Best Books for Flight Training – An Instructor Weighs In!


Some might say it is better to be streetsmart than it is to be booksmart. But there are times when it pays to be really into books, such as when you want to learn about all things flying! Knowledge is power in aviation. Not only is a student required to pass a written theory examination and an oral examination they also need to understand the knowledge to become a safe pilot.

Below are 5 of the best books to get your hands on if you’re studying to become pilot, looking to advance your career in aviation, or are simply wanting to read about aircraft for the fun of it. They are books that I have personally used and ones that I recommend to every new student no matter which aircraft they are learning to fly.

Here are the 5 Best Books for Learning to Fly:

  1. Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge – FAA
  2. Airplane & Helicopter Flying Handbooks Series – FAA
  3. Instrument Commercial Manual – Jeppesen Sanderson
  4. Principles of Helicopter Flight – W. J. Wagtendonk
  5. Pilot Test Prep Series – ASA

This is just a small selection of proven training manuals that are aimed at beginners and easily guide you through learning all the knowledge required to become a pilot.

Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge – FAA

Over 25 years of being the ‘Go-To’ reading material for pilots is a testament to how dependable this book truly is. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) used to publish this as an Advisory Circular before including it in their list of official handbooks.


What This Book is Perfect For:

For those who are just starting out and thinking of beoming a pilot. It gives information on how the FAA structure is setup, types of pilot certificates available, general aircraft instrumentation construction and the theory of airports, signage and the airspace system, and much, much more…


For a book that covers all the essential information you need to become a pilot, it is surprisingly manageable to read. Far from feeling bogged down from the huge number of important topics, you’ll enjoy reading it so much that you forget you are actually studying.

It’s such a reliable book that many flight instructors recommend it, and students who decide to self-study find themselves being steered to it. Facts are presented in such a way that you get a clear grasp on how to efficiently maneuver an aircraft, among other things, while making sure to adhere to aviation regulations.

Overall, this is the handbook you should turn to if you are keen on learning all the basics of becoming a pilot no matter which type of aircraft you fly.

You can view inside the Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge and purchase a copy HERE at Amazon.com
(ISBN-13: 979-8776653322)

Airplane & Helicopter Flying Handbooks Series – FAA

These books, also brought to you by the FAA, are essential additions to your flying knowledge arsenal.

Topics include everything from basic airplane and helicopter flight maneuvers to approach and landing procedures, making these manuals a great reference not just for students but also for flight instructors and pilots wanting to advance their careers.

Stunning illustrations make these books a visual treat for pilots studying them and help deliver topics that would otherwise be too deep, come alive and make them easier to understand!

The mix of simply explained information with expertly selected images really helps the reader understand each part to help their knowledge build.


What These Books Are Perfect For:

Once you have selected which kind of aircraft you want to fly learning the fundamentals of that aircraft type is what these books provide. Covering aircraft specific aerodynamics and flight manuevers these books are a great way to begin understanding how your aircraft works.


There’s no need to be afraid of information overload from these comprehensive books. The FAA put so much attention to detail in these materials that you end up feeling as though you’re really flying an airplane or a helicopter as you are reading them.

All the books in the series are excellent resources for when you’re looking to obtain high scores on your FAA knowledge examinations, need to acquire essential certifications, or help get a deep understanding of a specific topic.

Find the Airplane Flying Handbook HERE at Amazon.com
(ISBN-13 978-1619545120)

Find the Helicopter Flying Handbook HERE at Amazon.com
(ISBN-13 978-1510767201)

Instrument Commercial Manual – Jeppesen Sanderson

If you’re looking to gain knowledge on instrument flight principles and procedures, aeronautical rules and flight operations, then Jeppesen Sanderson’s Instrument Commercial Manual is the ideal book for you.

This book contains thorough yet easily worded explanations of instrument charts and ratings, aviation weather conditions, the flight environment itself, and other instrument training concepts. The explanations contained therein rightfully earned this book the FAA’s acceptance for use by student pilots.

Diagrams, in full detail, allow you to completely understand complex instrument procedure steps – which are all broken down step by step. The book also features possible scenarios in which you apply those procedures, allowing for readers to gain a more robust understanding of the subject matter.


