Welcome to the APG Library, and warm wishes from Tiffany, your librarian! I have included favorites from our APG community, but I plan for this reading list to grow regularly. If you have suggestions for books to add, please send me an email!
Fiction | Historical Fiction | Aviation Memoirs & Biographies | Astronautics | Crash & Near Miss Investigations | Military Aviation | Other Non-Fiction
*denotes the first book in an ongoing series; click on the series title to find the entire sequence of related books.
Airframe, by Michael Crichton
The twin jet plane en route to Denver from Hong Kong is merely a green radar blip half an hour off the California coast when the call comes through to air traffic control:
‘Socal Approach, this is TransPacific 545. We have an emergency.’ The pilot requests priority clearance to land – then comes the bombshell – he needs forty ambulances on the runway.
But nothing prepares the rescue workers for the carnage they witness when they enter the plane. Ninety-four passengers are injured. Three dead. The interior cabin virtually destroyed. What happened on board Flight TPA 545?
The Flight Attendant: A Novel, by Chris Bohjalian
Cassandra Bowden is no stranger to hungover mornings. She’s a binge drinker, her job with the airline making it easy to find adventure, and the occasional blackouts seem to be inevitable. She lives with them, and the accompanying self-loathing. When she awakes in a Dubai hotel room, she tries to piece the previous night back together, already counting the minutes until she has to catch her crew shuttle to the airport…
[This] is the riveting story of America’s race for technology, overtaken by our greatest enemy’s mastery of “Star Wars.” The U.S. arsenal of nuclear missiles has been neutralized. America’s only hope: The Old Dog Zero One, a battle-scarred bomber fully renovated with modern hardware – and equipped with the deadliest state-of-the-art armaments known to man…
An F-14 aviator takes his readers into the cockpits, ready-rooms, and bunkrooms of today’s Navy to show what it’s like to fight in a time of so-called peace. From the opening chapter where a Tomcat fighter squadron’s commanding officer botches an intercept of a hostile Iranian F-4 to the final uplifting scene, his novel reveals the inner workings of the military as only an insider can. It is a thriller without an airshow groupie’s pretense, a fighter pilot’s story as honest as it is riveting…
The Shepherd, by Frederick Forsyth
It is Christmas Eve, 1957. Flying home, on leave from Germany, he is alone in the cockpit of the Vampire. Sixty-six minutes of flying time, with the descent and landing – destination Lakenheath. No problem, all routine procedures. Then, out over the North sea, the fog begins to close in. Radio contact ceases and the compass goes haywire. Suddenly, out of the mist appears a World War II bomber. It is flying just below the Vampire, as of trying to make contact…
Turbulence, by David Szalay
A woman strikes up a conversation with the man sitting next to her on a plane after some turbulence. He returns home to tragic news that has also impacted another stranger, a shaken pilot on his way to another continent who seeks comfort from a journalist he meets that night. Her life shifts subtly as well, before she heads to the airport on an assignment that will shift more lives in turn. In this wondrous, profoundly moving novel, Szalay’s diverse protagonists circumnavigate the planet in twelve flights, from London to Madrid, from Dakar to Sao Paulo, to Toronto, to Delhi, to Doha, en route to see lovers or estranged siblings, aging parents, baby grandchildren, or nobody at all. Along the way, they experience the full range of human emotions from loneliness to love and, knowingly or otherwise, change each other in one brief, electrifying interaction after the next.
Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
Set in Italy during World War II, this is the story of the incomparable, malingering bombardier, Yossarian, a hero who is furious because thousands of people he has never met are trying to kill him. But his real problem is not the enemy—it is his own army, which keeps increasing the number of missions the men must fly to complete their service. Yet if Yossarian makes any attempt to excuse himself from the perilous missions he’s assigned, he’ll be in violation of Catch-22, a hilariously sinister bureaucratic rule: a man is considered insane if he willingly continues to fly dangerous combat missions, but if he makes a formal request to be removed from duty, he is proven sane and therefore ineligible to be relieved.
The Cone of Silence, by David Beaty
It is the early, dangerous days in the life of a new jet airliner. Millions of pounds have been invested in her – national prestige is at stake…
Then Victor Fox comes near to disaster. The Court of Enquiry lays the blame on the pilot…
The planes continue to fly….
