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Twelve Days of Avgeek Christmas: Day 2 Aviation Books and Guides

One of the gifts that I have started to appreciate more as I get older is a good book.  I have always enjoyed reading, but when I was younger it was more out of necessity than real pleasure.  Now I realize the value of reading in all of its many forms.

Much of my reading these days is in the form of blogs and other online content.  These provide a valuable resource of information that in the past just simply was not available.  Much of what I read these days, about aviation in particular, could only be found by spending most of your life at an airport.  Now as great as that sounds, I just simply do not have the time for that, nor do most people.

In all of these online interactions I have had the opportunity to meet some amazing people that have endowed me with vast amounts of knowledge that I otherwise never would have had.  Some of this knowledge has been practical, and some of it simply entertaining, but all of it has been worthwhile.

This book could make your aviation dreams a reality.

This book could make your aviation dreams a reality.

For the second day of Avgeek Christmas, I would like to share some of that knowledge with you, or at least give you the opportunity to go out and get it, because if you didn’t already know this about aviation, the sky truly is the limit, but you have to be willing to take the steps necessary to get there.  Maybe the best part about these gifts is that they all come in around $20 or less.

The first piece of aviation related literature that I would highly endorse is one that is designed to help save you money no matter where you are at in your aviation pursuits.  The Pilot’s Guide to Flying on a Budget is the most comprehensive guide written to help all of us avgeeks make our aviation dreams come true.

If you browse the internet you will find random articles with snippets of information that might be useful if you know how to apply them, but the author of this eBook has done exactly the opposite.

Brent Owens has spent his entire flying career in general aviation amassing nearly 10,000 hours of flight time in over 40 types of aircraft.  His unique perspective is evident in the blog he writes, his comments on Twitter, and his new eBook, The Pilot’s Guide to Flying on a Budget.

This insightful book takes a look at all different kinds of general aviation flying and helps you figure out a way to make flying a reality no matter what your situation is.  There really is something for everyone in this book to help save money, and suffice it to say that Brent definitely lives up to his goal: “My goal is to use this medium to promote, educate, and share this great gift of flight that we all enjoy!”

The Last Bush Pilots will leave you longing to fly in Alaska.

The Last Bush Pilots will leave you longing to fly in Alaska.

Now maybe you like aviation, but you want to leave the flying to others, and would rather just read about their adventures.  No shame in that, I for one love a good read, especially if it is one about airplanes and flying.  If that sounds like you, or your favorite avgeek, then I have the perfect book for you.

There may be no more exciting and dangerous flying than that done by bush pilots, and there is likely no more unforgiving destination for bush pilots than Alaska.  Eric Auxier should know, since before he became an Airbus captain and insightful blogger, he was an Alaskan bush pilot himself.

In his second book, The Last Bush Pilots, Eric paints a picture of flying that will leave you in awe whether you are a true avgeek or not.  He paints pictures with words that are every bit as beautiful and moving as anything ever drawn or photographed.  The book is fiction, but based on many of his experiences in Alaska.  I literally could not put the book down, until I had to so that I could get some sleep before flying.

This book was a recent read of mine and you can find my full review on my previous post.

Flying adventure is not necessarily for everyone either.  Maybe you love aviation, and you also love a good suspenseful thriller where you never know exactly what will happen next.  You may even be a fan of a little romance in your reading.  Nothing wrong with that, I personally have a romantic attachment to planes. (I’d tell you not to tell my wife, but she is well aware of it.)

Flight for Control paints a brutally honest picture of the airline industry today.

Flight for Control paints a brutally honest picture of the airline industry today.

If this sounds like more your type of read then may I heartily endorse Karlene Petitt’s first novel Flight for Control.  This is the first in a trilogy of books, with the second segment set to arrive around the New Year which will bring much joy to all of us who are anxiously waiting.  Throughout the entire book I wasn’t sure what was going on, but in a good way.

Karlene does an excellent job of weaving a tapestry of incidents that all lead to the exciting conclusion where everyone involved has their world turned upside down.  It is a very real depiction of the aviation world that we live in, and the challenges that face the industry.  Much the way that Brent and Eric write from experience, Karlene is an incredibly experienced pilot that has run the full gamut of the ups and downs of being an airline captain.

