These Books Make Great Gifts for Pilots
by Michelle Ward
Looking for aviation gifts for pilots? How about a book? Whether you want to inspire your friend’s passion for flying, help them explore aviation history or indulge their love of aircraft data and details, a well-chosen book makes a thoughtful gift they’ll enjoy all year long.
“Slipping the Surly Bonds” by Dave English
This little gem of poetry and prose, wisdom and wit belongs on every pilot’s shelf. It’s a compilation of aviation’s most memorable quotes from aviators and dreamers such as Leonardo da Vinci, Wilbur Wright, Chuck Yeager, Christa McAuliffe, John Glenn and more. The book’s researcher, Dave English, adds historical facts for context. For example, the book’s name is inspired by the poignant verse of the famous poem “High Flight” by John Gillespie Magee, Jr., “Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth / And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings; / Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds...” Magee, Jr., a pilot for the Royal Canadian Air Force, was killed during a dogfight on December 11, 1941, at age 19. The book can be challenging to find but it’s worth the effort.
“The Aviators” by Winston Groom
Winston Groom, also the author of “Forrest Gump,” shares the extraordinary stories of three pioneering pilots: Eddie Rickenbacker, Jimmy Doolittle and Charles Lindbergh. In the intertwining tales, the history and drama of daring military raids and heroic adventures unfold to reveal more about the epic age of flight. Lindbergh flew sorties in World War II. Rickenbacker was a racecar driver and owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway before becoming an American fighter ace. Doolittle was the first to fly blind under a fabric hood to prove the safety of full instrument flying. Pilots will enjoy the book’s storytelling and rich history.
“Fly Girls” by Keith O’Brien
Keith O’Brien, a former reporter for the Boston Globe, explores the inspiring, high-drama stories of five women who defied the odds and risked their lives to take their place in the sky in the 1920s and 1930s. The women fight for the chance to race against the men and end up winning the toughest air race of all. Of the New York Times best-seller, Karen Abbott, author of “Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy,” “Fly Girls reads like a heart-stopping novel, but this story is all true — and thoroughly inspiring.”
“Skyward: Why Flyers Fly” by Russell Munson
For pilots, swapping stories comes naturally. In this coffee table book, all types of pilots — women and men, young and old, professional and amateur — share their experiences. In-between the interesting stories and historical facts, you’ll find gorgeous, full-bleed images by award-winning aerial photographer, pilot and aviation writer Russell Munson. The former Flying magazine writer and consulting editor is a renowned photojournalist whose fine art photography is on display in museums and private collections. While the pilot stories can be enjoyed in short bursts, aviators might find themselves poring over the photos for hours. It’s another book that can be difficult to find but also worth the effort.
“Jane’s Encyclopedia of Aviation: Revised Edition”
For your pilot friend who savors statistics and values history, you’ll definitely want to give them “Jane’s Encyclopedia of Aviation.” At nearly 8 pounds and 3 inches thick, this definitive guide to pre-1993 aircraft is worth the equally hefty price tag. It chronicles every aircraft ever made around the world from hot air balloons to supersonic jets. It’s a stunning amount of information in one resource. To save some cash, consider buying a pre-loved version of the book.