Jake Grafton is an A-6 Intruder pilot during the Vietnam War who flies his bomber on sorties past enemy flak and SAM missiles, and then must maneuver his plane, often at night, onto the relatively small deck of an aircraft carrier…
The Hamfist Trilogy: Hamfist in Combat, by G.E. Nolly
The complete Hamfist series: Hamfist Over The Trail, Hamfist Down!, and Hamfist Over Hanoi. It’s 1968. Hamilton Hancock is the Distinguished Graduate at his Undergraduate Pilot Training class at Laughlin Air Force Base. He is on the fast track to become a fighter pilot, slated to fly an F-100, F-105 or F-4 in Vietnam. Then, the “needs of the service” intervenes, and he is assigned to fly one of the smallest, slowest aircraft in the Air Force inventory, the O-2A…
Into the Skies: A World War I Aviator Story, by Christopher Carroll
This story portrays an American who gets caught up in World War One as an ‘aviator’ from the beginning to the end, an unusual achievement, which makes for an absorbing tale. The author has taken elements from the memoirs of aviation pioneers, most of which began in the last years of the war, modified them to reflect changes that occurred from 1914 to 1918, and added other adventures…
Night Flight, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
In this gripping novel, Saint-Exupéry tells about the brave men who piloted night mail planes from Patagonia, Chile, and Paraguay to Argentina in the early days of commercial aviation…
To the Last Man: A Novel of the First World War, by Jeff Shaara
Spring 1916: the horror of a stalemate on Europe’s western front. France and Great Britain are on one side of the barbed wire, a fierce German army is on the other. Shaara opens the window onto the otherworldly tableau of trench warfare as seen through the eyes of a typical British soldier who experiences the bizarre and the horrible–a “Tommy” whose innocent youth is cast into the hell of a terrifying war…
The Wild Blue: The Novel of the U.S. Air Force, by Walter J. Boyne
Aviation Memoirs & Biographies
Strap into the 737’s extra flight deck jumpseat and fly along with Korry on his journey in search of success that fulfills the spirit and completes the soul. Feel what it’s like to push the limits of comfort zones while battling mechanical malfunctions in the flight simulator, thunderstorms in Mexico City, and blizzards in Chicago. Experience the challenges, insecurities, successes, and failures of a new leader who is stepping up and taking command in the high-stakes world of airline flying.
747 is the thrilling story behind “the Queen of the Skies” — the Boeing 747 — as told by Joe Sutter, one of the most celebrated engineers of the twentieth century, who spearheaded its design and construction. Born in 1921 in Seattle, Sutter grew up on a hilltop overlooking the Boeing plant and flying field. It was a thrilling era of open cockpits, silk scarves, leather helmets, and goggles. After serving in World War II, Sutter joined Boeing, then a small company, eager to build airplanes. In July 1965, he was asked to lead the large Boeing team designing the new 747. Pan Am wanted a new airliner as quickly as possible. This all-new transport had to be far bigger than anything in service or even on anybody’s drawing board. To make it fly, Sutter and his team would have to push far beyond the technological boundaries of the late 1960s. Could it be done?
All Blood Runs Red: The Legendary Life of Eugene Bullard – Boxer, Pilot, Soldier, Spy, by Phil Keith and Tom Clavin
The incredible story of the first African American military pilot, who went on to become a Paris nightclub impresario, a spy in the French Resistance and an American civil rights pioneer. Eugene Bullard lived one of the most fascinating lives of the twentieth century. The son of a former slave and an indigenous Creek woman, Bullard fled home at the age of eleven to escape the racial hostility of his Georgia community. When his journey led him to Europe, he garnered worldwide fame as a boxer, and later as the first African American fighter pilot in history. After the war, Bullard returned to Paris a celebrated hero. But little did he know that the dramatic, globe-spanning arc of his life had just begun.
Written by gifted storyteller Winston Groom (author of Forrest Gump), The Aviators tells the saga of three extraordinary aviators, and how they redefine heroism through their genius, daring, and uncommon courage…
Behind the Cockpit Door: The Illustrated Memoirs of an Airline Pilot, by Arthur Whitlock
The memoirs of a pilot whose experience ran from from 1940s India to British Airways in the 1980s, flying Dakotas, Vikings, Bristol Freighters, Ambassadors, Britannias, Tridents and Tristars.
Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War, by Robert Coram
John Boyd may be the most remarkable unsung hero in all of American military history. Some remember him as the greatest U.S. fighter pilot ever — the man who, in simulated air-to-air combat, defeated every challenger in less than forty seconds. Some recall him as the father of our country’s most legendary fighter aircraft — the F-15 and F-16. Still others think of Boyd as the most influential military theorist since Sun Tzu. They know only half the story…
The Cannibal Queen: A Flight into the Heart of America, by Stephen Coonts
In The Cannibal Queen, [Stephen Coonts] turns his storytelling genius to nonfiction with an exultant account of the summer of ’91 — of three glorious months spent exploring America from the cockpit of a 1942 Stearman vintage biplane. Joining the ranks of John Steinbeck and Charles Kuralt, Coonts takes us on an extraordinary adventure, touching down in all forty-eight of the continental United States, from sea to shining sea.
A Cargo Pilot’s Life: Tails from Corrosion Corner, by Brett Lane
The story of how the author got into aviation as a pilot, and the direction his career path took. He flew cargo from the 1980’s to the present time; from older planes and pilots that are no longer around, to the more modern cargo jets up to today’s Boeing 747 jumbo jet.
Joe Karam was born to transcend, but perhaps not to fly. When at twenty-seven his quest for freedom led him to set foot in a glider for the first time, he was overcome with fear and desire. Nothing seemed to have prepared him for such a formidable test of courage, nor did he know anything about Charlie, the taciturn flight instructor he had just entrusted with his life. And yet the sky kept calling… A didactic memoir and a passionate love letter to aviation, Danger and Poetry unites heart and mind to celebrate the pursuit of dreams and the power of teachers.