While I found Flight for Control to be incredibly entertaining and thought-provoking, it is definitely not for everyone.  Karlene makes it very clear that this book is written for adults that can handle some pretty intense topics and mature situations.  That being said, anyone involved in aviation, even as a bystander, will benefit from reading this book.  There is also great benefit to following Karlene’s blog as it provides limitless inspiration and insightful topics.

My last recommendation is a non-fiction offering from one of the greatest fiction authors of our time.  Tom Clancy is well-known for his military themed novels that have enthralled millions of people in both book and movie form.

I would highly recommend every single one of his novels, especially the Jack Ryan series, as he is one of the most perfect characters I have ever experienced.  If only he were a real person instead of the beautiful result of an extremely creative author.

Fighter Wing gives an insider's view of how a fighter wing works.

Fighter Wing gives an insider’s view of how a fighter wing works.

Many of these novels have an aviation aspect, but like I said it is one of his non-fiction offerings that fits most closely with the theme of an Avgeek Christmas offering.  Fighter Wing: A Guided Tour of an Air Force Combat Wing is part of the Clancy military reference library where he utilizes his special access to these military units to give an inside look at how they operate.

This book is definitely not a novel and it doesn’t read like one.  It is a pretty straightforward look at the people and equipment that give the US Air Force the world’s premier air superiority.  There are some pretty awesome pictures included, as well as a beautiful description of flight in the back of an F-15E by Clancy’s co-author John Gresham, because apparently Clancy gets air sick.

I thought this would be the fitting conclusion to a list of Avgeek books with the recent passing of Mr. Clancy.  He, like all of the authors I mentioned here, provided an essential opportunity for people to fall in love with airplanes and aviation.

One of the greatest resources for industry insights and information is one of the many flying organizations that have been established.  The two biggest that I would recommend looking into are AOPA and EAA, but there are all kinds of different groups depending on what you are looking for.  They all provide great resources for flyers of all types, and are well worth the membership fees.

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) is the largest aviation organization in the world with over 400,000 members.  They are incredibly active in supporting general aviation by trying to influence Congress and provide them accurate information so they understand how important general aviation is.

They also create numerous products in both print and electronic editions that are both informative and instructional.  They are also becoming more involved in encouraging young pilots and trying to help increase the pilot population.  If there is one organization you should join in aviation, this is probably the one.

They offer a handful of different membership options for pilots, student pilots, military members, and even youth.  Annual memberships range from $25-99 as well as a few free trial options for students all of which include at least one of AOPA’s valuable magazines.  It will definitely be money well spent.

The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) is an organization that focuses on supporting recreational aviation that has tons of great offerings.  They support the Young Eagles program which aims to get kids excited about aviation, as well as likely there most well known offering, EAA AirVenture at OshKosh which is one of the most popular airshows in the world.

Everything that EAA does is designed to support the growth of aviation.  One of their most unique attributes is the support they offer to aircraft builders and restorers.  There is an incredibly network of people that are anxious to help anyone fulfill their dream of flying their own plane no matter what kind it is.

Membership for EAA is also incredibly reasonable at $40 for a digital membership meaning you get your EAA products digitally instead of print.  It is slightly more for an international print membership, but still only $66.  They also offer a family membership for an extra $10 that includes the entire family.  They do offer a lifetime membership that is pretty attractive if you can afford the $1,295 one-time price tag.

Each of these offerings will provide valuable information, and in many cases entertainment.  If you are looking for something a little more practical, possibly for a student pilot or a pilot working on a new rating, or even just other entertaining books, there are many different study guides and other resources that can be found on Amazon.

