Once upon a time in aviation, studying for the written and practical exams was anything but easy or convenient. Most likely, you'd sign up for ground school where, a few nights a week, you'd sit in a classroom and a well-worn instructor would lecture, refer to some oversized props and write on the chalkboard while you took long notes. Okay, maybe it was a whiteboard, but the idea was the same. Then you'd go home and—over many, many nights—study your notes, read the pilot's manual and, voilà, you'd take (and hopefully pass) your written.
But, folks today have it much easier. For one thing, hardly anybody sits in ground school anymore (at least not for the nonairline stuff), and now we have these whiz-bang, high-energy, graphic, 3D courses that are like miniature
Hollywood productions. Want to see what a stall looks like? Bam, there it is in color and perfectly animated from three different angles! And you can watch it over and over from the comfort of your favorite chair.
Then there's the matter of the information itself. With aviation becoming more complex each year, it's not easy to keep up with the changes. If you study from a book that's even a few years old, you can bet you're studying outdated information. It not only will be wrong, but could be dangerous in certain situations. Consider the new "line up and wait" ATC instruction, compared to the older "position and hold" version. You've got to have the latest information.
Aviation and reading have always gone hand in hand, with just about every pilot familiar with the tomes of Gann or Bach or Saint-Exupéry. There also have been a slew of great "how-to" books in aviation, from Wolfgang Langewiesche's classic, Stick and Rudder, to Robert Buck's unforgettable Weather Flying. They all share a common trait, which is the practical ability to convey useful information in an effective—and fun—way. That's why these books are still studied by student pilots today. If you haven't read them, pick one up!
But with some of aviation's classics approaching 60 years old, is there nothing newer that would help both experienced and novice aviators? Are only the older books good? Happily, there are several great manuals, books and study kits that pilots have at their disposal today. With aviation being taught now for over 100 years, and with the ever-expanding knowledge of how we humans read and understand, these new books and study kits are the ultimate in efficient, clear learning.
Just about every pilot I know has a well-stocked library of useful aviation books. It's all part of the whole "license to learn" thing we've been taught from the beginning. So start building your own library—or maybe add some new nuggets to your existing cache of aviator's books. We focus here on practical books and study kits for today's pilots, and try to stay away from the more subjective material of aviation novels, though we've included some "fun reads," as well.
King Schools: Private Pilot Kit
If anybody knows how to put together an effective course for pilots, it's John and Martha King. This particular package course is handpicked by the two of them for what has to be one of general aviation's best values and most comprehensive study kits around. They call it the "Get It All" kit because you really do. Thirteen DVDs with titles like Taming Stalls & Spins and Takeoffs & Landings Made Easy and everything else a pilot needs to know are included. You also get four CD-ROMs for your PC with the knowledge test course, VFR regulations refresher, risk management and more. The kit contains two FAA books, a plotter and E6B computer, cockpit cards for VFR/IFR and for airspace and communications, a flight-planning pad and a case. It's everything needed to take a pilot from zero hours to passing the checkride and written. Price: $579. Visit: www.kingschools.com/productdetail.asp?ITEMNO=EPO%20KIT130.
King Schools: Cleared for Flying the Garmin G1000 Course
Like other King Schools titles, this is a DVD course, but it's much more than a simple video. The Kings call it "computer-based interactive video," and it includes several components. The course is served up in short snippets with
finger-to-button close-ups (in the Garmin's case) of the action. These are followed by the very realistic Procedures Trainer, which lets you put what you've just learned into practice right away, reinforcing your learning. An interactive menu tracks and displays the results of interim tests so you can watch your progress. The Kings' newest version of the G1000 course includes Garmin's latest features, such as Checklists, FliteCharts, ChartView, SafeTaxi, vertical navigation (VNAV) function and XM radio. The Kings' course will effectively transition you from steam gauges to understanding all 125 of the G1000's button and knob combinations. Price: $249. Visit: www.kingschools.com/productdetail.asp?ItemNo=OVD%20KSA325.
King Schools: Cessna SkyCatcher Sport/Private Pilot Course
Utilizing the popular Cessna SkyCatcher LSA as its platform, this course was specially designed by the Kings for both private and sport pilot students. The course covers both technically advanced aircraft (TAA) and those with analog gauges. It includes video and full-motion diagrams of the course material, plus an FAA-knowledge exam/review program. The course is available anywhere you have Internet access. It keeps a record of which sessions you've completed, and allows you to continue where you left off if interrupted. This course never expires, so you can review concepts and modules anytime. Includes videos, logbook and various course materials. Price: $349. Visit: http://cessnaflighttraining.kingschools.com/course/ppc/privatepilot.aspx.