Fate is the Hunter: A Pilot’s Memoir, by Ernest K. Gann
Ernest K. Gann’s classic memoir is an up-close and thrilling account of the treacherous early days of commercial aviation. In his inimitable style, Gann brings you right into the cockpit, recounting both the triumphs and terrors of pilots who flew when flying was anything but routine.
Fighter Pilot, by Paul Richey
Originally published anonymously in 1941, this was the first and finest story of a World War Two fighter pilot. The author’s personal journal takes us into the action of the air battles preceding the fall of France, recounting both the unnerving lull right before the violence–and the fatigue of the Blitzkrieg, with its non-stop combat.
Geoffrey Wellum tells the inspiring, often terrifying true story of his coming of age amid the roaring, tumbling dogfights of the fiercest air war the world had ever seen…
Flight from the Croft, by Bill Innes
As a barefoot laddie in the Outer Hebrides, Bill Innes dreamed the impossible dream of becoming a pilot and this book tells how that dream came to pass. His career of over forty years spanned a period of incredible advances in the air – now regarded as a golden era in aviation. After gaining his RAF wings in Canada he really started to learn his trade by flying pre-war Dakotas for British European Airways around the Highlands and Islands of Scotland – one of the most testing aviation-operating areas in the world. The experience was to stand him in good stead as he moved to London to fly classic 20th century British aircraft such as the Viscount, Comet, Vanguard and Trident. The narrative comes alive through tales of the many characters encountered in a time before flight recorders. There are authentic versions of some of the most famous anecdotes in the folklore of the sky, but also reflections on training philosophy and techniques which have a relevance outwith aviation. Progressing to being a training captain, Bill was happy to pass on his experience to colleagues. As one of the team that introduced the Boeing 757 to British Airways, post-retirement, he was privileged to be the trainer on the first flights of charter airlines such as Air 2000 and Canada 3000 before his swansong, flying long range Boeing 767s for Alitalia. Technical background is lightened by the thread of humour which runs throughout and there are also some sage words of comfort for the nervous passenger.
Flight of Passage: A True Story, by Rinker Buck
Writer Rinker Buck looks back more than 30 years to a summer when he and his brother, at ages 15 and 17 respectively, became the youngest duo to fly across America, from New Jersey to California. Having grown up in an aviation family, the two boys bought an old Piper Cub, restored it themselves, and set out on the grand journey…
The untold story of five women who fought to compete against men in the high-stakes national air races of the 1920s and 1930s — and won…
Michael O’Leary: A Life in Full Flight, by Alan Ruddock
Michael O’Leary is a business giant. He transformed Ryanair from a loss-making joke of an Irish carrier into one of the most valuable airlines in the world, and in the process he has revolutionized the very nature of commercial aviation. In this, the first biography of O’Leary, Alan Ruddock portrays the man in three dimensions and examines the business miracle – often talked about but poorly understood – that O’Leary has wrought.
North Star over my Shoulder: A Flying Life, by Bob Buck
It is rare to find one person whose life embodies the history of an industry the way Bob Buck’s life encompasses the history of commercial aviation in America. Buck first flew in the 1920s, inspired by the exploits of Charles Lindbergh. In 1930, at age sixteen, he flew solo from coast to coast, breaking the junior transcontinental speed record. In 1936 he flew nonstop from Burbank, California, to Columbus, Ohio, in a 90-horsepower Monocoupe to establish a world distance record for light airplanes…
Ten men, thirteen M2 Browning machine guns, & 4,000 lbs of bombs, the B-17 (the ‘Big Bird’) lived up to it’s nickname – Flying Fortress. Birt Stiles was one of those young men, flying in one of the thousands of B-17 heavy bombers of the USAAF ‘Mighty Eighth’ Air Force, on daylight raids deep into the Third Reich from the flat, green fields of Eastern England.
A gifted writer & brave co-pilot, in Serenade to the Big Bird, Birt recounts his harrowing experiences of flying day-after-day through intense anti-aircraft fire and swarms of Luftwaffe fighters during 1944 at the height of the American daylight bomber offensive.
Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years at Lockheed, by Ben R. Rich, and Leo Janos
From the development of the U-2 to the Stealth fighter, the never-before-told story behind the high-stakes quest to dominate the skies Skunk Works is the true story of America’s most secret & successful aerospace operation. As recounted by Ben Rich, the operation’s brilliant boss for nearly two decades, the chronicle of Lockheed’s legendary Skunk Works is a drama of cold war confrontations and Gulf War air combat, of extraordinary feats of engineering & achievement against fantastic odds. Here are up-close portraits of the maverick band of scientists & engineers who made the Skunk Works so renowned. Filled with telling personal anecdotes & high adventure, with narratives from the CIA & from Air Force pilots who flew the many classified, risky missions, this book is a portrait of the most spectacular aviation triumphs of the 20th century.