12 Days of Avgeek Christmas:

Day 1: Aircraft Models and RC Toys
Day 2: Aviation Books and Guides
Day 3: Aviation Apps and Flight Simulators
Day 4: Flight Lessons
Day 5: Headsets
Day 6: Bags and Kneeboards
Day 7: Sunglasses and Watches
Day 8: Handheld GPS
Day 9: Handheld Radio
Day 10: Cameras and Video Recorders
Day 11: Random Aviation Accessories
Day 12: Airplane

December 15, 2013 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Book Review: The Last Bush Pilots by Eric Auxier

The Last Bush Pilots will leave you longing to fly in Alaska.

The Last Bush Pilots will leave you longing to fly in Alaska.

I know I just did a book review a couple of weeks ago, but after reading this book I just couldn’t wait to share my thoughts and feelings about it.  I have a feeling I may just keep going on and on about it so please forgive me if I do.

The Last Bush Pilots by Eric Auxier is an amazing story about a young man who ventures to Alaska to be a bush pilot in the hopes of ultimately achieving the elusive goal of becoming an airline pilot.  One of the things that immediately captured my attention with this book is how much I could relate with DC, the main character, right from the beginning.  For anyone who has dreamt of a career in flying I am sure you will find it equally as easy to relate to.

The story takes you through the ups and downs of being an Alaskan bush pilot.  It’s no wonder that Eric does such a phenomenal job of describing this life since he was a bush pilot himself at one time.  While the book is fiction, he does include a few stories that actually happened to him or those around him.  I honestly can’t remember the last time I read a book where I felt like I was there as much as this one.

That comes in large part from the author’s ability to paint incredibly vivid pictures with words.  I could literally see myself brushing the tree tops in a Cessna 207, or hear the familiar whir of its engine as it comes to life moments before leaving the ground.  The exhilaration of flying in a small plane is something that must be experienced to fully appreciate, but this book is about as close as you can get without actually being there.

I felt like I was actually there scooting over a socked in pass, or scud running on my way back to the airport.  I found myself coming up with my own solutions to the problems the characters faced and reveling in the anticipation of what would ultimately happen to them.  The flying bug is one that bites hard and never really fades, and this book encapsulates everything that is great, and scary, about flying.

I won’t spoil any of the surprises, but Eric also digs into the harsh realities of such intense flying.  I have always loved reading books where the author is not afraid to touch on difficult subjects or to take risks in their writing, and he does just that in The Last Bush Pilots.  For anyone who flies as a profession, those risks and results are all too real, and for none more so than the bush pilots in Alaska.

What I found even more enjoyable was his ability to add humor to what is a very challenging occupation.  Granted, aviators have a knack for childish hijinks, and an inherent desire to do crazy and silly things, but he even made those aspects of the story incredibly realistic.

What was most enjoyable about this book was how much of it was actually about flying.  So many other books mention flying but are really about the stuff that happens on the ground, but in this book the risky business of Alaskan bush flying is the star.  That dangerous dance with Mother Nature that they perform on a daily basis will leave you on the edge of your seat flipping pages as fast you can.  Even if you aren’t as obsessed with flying as I am, you will find yourself entirely taken in by the author’s description of this most incredible and challenging type of flying.

As I mentioned before The Last Bush Pilots is technically fiction, but with how real Eric made it feel, it can’t be very far from reality.  I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in aviation, or even just in the Alaska wilderness.  It is an incredibly quick read (only three days for me) because you won’t want to put it down.  You will want to continue to immerse yourself in this dreamland of flying where the views are incredible, and the experience is indescribable.

Eric Auxier writes a fantastic blog entitled Adventures of Cap’n Aux.  He can also be found on Twitter at @capnaux.

His first book, Code Name: Dodger, is an award-winning young adult spy novel, and is on my shortlist for reading.

Both of his books can be found on Amazon in print or on the Kindle, or directly from his blog along with a personalized inscription.

Look out in the coming weeks for my next read, Flight for Control by Karlene Petitt.

November 21, 2013 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Aviation Book Review: Tango Trajectory by Dale W. Cox

The cover intrigued me, unfortunately more than the actual story.

The cover intrigued me, unfortunately more than the actual story.

I love a good book.  A good book about military aircraft is even better, and when it is free how can I turn it down?  Just to be totally clear, I was approached by the publisher to read this book and put up a review on my blog.  I am happy to help out anyone in aviation so I gladly agreed to do so.