What This Book is Perfect For:

If you wish to pursue aviation as a career then you will need a commercial pilot certificate. This book is one of the best manuals that delves deeper into the airspace system, instrument flying, weather and regulations that you will need to pass both your written and oral examinations.


Aside from helping you visualize the lessons in the book, you’ll enjoy poring over the questions, checklists, and excerpts of the FAA’s certification standards, all of which are designed to aid you in studying for your exams. Pop-up pockets of knowledge that you’ll find throughout the pages add to the appeal of learning from this book.

You would think that a book with impressive visuals might distract you from really getting into the topics, or that it is designed that way to “pad” its less-than-substantial amount of knowledge. But this manual definitely covers all the basics, and more.

Find the Instrument Commercial Manual HERE at Amazon.com

Principles of Helicopter Flight – W. J. Wagtendonk

This book is not your usual run-of-the-mill manual. Aerodynamics is at the heart of Wagtendonk’s work, making it an excellent supplement to the FAA’s official handbooks on helicopter flight. In fact, it has the most recent updates on FAA procedures included within its content.

The book, already rich in information about helicopter design, performance, and operations, also boasts of high-definition illustrations. You’ll definitely get your money’s worth when you purchase this handy guide. Don’t be surprised if you get lost in reading it for hours and not get even a little bored by the extensive discussions.


What This Book is Perfect For:

This book is the helicopter pilots bible when it comes to helicopter aerodynamics, flight techniques and emergencies. There is a reason why this book sits on most pilots bookshelfs for their entire career – It’s the best! It does a great job of breaking down complex subjects into managable sections that can be learned with ease.


The author digs deep into how a helicopter works, leaving no room for any misunderstanding of the principles covered. Some might find some terms a bit too technical, but rest assured that you will learn all you need to know about helicopter flying principles after giving this book a go.

Find the Principals of Helicopter Flight Manual HERE at Amazon.com
(ISBN-13 978-0884872740)

Pilot Test Prep Series – ASA

To really bring yourself into full-on studying mode for your pilot school exams, you’ll need test prep books that help you get the best results. This is where the ASA Test Prep books come in to do just that.


What These Books Are Perfect For:

Each test guide gets you ready to pass your written examination. Buy the book for your upcoming written examination, go through it, answer the quizzes and by the time you reach the end you will be ready to get incredibly high marks in the written exam!


There is a test prep for every major flight examination with each discussed thoroughly in these books, ensuring you gain all the knowledge you need. There are also Practice Exam and Oral Test guides available to help you pass your exams with flying colors.

At the flight school I attended the helicopter pilots had a ritual of burning each Test Prep book after passing the final flight test, also known as the ‘Checkride’. Below is a photo of myself and Brock burning our CFI Test Preps the day we became flying instructors.

They are the only books I burned and the rest I still own to this day!

The books in the ASA Test Prep Series don’t merely test yourself, they also let you have fun recalling all the topics you have ever studied. In case you were simply memorizing some subject matters before, you’ll be able to correctly explain each question and answer in the test guides by the time you are done with these books.

So go ahead, get these books, enjoy reading and studying them, soak up all that knowledge, and confidently take your exam or get your certification.

Find the Complete ASA Test Prep Series for all Pilot Certificates HERE at Amazon.com

If you really want to supercharge your study then pair your Test Prep Guides with ASA’s Practice Exam Software. Unlimited practice tests based on each guide and current questions you will find in the FAA written examinations.

Find the Complete ASA Test Prep Plus Software Series for all Pilot Certificates HERE at Amazon.com

Books are a lifelong investment and I still refer to mine often, even 20 years later!

For an even more comprehensive list of books that I personally recommend from either using myself or from the feedback of my students and other pilots please check out This Collection at Amazon.com

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Rick James

I am an aviation nut! I'm an ATP-rated helicopter pilot & former flight instructor with over 3500 hours spanning 3 countries and many different flying jobs. I love aviation and everything about it. I use these articles to pass on cool facts and information to you whether you are a pilot or just love aviation too! If you want to know more about me, just click on my picture!

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