Skybound: A Journey in Flight, by Rebecca Loncraine
In her mid-30s Rebecca Loncraine was diagnosed with breast cancer. Two years later, and after months of gruelling treatment, she flew in a glider for the first time. In that engineless plane, soaring 3000 feet over the landscape of her childhood with only the rising thermals to take her higher and the birds to lead the way, she fell in love. If illness meant Rebecca had lost touch with the world around her, gliding showed her a way to learn to live again…
Skyfaring: A Journey with a Pilot, by Mark Vanhoenacker
The twenty-first century has relegated airplane flight—a once remarkable feat of human ingenuity—to the realm of the mundane. Mark Vanhoenacker, a 747 pilot who left academia and a career in the business world to pursue his childhood dream of flight, asks us to reimagine what we—both as pilots and as passengers—are actually doing when we enter the world between departure and discovery…
Her story is one of the most remarkable and endearing of the war, as this young woman, serving as a ferry pilot with the Air Transport Auxiliary, transported aircraft for the RAF, including fast fighter planes and huge four-engine bombers…In this authorized biography the woman who says she kept in the background during her ATA years and left all the glamour of publicity to her colleagues, finally reveals all about her action-packed career which spans almost a century of aviation, and her love for the skies which, even in her nineties, never falters.
Stuka Pilot, by Hans Ulrich Rudel
Hans Ulrich Rudel was a Stuka dive-bomber pilot during World War 2. The most highly decorated German serviceman of the war, Rudel was one of only 27 military men to be awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds…
Success on the Step: Flying with Kenmore Air, by C. Marin Faure
Success on the Step is the story of a unique group of people. They happen to be people who’ve done amazing things with seaplanes but it’s a people story, nevertheless. People who have never wavered from the principle on which the company was founded: Do the right thing.
Suffolk Summer, by John T. Appleby
The memoir of an army air corps airman who was based in Suffolk during WWII.
Tanker Pilot: Lessons from the Cockpit, by Mark Hasara
From a veteran air-refueling expert who flew missions for over two decades during the Cold War, Gulf War, and Iraq War comes a thrilling eyewitness account of modern warfare, with inspirational stories and crucial lessons for people on the battlefield, in boardrooms, and in their everyday lives…
Think like a Bird: An Army Pilot’s Story, by Alex Kimbell
“Think like a bird” was the advice given to the author by his mentor during his early flying training. This autobiography deals with every aspect of learning to fly, and is offset by Alex Kimbell’s pilot’s humour.
A View from the Hover: My Life in Aviation, by John Farley
Packed full of lively accounts of John’s days as a test pilot (for the Harrier and many other types) and rounded off with some great insights into how to improve your flying, this is a book which nobody who has an interest in flying or the history of aviation can afford to miss.
The Wind Beneath My Wings: John Hutchinson Concorde Pilot, by Susan Ottaway
From the first time Concorde took to the skies on 2 March 1969 until its final flight on 26 November 2003, the supersonic jet captured the imagination of the public. When Air France and British Airways announced their decision to stop flying Concorde there was a feeling of sadness and disbelief amongst the fans of this beautiful aeroplane around the world. But what of the men who flew her? There were fewer Concorde pilots than US astronauts, but only a handful of them ever had public prominence. This is the story of one of those better known pilots, John Hutchinson…
Wings on my Sleeve, by Eric Brown
Eric Brown went to Germany in 1939 on an exchange course, and his first experience of the war came when the Gestapo arrested him, not knowing he was an RAF pilot. The rest is history. He is the only man alive to have flown every major and most minor combat aircraft of the Second World War (as well as all the early jets), and has been interviewed by the top Nazis. While testing the Nazi jets in war-stricken Germany, he interviewed (among others) Hermann Goering and Hanna Reitsch. A living legend among aviation enthusiasts, his amazing life story deserves to be told in full—from crashing in front of Winston Churchill to unmasking a Neo-Nazi ring in the 1950s to his terrifying flights in primitive jets and rockets.
The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough
Two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize David McCullough tells the dramatic story-behind-the-story about the courageous brothers who taught the world how to fly: Wilbur and Orville Wright.On a winter day in 1903, in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, two unknown brothers from Ohio changed history. But it would take the world some time to believe what had happened: the age of flight had begun, with the first heavier-than-air, powered machine carrying a pilot. Who were these men and how was it that they achieved what they did?
Apollo 13, by James Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger
In April 1970, during the glory days of the Apollo space program, NASA sent Navy Captain Jim Lovell and two other astronauts on America’s fifth mission to the moon. Only fifty-five hours into the flight of Apollo 13, disaster struck: a mysterious explosion rocked the ship, and soon its oxygen and power began draining away. Written with all the color and drama of the best fiction, APOLLO 13 (previously published as Lost Moon) tells the full story of the moon shot that almost ended in catastrophe…
In An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, Col. Hadfield takes readers deep into his years of training and space exploration to show how to make the impossible possible. Through eye-opening, entertaining stories filled with the adrenaline of launch, the mesmerizing wonder of spacewalks, and the measured, calm responses mandated by crises, he explains how conventional wisdom can get in the way of achievement-and happiness. His own extraordinary education in space has taught him some counterintuitive lessons: don’t visualize success, do care what others think, and always sweat the small stuff.
Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut’s Journey, by Michael Collins
NASA astronaut Michael Collins trained as an experimental test pilot before venturing into space as a vital member of the Gemini 10 and Apollo 11 missions. In Carrying the Fire, his account of his voyages into space and the years of training that led up to them, Collins reveals the human tensions, the physical realities, and the personal emotions surrounding the early years of the space race. Collins provides readers with an insider’s view of the space program and conveys the excitement and wonder of his journey to the moon…
This memoir of a veteran NASA flight director tells riveting stories from the early days of the Mercury program through Apollo 11 (the moon landing) and Apollo 13, for both of which Kranz was flight director…Kranz recounts these thrilling historic events and offers new information about the famous flights. What appeared as nearly flawless missions to the Moon were, in fact, a series of hair-raising near misses. When the space technology failed, as it sometimes did, the controllers’ only recourse was to rely on their skills and those of their teammates. He reveals behind-the-scenes details to demonstrate the leadership, discipline, trust, and teamwork that made the space program a success.
A Man on the Moon, by Andrew Chaikin
On the night of July 20, 1969, our world changed forever when two Americans, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, walked on the moon. Now the greatest event of the twentieth century is magnificently retold through the eyes and ears of the people who were there. Based on the interviews with twenty three moon voyagers, as well as those who struggled to get the program moving, journalist Andrew Chaikin conveys every aspect of the missions with breathtaking immediacy: from the rush of liftoff, to the heart-stopping lunar touchdown, to the final hurdle of reentry.
Moon Shot: The Inside Story of America’s Race to the Moon, by Alan Shephard, Deke Slayton, Jay Barbree and Howard Benedict
The never-before-told story of the courage, dedication, and teamwork that made the journey to the moon possible–an intense human drama of the sacrifices and risks asked of a remarkable group of astronauts. Shepard and Slayton, part of the pioneering space program from the beginning, tell this fascinating inside story.
The Right Stuff, by Tom Wolfe
Tom Wolfe began The Right Stuff at a time when it was unfashionable to contemplate American heroism. Nixon had left the White House in disgrace, the nation was reeling from the catastrophe of Vietnam, and in 1979–the year the book appeared–Americans were being held hostage by Iranian militants. Yet it was exactly the anachronistic courage of his subjects that captivated Wolfe. In his foreword, he notes that as late as 1970, almost one in four career Navy pilots died in accidents. “The Right Stuff,” he explains, “became a story of why men were willing–willing?–delighted!–to take on such odds in this, an era literary people had long since characterized as the age of the anti-hero.”
Wings: A History of Aviation from Kites to the Space Age, by Tom Crouch
The invention of the airplane ushered in the modern age—a new era of global commerce, revolutionary technologies, and total war. Whatever the practical consequences, the sheer exhilaration of flight captured the imagination. No longer bound to the surface of the earth, humans took the first steps on a journey that would eventually carry them to other worlds. Tom Crouch weaves the people, machines, and ideas of the air age into a compelling narrative. He tells how the enthusiasm of amateurs spawned an industry that determined the rise and fall of nations. Yet this is not a tale of unalloyed progress. Moments of exaltation were tempered by bitter disappointment and stark terror. Blind alleys were the price of technical progress. In the end, there is no more fascinating cast of characters than those who wrote history in the sky. Theirs is a fascinating story of realizing an extraordinary dream and riding it.
Crash & Near Miss Investigations
35 Miles from Shore: The Ditching and Rescue of ALM Flight 980, by Emilio Corsetti III
On May 2, 1970, a DC-9 jet with 57 passengers and a crew of six departed from New York’s JFK International Airport en route to the tropical island of St. Maarten, but four hours and 34 minutes later the flight ended in the shark-infested waters of the Caribbean. It was, and remains, the only open-water ditching of a commercial jet. The subsequent rescue of survivors took nearly three hours and involved the coast guard, navy, and marines. This gripping account of that fateful day recounts what was happening inside the cabin, the cockpit, and the helicopters as the crews struggled against the weather and dwindling daylight to rescue the survivors, who had only their life vests and a lone escape chute to keep them afloat.
The Day the Sky Fell Down: Story of the Stockport Air Disaster, by Stephen Morrin
A chronicle of the Stockport air disaster of 1967, authored by an aviation historian.
