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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.

Becoming a Pilot at a Discount

Let’s be honest, cost is the single most prohibitive attribute of becoming a pilot.  Sure there are other reasons like fear, air sickness, and lack of interest, but for the vast majority of people I talk to, cost is the biggest issue, me included.

So how on earth can we make flying cheaper?

It is quite the tall order with fuel and insurance costs being as high as they are.  Not to mention the fact that airplanes themselves aren’t exactly cheap.  I actually just got a hold of a copy of The Pilot’s Guide to Flying on a Budget which is a great resource that I will be writing about more in the future, but it relates to the system as it currently exists rather than an actual reduction in cost across the industry.  The closest comparison that we can make might be to driving, but it isn’t quite the same.

Even a small plane like this Tecnam costs more than 10 average cars.

Even a small plane like this Tecnam costs more than 10 average cars.

Gas for your car costs approximately half as much as gas for a plane, depending on where you live obviously.  Insurance is also substantially higher due to the inherent risks of flying, as well as the greater cost of an airplane.  However, I think there is one major difference between the two markets that ultimately causes these costs to be as high as they are.

Simply put, there are a lot more cars and drivers out there than there are planes and pilots.

I don’t claim to be an economics expert, in fact I’m pretty sure I had to take one of my economics classes in college twice.  However, there is a principle that I think I understand, at least in very simplistic terms, and that is economies of scale.

For those of you that lack economic savvy like me, economies of scale means essentially that by producing something in larger quantities you can reduce the overall cost.  This is largely based on the fixed costs being distributed across a larger number of goods.

The best example that most of would recognize is stores like Costco and Sam’s Club.  It is cheaper to buy 10,000 diapers or 500 lbs of cheese because it only costs marginally more to manufacture, package, and ship that much than it does to do the same with 20 diapers or 2 lbs of cheese.

Please pardon my exaggeration, but that is the principle in essence.  In getting back to comparing driving and flying, there are a ton more cars out there than there are planes, thus pretty much everything associated with them costs more.  Driver’s Ed courses are a dime a dozen, which makes them cheaper than a flight instructor.  Cars are almost more common than people, which makes them much cheaper than a plane.  Think about it.

A brand new Cessna 172 costs somewhere in the vicinity of $300,000.  Even one that is 40 years old can cost $60,000.  Comparatively, a car that costs $300,000 would be a Bentley or something of that nature.  Thus, it is the people who can afford these types of cars that can also afford flying.

On a crew of 6 we had two females.  We need more of that.

On a crew of 6 we had two females. We need more of that.

Now, my point in this was not so spend an hour comparing cars and planes, but rather to point out that if we could increase the number of people flying we just might be able to reduce the costs to make it easier for people to afford.

As luck would have it I came across two articles today that related to just that topic.  The first is about how China is easing the rules to become a private pilot.  Prior to this announcement, which took effect last Sunday, obtaining a private pilot license in China was comparable to getting a commercial pilot license in the US, which is substantially more time-consuming, and thus more costly.

China is also working to open up its airspace to general aviation.  At the moment only about 20% of Chinese airspace is open to public use with the rest being restricted by the military.  In comparison, approximately 85% of US airspace is open to public use.  While these barriers are not present in the US we have barriers of our own, but there is a movement that is gaining steam that could lead to the growth we need, and thus possibly the reduction in cost that we want.

Dan Pimentel of the Airplanista Aviation Blog wrote about his Christmas wish for aviation in his contribution to December’s Blogging in Formation series.  In his article Dan expresses his lofty wish of having 1,000,000 active pilot certificates in the FAA database by the end of next year.  Just to give you an idea of what that would mean, there were approximately 610,000 certificate holders in 2012.  That includes pilots as well as student pilots.

With any luck I will be able to turn all three of these #avgeeks into pilots.

With any luck I will be able to turn all three of these #avgeeks into pilots.

While Dan admits to the loftiness of his goal he also provides a legitimate solution to this problem which includes three parts.  First, we need to tie aviation and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) together.  Second, the big 7 aviation organizations (EAA, AOPA, NBAA, HAI, GAMA, the Ninety-Nines, and Women in Aviation International) need to form a “power collective” as he calls it, to promote aviation.  Finally, that collective needs to push that STEM/aviation message to women and girls in junior high, high school, and college.

The number varies slightly depending on the report you read, but women pilots only make up about 6% of the pilot population.  That is just ridiculous when you think about it.  That means that of the approximately 610,000 certificate holders only 36,600 are women.  Now imagine we increase that number up to 50% of certificate holders being women, and we will get dang close to that 1 million that Dan dreams about.

Increasing the number of pilots is good for everyone in the industry as it helps to provide the variety that makes aviation so much stinking fun.  If increasing the pilot population also leads to a reduction in cost than all the better as that will only lead to even more growth thus more pilots, and even lower costs.  That is the type of cycle that I can buy into.

If that scenario did ever play itself out, then maybe the headline in The Beijing News associated with the article about China above may just become a reality:

“In the future, getting a private pilot’s license will be just as easy as getting an automobile driver’s license.”

December 2, 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.