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Staying proficient with some reading

 When asked the difference between currency and proficiency, most pilots recall FAR 61.57 and reference the flight experience required to carry passengers at night legally. We are taught that our landing proficiency usually fades much faster than the legal currency requirement but unfortunately discussions about proficiency often end there.

But what about proficiency as it relates to all the other topics that we study during training? The reality is that maintaining flight proficiency requires much more than just landings, it should be an ongoing intellectual journey that keeps us current on all aspects of aviation.

Of course, there are various ways for us to stay proficient. We can schedule a flight or ground session with an instructor, join in on some hangar talk, or scroll through the thousands of blogs, courses, and videos available online. Yet sometimes, especially on these cold and dark winter days, it’s nice to sit back, relax, and read through the pages of a good book.

But where to begin? The library of aviation has stacks of fantastic literature. So, while there are hundreds of excellent books to enjoy, here are six I think provide a great start:

Fate Is the Hunter by Ernest K. Gann. This memoir depicts some truthfully amazing adventures during the early days of commercial aviation. It is impossible not to be amazed by these early aviators’ skill and courage. After reading Fate Is the Hunter, you’ll find it hard ever to complain when your instructor fails that one instrument on you again. Aviation technology has come a long way since this was written, but there is always much to be learned from the lessons and stories of those who came before us.


Everything Explained for the Professional Pilot by Richie Lengel. If you’re looking for a book that can take all those FAR regulations and explain them in plain English, this is it. Richie Lengel does a fantastic job of formatting and describing the FAR’s in a way that can be easily digested and referenced, all while adding in some much-needed humor. Everything explained is excellent no matter what certification or ratings you’re working on and honestly should sit right next to your copy of the FAR/AIM. As a side note: the 14th edition was just released and on sale via digital format on the Everything Explained iOS App.

The Mountain Flying Bible by Sparky Imeson. If you're planning a trip across the Sierras, or any other mountainous terrain for that matter, this book is a must. Sparky Imeson goes through numerous methods, rules of thumb, and scenarios to fly over, around, and within mountainous terrain. Experience is often the best teacher, and this book condenses years worth of lessons into a vital tool for anybody looking to safely navigate the kind of terrain we encounter all the time while flying throughout SoCal.

Weather Flying by Robert N. Buck and Robert O. Buck. With winter weather upon us, it’s a great time to refresh on a subject many pilots will often admit is their biggest weakness… weather. Weather Flying does a deep dive on aviation weather products, onboard tools, weather detection, avoidance, and decision making. A great resource when doing your preflight planning and wondering what options may be at your disposal when already en route.

The Killing Zone by Paul A. Craig. A deep dive into the statistics on the leading cause of general aviation accidents. Many will be surprised by some of the findings. Are student pilots less accident-prone than private pilots? This book is a great risk management tool for any pilot no matter their experience level. You will read about many danger zone scenarios, some of which you may have already encountered. A real reminder of the importance of being aware of our flaws so that we identify and prevent them.