The name of the book is Tango Trajectory by Dale W. Cox.  Rather than give you my own synopsis, I will just share the Amazon one and give you my thoughts on the book:

A young Latina Navy test pilot becomes the first woman to fly “spook missions” from the secret Groom Lake Air Base in Nevada. Her success in locating a terrorist base enrages the Wahhabi al Furan, who plot to kill her, and her fellow test pilots.

Selected as the first woman to fly a Mach 7 spyplane, Lieutenant Teresa O’Brien faces intense hostility. The three resident male test pilots don’t intend to coddle a woman neophyte with only 1900 hours, forced into their ranks by a powerful Congresswoman. How to sink her career requires clever planning and, before she reports in, Major Rick McQuilkin is assigned the task. McQuilkin meets O’Brien and, instead of the expected female wrestler type, he finds an attractive young woman with a friendly smile. She proves more capable than expected, a quick learner with several years experience flying off Navy aircraft carriers. This upsets his designs for cutting her out of the program. Terri in turn discovers that Rick is more vulnerable than his macho exterior reveals. Although he tries to hide them, serious problems could ground him and he still carries deep scars from the bitter split with his long-time girlfriend.

A Wahhabi assassin, poised to kill Lt. O’Brien, is thwarted by a stranger’s intervention. The CIA/FBI team investigating the failed assassination receives hints of more lethal missions involving nuclear weapons. A young hooker, servicing a Saudi Prince, reports that seven jihad warriors are preparing to cross the radioactive nuclear test site, attack the secret base and kill the four test pilots.

The Taurora is based on an actual Mach 7 plane first revealed to the American public by an article in the Wall Street Journal in 1992.  The author, a former Navy test pilot, holds two official transcontinental speed records, Los Angeles-New York and New York-Los Angeles, and was a contender in the Mercury astronaut program.

That really sums up the book more concisely than I could have, and sadly it is just about as entertaining as reading the whole book.  I went into reading this book really hoping to enjoy it but I honestly had a hard time getting into it because the early parts of the book take forever to get anywhere.  I don’t know that it is fair to compare anyone to Tom Clancy, but in every single one of his books he started with a chapter that gets you so excited you have to read the whole book, and he never resolves it until the end.

With this book it was pretty apparent how it would end after reading the first chapter.  There really were no twists or turns of any kind.  The story is a little thin and really doesn’t get you excited about the possibilities of what may happen.  I even found some of the writing itself to be frustrating to read.

The dialogue between characters feels incredibly forced, and in the case of the hooker mentioned in the synopsis, it was almost impossible to follow what she was supposed to be saying.  Here is one small example, “She tol’ me Ah was too curious, always ready ta stick mah nose inta other people’s bizz’ness…”  I understand trying to paint the picture of a character but it could have been done far more effectively by describing them without making it confusing to read.

I don’t want it to sound like this book had no redeeming qualities, because it did.  The sections that talked about the flying the plane, which were far too few, were excellently written.  It was clear in these sections that the author knew his stuff, which makes sense with his background.  As an avgeek who loves all of the thrills of aviation I found myself daydreaming about flying something that powerful.  It was these sections that kept me reading until the end.  Though it was disappointing to me that a book based on a secret plane with an arrogant test pilot ended with a small fight on the ground that had nothing to do with flying.

By the time I got to the end of the book I didn’t feel like I had wasted my time, but I walked away hoping for so much more.  It is clear that Mr. Cox loves flying and does a decent job transferring that feeling to the reader, but instead of building on that he spent way more time trying to develop an obvious love interest and a terrorist attack that was pretty obvious in a matter of a page or two.  Had the areas of emphasis been reversed this could have been a far more enjoyable book.

Should you stumble across a copy and really be looking for something to read then you may find a small level of entertainment from the book as I did.  However, I don’t think I would spend a large amount of money on it.  It is currently available on Amazon in a paperback and Kindle version which comes in at a price that is probably worth it for something to read over a long trip or something of that nature.

November 1, 2013 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.