Flight 232: A Story of Disaster and Survival, by Laurence Gonzales
As hundreds of rescue workers waited on the ground, United Airlines Flight 232 wallowed drunkenly over the bluffs northwest of Sioux City. The plane slammed onto the runway and burst into a vast fireball. The rescuers didn’t move at first: nobody could possibly survive that crash. And then people began emerging from the summer corn that lined the runways. Miraculously, 184 of 296 passengers lived. No one has ever attempted the complete reconstruction of a crash of this magnitude. Drawing on interviews with hundreds of survivors, crew, and airport and rescue personnel, Laurence Gonzales, a commercial pilot himself, captures, minute by minute, the harrowing journey of pilots flying a plane with no controls and flight attendants keeping their calm in the face of certain death…
February 12, 2009 was an ordinary evening at home for the Wielinski family. Karen said good night to her husband Doug as he left their family room. Their daughter was reading in an upstairs room. Minutes later their world and their home collapsed into flaming wreckage around them. The crash of Continental Flight 3407 in Clarence Center, New York resulted in the loss of everyone aboard the plane and “one on the ground.” Karen and her daughter miraculously escaped. Doug did not…
QF32, by Richard de Crespigny
On 4 November 2010, a flight from Singapore to Sydney came within a knife edge of being one of the world’s worst air disasters. Shortly after leaving Changi Airport, an explosion shattered Engine 2 of Qantas flight QF32 – an Airbus A380, the largest and most advanced passenger plane ever built. Hundreds of pieces of shrapnel ripped through the wing and fuselage, creating chaos as vital flight systems and back-ups were destroyed or degraded…
Scapegoat: A Flight Crew’s Journey from Heroes to Villains to Redemption, by Emilio Corsetti III
On April 4, 1979, a Boeing 727 with 82 passengers and a crew of 7 rolled over and plummeted from an altitude of 39,000 feet to within seconds of crashing were it not for the crew’s actions to save the plane. The cause of the unexplained dive was the subject of one of the longest NTSB investigations at that time…
Southern Storm: The Tragedy of Flight 242, by Sammie Chittum
On the afternoon of April 4, 1977, Georgia housewife Sadie Burkhalter Hurst looked out her front door to see a frantic stranger running toward her, his clothes ablaze, and behind him the mangled fuselage of a passenger plane that had just crashed in her yard. The plane, a Southern Airways DC-9-31, had been carrying eighty-one passengers and four crew members en route to Atlanta when it entered a massive thunderstorm cell that turned into a dangerous cocktail of rain, hail, and lightning. Forced down onto a highway, the plane cut a swath of devastation through the small town of New Hope, breaking apart and killing bystanders on the ground before coming to rest in Hurst’s front yard…
Sully: My Search for What Really Matters, by Chesley B. Sullenberger III and Jeffrey Zaslow
The inspirational autobiography by one of the most captivating American heroes of our time, Capt. ‘Sully’ Sullenberger—the pilot who miraculously landed a crippled US Airways Flight 1549 in New York’s Hudson River, saving the lives of all 155 passengers and crew.
The Tombstone Imperative: The Truth About Air Safety, by Andrew Weir
Covering an investigation into the safety of passenger aircraft and flight by the producer of the Black Box, this book combines chilling survivors’ tales, detailed descriptions of aircraft crashes and causes with serious discussion of safety issues.
Bolts from the Blue: From Cold War Warrior to Chief of the Air Staff, by Richard Johns
Air Chief Marshal Sir Richard Johns was commissioned at the RAF College Cranwell in 1959 after completing flying training on Piston Provost and Meteor aircraft. Following nine years service as an operational fast-jet pilot flying Javelins and Hunters he became a qualified flying instructor during which time he taught The Prince of Wales to wings standard. Returning to the front line he commanded a Harrier squadron and later the Harrier Force in Germany. A succession of national and NATO senior posts followed culminating in his appointment as Chief of the Air Staff and ADC to the Queen. On retirement in April 2000, he became Constable and Governor of Windsor Castle. A past chairman of the Board of Trustees of the RAF Museum, he is now president of the RAF Historical Society…His views are forensic and forthright, balanced and thought-provoking and this autobiography should be essential reading for anyone interested in the development of Allied air power over the last fifty years and its contribution to operations in the Middle East and the Balkans.
Chastise: The Dambusters Story 1943, by Max Hastings
Operation Chastise, the destruction of the Mohne and Eder dams in north-west Germany by the RAF’s 617 Squadron on the night of 16/17 May 1943, was an epic that has passed into Britain’s national legend. Max Hastings grew up embracing the story, the classic 1955 movie and the memory of Guy Gibson, the 24-year-old wing-commander who led the raid. In the 21st Century, however, he urges that we should see the dambusters in much more complex shades. The aircrew’s heroism was entirely real, as was the brilliance of Barnes Wallis, inventor of the ‘bouncing bombs’. But commanders who promised their young fliers that success could shorten the war fantasised as ruthlessly as they did about the entire bomber offensive. Some 1,400 civilians perished in the biblical floods that swept through the Mohne valley, more than half of them Russian and Polish women, slave labourers.
Hastings vividly describes the evolution of Wallis’ bomb, and of the squadron which broke the dams. But he also portrays in harrowing detail those swept away by the torrents. He argues that what modern Germans call the Mohnekatastrophe imposed on the Nazi war machine temporary disruption, rather than a crippling blow. Ironically, Air Marshal Sir Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris gained much of the public credit, though he bitterly opposed Chastise as a distraction from his city-burning blitz. Harris also made perhaps the operation’s biggest mistake – failure to launch a conventional attack on the huge post-raid repair operation which could have transformed the impact of the dam breaches on Ruhr industry.
