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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.

Congress Actually Getting Stuff Done…at Least in Aviation

Most small aircraft, including some twins, would fall under the General Aviation Pilot Protection Act.

Most small aircraft, including some twins, would fall under the General Aviation Pilot Protection Act.

It has been quite a productive couple of weeks for certain members of Congress.  Despite their complete inability to do anything related to the major issues, it is comforting to see that they can take care of at least some of the smaller ones.

Maybe I only noticed because these actions are related to a smaller area I care about, but either way it is great to see action being taken that should help out aviation.  I am glad to see that the General Aviation Caucus is doing their jobs to promote an industry that is essential to the people they represent.

Last month the Small Airplane Revitalization Act was signed into law.  As I understand it, this law will help make it easier, and thus cheaper, to bring new planes to market.  This is an important step in the direction of making flying cheaper and more accessible.  The law is designed to give manufacturers an incentive to develop new aircraft to bring to market that will include newer technologies, while not having so much red tape to gut through to get there.  The fact that the bill passed unanimously in both the House and the Senate says a lot about how badly this law was needed, and hopefully the impact for good that it will have.

The second piece of legislation, which was brought forward this week, is the General Aviation Pilot Protection Act which I have somewhat mixed feelings about.  On the surface, I think it is a great bill as it also aims to eliminate the some of the bureaucracy and general hoop jumping that the government seems to enjoy.

In short, the law would make it legal for a pilot to fly an aircraft weighing less than 6,000 pounds, with six seats or less, below 14,000 feet, and at speeds less than 250 knots as long as they possess a current state driver’s license and meet the medical standards involved in attaining that license.  It all sounds pretty reasonable to me.

In an article from AOPA, who initially petitioned for the law along with EAA, they make the comparison to driving a car, and that many large SUVs are in the same weight and passenger range so the risk should be viewed similarly.  I would generally agree, though I would say there are inherent risks of flying that make it more dangerous, or at least make it bear a little more scrutiny.  The act will be brought before Congress in January so it will be interesting to see how it plays out.

In keeping with my recent theme of growing the pilot population I can’t help but think that this will have a positive impact on that movement, however, I think it is still just another short-term fix.  This bill will definitely benefit much of the older pilot population who either is unable to obtain a Class III medical, or is just tired of the hassle of doing so, and that is great.

However, I don’t think it will really make that much of a difference for the young population, which is where we need to see the growth more than ever.  I haven’t talked to a single peer who said they didn’t fly because of obtaining, or retaining, their medical.  I am sure there are some out there, and it is great to be able to help them, but I just don’t see the long-term impact that it will have.

That being said, anything that we can do to reduce costs, and probably equally important, to reduce BS is good for the industry.  The young generation is not very patient and understanding, so streamlining all of the processes from aircraft certification to obtaining a medical certificate is going to help.

But the challenge still remains of getting them out to the airport and interested to get the whole thing started.

December 11, 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.

March Madness Aviation Style

March Madness is one of the greatest times of the year.  There is so much basketball on TV that with the creation of the DVR you could quite literally watch basketball games 24 hours a day.  Millions of dollars are lost in productivity every year because of the wonder that is March Madness.

The AOPA is doing their own form of March Madness with aircraft being the competitors instead of basketball teams.  All you have to do is log-on to their website and vote for your favorite aircraft.  Here is the description from their website:

In the spirit of the NCAA’s March Madness, AOPA is introducing the “Favorite Aircraft Challenge” bracket. No money, no prizes—the aircraft are competing. You vote for your favorite general aviation aircraft through a series of head-to-head matchups. Sixty four iconic models will compete—did your favorite make the cut?

Starting March 12, AOPA will present a list of matchups of some of the greatest aircraft on the face of the Earth. Get a sneak peek at the brackets. To vote, log in with your AOPA Online username and password, or register for a free account. Once signed in, review and vote on each pairing, then submit your selection. Another matchup will be presented until all the day’s matches are completed. Come back daily to vote for the next round and help your favorite aircraft progress to the next level in hopes of being declared the favorite aircraft. AOPA members’ votes count double. (Don’t like it? Become a member—membership has its privileges.)

Talking about old planes, or even new ones that have become fast favorites, is one of the best parts of aviation.  It will be really fun to see how the voting turns out.

March 9, 2012 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 User Fees are One More Bad Idea to Lower the Deficit

User fees in aviation seem to be the bad idea that will never go away.  For as long as I have been associated with aviation I have heard talk of user fees hitting the industry.  The current proposal from the White House calls for a $100 per-flight fee to help lower the federal deficit.

For those not familiar with the industry that may not seem like a huge deal, and it isn’t, for the major airlines who will simply pass on the fee to their customers which works out to practically nothing per passenger.  For general aviation users $100 could easily be a large percentage of their overall costs.

Supporters of the fees argue that everyone using the system should pay their fair share, but I guess that all depends on your definition of fair.  Currently the air traffic control system is funded largely by taxes on fuel that are substantially higher for general aviation users than commercial airlines.

The following excerpt from an article at aopa.org gives great insight into the current system and what really should be considered fair.

Paying the 21.9-cents-per-gallon tax on noncommercial jet fuel, operators of a Gulfstream IV business jet would pay about $87 in fuel taxes. The commercial jet fuel tax is 4.4 cents per gallon; even with a much higher fuel burn, operators of an Airbus A320 would pay about $68 in fuel taxes.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that general aviation aircraft are already paying their fair share.  Unfortunately it appears that the people who are making the decisions don’t seem to understand the industry.

The aforementioned article also points out the ambiguities in the wording of the proposal which further shows the lack of true understanding by the authors.  I’m sure it is not really surprising to anyone that a government proposal would be filled with ambiguities, but it has to call into question the proposals validity.

User fees don’t appear to be a reality in the immediate future, but they also don’t appear to be going completely away.  Having used the current air traffic control system I totally agree that getting the NextGen system up and running is of the utmost importance, but doing it at the expense of the people who use and support that system just doesn’t seem to make sense.

January 17, 2012 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.