written by a master who learnt to fly with a barnstormer, earned two Distinguished Flying Crosses flying B-24's, and retired as an airline check airman with 35,000 hours and 500 students taught.

The Art and Technique of Soaring
Richard A. Wolters

"You'll stumble into it, but you'll know what it is … instantly. Then you'll become a believer! It'll push up right from the seat of your pants. Its strength will astonish you, and you will truly climb on wings. The landscape falls away, while the ceiling seems limitless. The is the power; to use it is the skill. This is what the whole thing is about."

The 'It' is lift. Which is the difference between gliding gently down to earth, and silently soaring upwards like a bird. If you want to experience pure flight, get rid of the engines and learn to pilot a glider. It was as a new instructor that I noticed that my German commercial students were all expert at slow-flight, stalls and landings. I eventually figured out they had started in gliders. I didn't soar till after flying jets, but it was like starting out again as a pilot.

Weather Flying
Robert N. Buck

Song of the Sky: An Exploration of the Ocean of Air
Guy Murchie

Wind: How the Flow of Air has Shaped Life, Myth, and the Land
Jan DeBlieu

If you decide you want to be a pilot, in addition to learning about airplanes, you have just made the decision to learn about weather. It is what we fly in. An understanding of weather — the ocean of air — will improve your safety tenfold and turbo-charge your enjoyment. The first two books are both classics written by master airmen. Buck is a practical book on flying in all kinds of weather. Not theory, but insights from an airline captain who crossed the Atlantic over 2,000 times and headed a four-year bad-weather research project for the USAF. Murchie is a 400 plus page tour de force describing the world of the airman. Wind, clouds, history, birds, science, flight. The last book is almost 300 pages on just the wind. Exciting and well-written, it helps us overlearn the pressure gradients that move us aloft.

"I hadn't given any more thought to weather than the next person. What captured me was the idea of weather as a living, breathing thing. You don't just type in a bunch of numbers and data. You visualize it. You see waves, you see storm clouds, you see the system."


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I never saw Slonnie make an uncertain approach, if only because he so consistently thought far ahead of his aircraft and thus was always in a position to start his approach right. It followed effortlessly and naturally then that his power discipline was never rushed and his descents timed in perfect harmony with terrain and wind. He somehow managed such smooth reductions right down to runway threshold that those in the cockpit had to check the gauges to reassure themselves all was in order, and until the moment of touchdown many passengers believed they were still cruising.

— Ernest K. Gann
(Sloniger was the most senior pilot at American Airlines.)

We spent [almost none] of our time studying plans for the mission and [almost all] learning how to react intuitively to all the 'what ifs.' Reliance on the intuitive response was the most important part of an astronaut's training.

— Edgar Mitchell

I stressed: come to work each day because it is important to do it right; do each action with a conscious effort. That is what we do: chop wood, carry water. We tried to play each play in every game and not to let the game play us.

— Phil Jackson

If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.

— Colin Powell

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