When Arlington National Cemetery refused to accept my grandmother’s last request to be laid to rest there, I refused to let her legacy as a veteran die along with her.My grandmother, Elaine Danforth Harmon, flew as a pilot with the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) of World War II. Despite being part of the first group of women to fly for the United States Army, the WASP remained officially unrecognized as members of the military due to discriminatory thinking about gender on Capitol Hill and beyond. Women flying planes? Too progressive for the World War II era…
Four days before Christmas 1943, a badly damaged American bomber struggled to fly over wartime Germany. At its controls was a 21-year-old pilot. Half his crew lay wounded or dead. It was their first mission. Suddenly, a sleek, dark shape pulled up on the bomber’s tail—a German Messerschmitt fighter. Worse, the German pilot was an ace, a man able to destroy the American bomber in the squeeze of a trigger. What happened next would defy imagination and later be called the most incredible encounter between enemies in World War II…
Half a Wing, Three Engines and a Prayer, by Brian O’Neill
In 1943, when the outcome of World War II hung in the balance, B-17 crews of the Eighth Air Force flew harrowing, unescorted daylight bombing missions deep into Occupied Europe and Germany. These devastating raids have long been storied in film and fiction, but here is a firsthand, blow-by-blow account of these perilous missions as they really happened. In these pages, you’ll see the events unfold as they were recorded and recalled by one crew’s officers and enlisted men (pilot, copilot, navigator, radioman, and gunners), corroborated by other crews they flew with, and painstakingly correlated with the official records of the men’s 303rd “Hell’s Angels” Bomb Group.
MASH Angels: Tales of an Air-Evac Helicopter Pilot in the Korean War, by Richard C. Kirkland
An inspiring first-hand account by military aviation pioneer Richard Kirkland recounts how he and a handful of daring helicopter pilots revolutionized battlefield medical evacuation and blazed the trail for modern air-evac flying. Prior to the Korean War, the helicopter was all but unknown, and rescue was uncertain at best for downed pilots and wounded soldiers stranded behind enemy lines. In MASH ANGELS Richard Kirkland recounts his experiences on the front lines of rescue flying and military medicine. Kirkland, a fighter pilot in the Pacific theatre in World War II, came to helicopter flying after the war almost by accident. Many military higher-ups had little use for this new, worthless contraption. But its life-saving performances in the Korean War quickly changed minds. The helicopter was the perfect partner for another revolution in military medical care the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, or MASH, and the book also documents the real-life experiences of the MASH characters so familiar from the hit TV series: the nurses, surgeons (including the real Hawkeye ), and helicopter pilots who forged a new era in military medical care.
The Quick and the Dead: The Perils of Post-War Test Flying, by William Arthur Waterton
First published in 1956, but still relevant and thought-provoking today, this book is an absolute revelation on test flying with the British aircraft organizations and manufacturers in the 1950s. Written from the pilot s viewpoint, with refreshing candor and honesty which allegedly cost him his job at the Daily Express this account details what really went on behind the scenes in the defense world…
Rolling Thunder 1965-68: Johnson’s Air War over Vietnam, by Richard P. Hallion
The bombing campaign that was meant to keep South Vietnam secure, Rolling Thunder became a byword for pointless, ineffective brutality, and was a key factor in America’s Vietnam defeat…Dr Richard P. Hallion, a vastly knowledgeable air power expert at the Pentagon, explains in this fully illustrated study how the might of the US air forces was crippled by inadequate strategic thinking, poor pilot training, ill-suited aircraft, and political interference.
Spitfire: A Very British Love Story, by John Nichol
Bestselling author John Nichol’s passionate portrait of this magnificent fighter aircraft, its many innovations and updates, and the people who flew and loved them, carries the reader beyond the dogfights over Kent and Sussex. Spanning the full global reach of the Spitfire’s deployment during WWII, from Malta to North Africa and the Far East, then over the D-Day beaches, it is always accessible, effortlessly entertaining and full of extraordinary spirit.
Spitfire on my Tail: A View from the Other Side, by Ulrich Steinhilper
Ulrich describes his 150 grueling missions as a fighter pilot par excellence, until being shot down and captured over England in October 1940.
Tumult in the Clouds: The Classic Story of War in the Air, by James Goodson
When the SS Athenia was torpedoed and sunk during the first hours of World War II, James Goodson survived-and vowed to become an RAF pilot even though he was an American. This is his story, from the first day of the war to the last, of how he became one of history’s leading fighter aces.
Vietnam to Western Airlines, by Bruce Cowee
This oral history of the air war in Vietnam includes the stories of more than thirty pilots who all had one thing in common-after returning from Southeast Asia and separating from the service, they were hired as pilots by Western Airlines. As the chapters begin, Bruce Cowee tells his story and introduces us to each pilot. The interesting theme is that all of these men served in Southeast Asia and in most cases never knew each other until they came home and went to work for Western Airlines. Each of the pilots featured in this book is the real thing, and in an age of so many “Wannabees,” it is reassuring to know that each of them was a pilot for Western Airlines and someone who Bruce worked with or knew professionally. The stories span a 9 year period, 1964 – 1973, and cover every aspect of the Air War in Southeast Asia. These 33 men represent only a small fraction of the Vietnam veterans hired as pilots by Western Airlines, but this book pays tribute to all of them.