Sporty's: Deluxe Instrument Rating Kit
Highly rated by customers, Sporty's award-winning instrument kit is a full-featured course that includes everything a pilot needs to pass the written, oral and practical exams for the instrument rating. Like the Kings' courses, this kit is a combination of DVDs, books, plotter, E6B, various guides and manuals, and a pro flight bag. This new Sporty's course is reedited, digitally remastered and includes new content. The fast-paced course uses high-quality animation and graphics to help get complex ideas across. Sporty's will even embroider the flight case with three initials. Price: $499. Visit: sportys.com/PilotShop/product/9573.
Sporty's: All Three Maneuvers Guides
Sporty's popular maneuvers guides now come in a combination pack. This package includes guides for flight maneuvers for private/recreational pilot, instrument, and commercial. Adapted from Sporty's Academy Maneuvers and Procedures Handbook, these guides provide step-by-step instructions on performing maneuvers required on each checkride. Includes simplified objectives and standards for each maneuver, followed by an easy-to-follow description. Detailed illustrations accompany most maneuvers to allow you to visualize how each maneuver should be performed. The three-ring binder format is convenient, and fits great in your flight bag. Online options also are available. Price: $39.95. Visit: sportys.com/PilotShop/product/9793.
Sporty's: The Next Hour By Richard L. Collins
Collins is a well-known and respected pilot. This book—published by Sporty's—is about the most important hour in your logbook: the next hour. In this new book, Collins conveys the many lessons he has learned during a lifetime of flying. Collins talks about the rewards and challenges of night flying, why certain airplanes have poor safety records, why a pilot's thought process is more important than experience, and much more. It's a must-read for any pilot. Price: $24.95. Visit: sportys.com/pilotshop/product/13372.
ASA: FAR/AIM 2011
ASA has built quite a reputation in the aviation industry for quality and accuracy in their published products. The company continues that tradition with their publication of this year's new 2011 FAR/AIM manual. What should be a staple in any pilot's library—from student to ATP—this book includes complete information from Titles 14 and 49 of the Federal Regulations regarding General Aviation, Sport Pilots and Flight Instructors. Combined in this convenient 6x9-inch book is the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) including the latest updates. The FAR/AIM includes a free e-mail subscription for updates as soon as they're released by the FAA. Price: $16.95. Visit: www.asa2fly.com/2011-FARAIM-P1388_product1.aspx.
ASA: 21st Century Flight Training By Sean Lane
This new book from ASA addresses learning to fly in today's age of technology and glass cockpits. The book introduces new training models, such as Integrated Sensory Flying (ISF)—a visual flight instruction program that reinforces the use of basic attitude instruments. This book covers all primary flight-training maneuvers from the perspective of an examiner, and contains countless checkride tips and insights. Flight-instructor candidates are taught how to develop lesson plans, teach maneuvers, give oral exams and operate as a flight instructor in the 21st century. Price: $29.95. Visit: www.asa2fly.com/21st-Century-Flight-Training-P1317_product1.aspx.
ASA: Say Again, Please: Guide to Radio Communications By Bob Gardner
This is a new edition (fourth) of one of the most popular books for learning aviation communications. The newly updated classic teaches readers what to say, what to expect to hear, and how to interpret and react to clearances and instructions. It also discusses our airspace system and explains how the ATC system works. Softcover, glossary and index, illustrated throughout, 216 pages, including a bound-in, full-color example map. Price: $19.95. Visit: www.asa2fly.com/Say-Again-Please-Guide-to-Radio-Communications-P1343_product1.aspx.
Gleim: Sport Pilot Kit
With the advent of the sport pilot certificate, good instructional materials aren't always easy to find, especially for new students. With this kit, Gleim offers its usual top quality at an affordable price. This kit includes everything needed to earn the sport pilot certificate except the airplane and an instructor! We like that it includes a copy of this year's FAR/AIM, several books, a plotter and flight computer, several online courses, a cool flight bag and a whole lot more. Includes test-prep software. Price: $199.95. Visit: www.gleim.com/products/productdetails.php?proSell=SP+KIT+SO.
Gleim: Pilot Handbook 9th Edition
The Pilot Handbook is the basis for a successful private pilot experience. This ninth edition updates a classic with brand-new material including GPS, glass cockpits, terrain and traffic alert systems, digital engine controllers (FADEC) and more. This manual contains 250 color illustrations and is designed to make complex concepts easy to understand. The handbook is useful to all pilots as a general reference book in preparation for instrument proficiency checks or flight reviews. Price: $24.95. Visit: www.gleim.com/products/product.