April 1982. Argentine forces had invaded the Falkland Islands. Britain needed an answer. And fast.The idea was simple: to destroy the vital landing strip at Port Stanley. The reality was more complicated. The only aircraft that could possibly do the job was three months from being scrapped, and the distance it had to travel was four thousand miles beyond its maximum range. It would take fifteen Victor tankers and seventeen separate in-flight refuellings to get one Avro Vulcan B2 over the target, and give its crew any chance of coming back alive.
Yet less than a month later, a formation of elderly British jets launched from a remote island airbase to carry out the longest-range air attack in history. At its head was a single aircraft, six men, and twenty-one thousand-pound bombs, facing the hornet’s nest of modern weaponry defending the Argentine forces on the Falkland Islands. There would be no second chances . . .
Anything a Horse Can Do: The Story of the Helicopter, by H.F. Gregory
A history of the development of helicopters from the models of DaVinci to the XR-6 written by one of the early military helicopter pilots. Includes descriptions of flying techniques and comparisons to fixed wing aircraft, and numerous black-and-white photographs.
The Big Book of Flight, by Rowland White
Everybody dreams of flying. For as long as we’ve been able to look up and see the birds we’ve wanted to join them. But our efforts to do so have not always been as elegant or accomplished. Instead, there’s been danger, excitement, courage and brilliance.The Big Book of Flight is a celebration of it all, and a lot more besides, packed with derring-do stories of aviation’s pioneers as well as fascinating profiles of remarkable planes, from Spitfires to Space Shuttles (and a number of other wondrous projects that never quite got off the drawing board)…
The commercial airline industry is one of the most volatile, dog-eat-dog enterprises in the world, and in the late 1990s, Europe’s Airbus overtook America’s Boeing as the preeminent aircraft manufacturer. However, Airbus quickly succumbed to the same complacency it once challenged, and Boeing regained its precarious place on top. Now, after years of heated battle and mismanagement, both companies face the challenge of serving burgeoning Asian markets and stiff competition from China and Japan. Combining insider knowledge with vivid prose and insight, John Newhouse delivers a riveting story of these two titans of the sky and their struggles to stay in the air.
Cargopilot, by Christiaan Van Heijst
A heavyweight luxury coffee table volume bringing together over 200 of the author’s photos from the cockpit and from the ramp on six continents, from technically fascinating views of the operation of the Boeing 747, to evocative earthscapes and the rare sight of other aircraft in flight.
For millions of people, travel by air is a confounding, uncomfortable, and even fearful experience. Patrick Smith, airline pilot and author of the web’s popular Ask the Pilot feature, separates the fact from fallacy and tells you everything you need to know…
Computer Crashes: When Airplane Systems Fail, by Tom Dieusaert
Belgian journalist Tom Dieusaert investigated several high-profile accidents wherein the plane’s on-board computers went crazy on the pilots: Air France Flight 447, AirAsia Flight Q8501, Lufthansa Flight 1829 and Qantas Flight 72. Dieusaert has carried out an exhaustive probe into the world of modern aviation, flying laws and avionics and he introduces the reader to the subject with an enthralling tale of how the first fly-by-wire aircraft was conceived and how this technology gradually pushed pilots out of the cockpit.
Corsairville: The Lost Domain of the Flying Boat, by Graham Coster
It was the obscure legend of the flying boat Corsair, rescued from the Belgian Congo in an epic salvage operation, that fired Graham Coster’s quest for the lost world of the flying boat. Coster’s journey begins in Southampton, from where Imperial Airways’ Empire boats departed to fly up the Nile on their way to South Africa, and takes him to the flying boats’ old haunts in Uganda, Kenya, Malawi and Zimbabwe, from Lake Naivasha to Victoria Falls.
Flying Concorde: The Full Story, by Brian Calvert
This study of the famed supersonic commercial transport examines the history, design production and service of the Concorde, from the initial planning stages to the aircraft’s first flight in 1975 and the tragic accident in France in July 2000. The story begins with a brief background of supersonic flight and a look at plans dating as far back as the 1950s for a commercial SST. The story of how the eventual Anglo-French collaborative adventure took root despite political differences is accompanied by a complete design and testing history, complete technical specifications and more than 150 photographs and illustrations.
Handling the Big Jets, by David P. Davies
The significant differences in flying qualities between jet transport aeroplanes and piston-engined transport aeroplanes together with some other aspects of jet transport handling.
How to Land a Plane, by Mark Vanhoenacker
Imagine the pilot of the plane you’re on is suddenly ill. Only you can take over. What do you do? Mark Vanhoenacker, the airline pilot who makes poetry out of the science of flight technology, turns the nerve-wracking reality of hitting the runway into a practical but also meaningful experience, in this fascinating guide to the magical art of flying.
Loud and Clear: The Full Answer to Aviation’s Vital Question: Are the Jets Really Safe? By Robert J. Serling
A case for safety in aviation, written to aid those who have a fear of flying.