Before the internet and so-called "information superhighway", most of the important information was kept in books. Now, a decade or so later, nothing much has changed. If only we could use all the hot air found on the internet to start a few thermals…
What follows is a short and biased selection of books on gliding. There are many other books around, and probably many of them are very worthy. This is just a start.
Some of the books here are out of print, but one of the good things about the net is that you can track down books, often many decades out of print, and buy them for little money. Even current books can be found somewhere for second hand prices. A small word of caution though… some sellers such as Alibris send out books without tracking on the shipment. The next thing you know is that your book is "lost" and you have paid for it and the shipping. So if you can, buy from a bookshop with a phone number and an address.
Recently, another two excellent sources of gliding books have become available on the internet. A large collection of gliding books was donated to the British Gliding Association by the late Wally Khan, the inventor of Lasham. These have been well and laboriously scanned by a group of volunteers and are available for download.
These are mainly older books but some of the titles below are there. The Wally Khan ebook collection.
|The Book||The Biased Review|
|The Story of Gliding
| This is probably the best book in the world about gliding.
Why? Because it is a book which, in almost every chapter, makes you want to jump in a glider and fly!
There are lots of books which will tell you how to fly a glider, how to find a thermal, how to land and so on. This book doesn't mention a word about any of that. But it does remind you WHY you want to learn how to do all these things and why you have to fly a glider.
The Story of Gliding covers the big picture… starting well before Sir George Caley and going up to the mid-60s, the authors Anne & Lorne Welch, both famous glider pilots, cover in detail the important milestons in the Story of Gliding. This includes the birth of soaring at the Wassekuppe, the discovery of thermals and the search for greater distances and speed.
If this was all that was in the book then it would be worth reading. What is outstanding though, is the quality of the writing. The book is beautifully written and filled with a passion for gliding which inspires the reader.
|Free as a Bird
| Free as a Bird is another very important book about gliding.
Phillip Wills was World Champion in 1952, but that's not what makes this book worth reading. Wills is a very funny writer who is capable of passages of beautiful and inspirational writing. He started gliding in 1932, at the time of the rebirth of the British gliding movement.
The book is divided into two sections. The first would appear at first sight to be a dry read, as it covers gliding administration and safety. In fact this deserves to be read, and re-read since little has changed in the 35 odd years since this was written. The struggle to get not only gliding sites, but the freedoms we enjoy when gliding, and the struggle to retain them will continue.
Wills has a vey interesting chapter on Liberty and Safety and why life without risk in a nanny state would be a very dull life indeed.
The hero of the book is undoubtedly Kitty Wills who drove thousands and thousands of miles (mainly it would seem, in a 1955 Standard Vanguard) following Phillip all over Europe as he flew the increasingly longer open distance fligths that he loved.
|The Art of Soaring Flight
| This is probably also the best book in the world about gliding.
The Art of Soaring Flight was written in 1938 by Wolf Hirth, one of the Wasserkuppe legends. It's translated from the original German. A lot of what is covered in the book would now be either highly undesirable (Storm Riding) or illegal in Australia (Clould Flying), but the book tells in very personal detail, a lot of stories about the early pioneers and their often hysterically funny soaring flights.
Hanna Rietsche mastering cloud flying and finding to her surprise that when she popped out from the top of a cloud, the earth was above her head. Ludwig Hoffman, whose instructors every day expected that the next day they'd be burying him, who suddenly became a champion. All that and more...
Wolf Hirth pretty much invented thermal flying and taught it to the world. He proved that only with tightly banked turns will you stay in a thermal and demonstrated this above New York City at 1000' until asked to land by police because he was stopping traffic on Broadway.
| As you can see from the picture, I lied about the title of this book.
The real title is Model Aircraft Aerodynamics. If you are looking for a book on aerodynamics which is easy to understand and has far more than the basics which you get in most gliding textbooks, then this is the book. It covers everything from flying wings to ground effect vehicles and might be the only book you need on this subject.
Yes, there is stuff about models in the book, but the subject is presented in a very easy to read and practical fashion. This is the fourth edition of the book, and as it says on the cover, the book as reached a far wider readership than ever imagined when the first edition was printed.
Martin Simons was a senior lecturer in education at the University of Adelaide and has written many books on vintage gliders. He holds a gold C badge with two diamonds and his contributions to gliding have been noted with international awards.
|On Being a Bird
| On Being a Bird. Another brilliant and funny book from Philip Wills
Another from Philip Wills. As the Duke of Edinburg says in the foreword, "Doers are not always writers, but this book proves that the author controls his pen with the same flair and enthusiasm as his beloved gliders."
A bit more instruction in this book, and a lot less organisational politics, but the book contains dozens of descriptions of epic, record, silly or just hysterical flights.
One important aspect of the book is the discussion of the "Classics and the Moderns." This begins with a detailed investigation into the rotation of bath water as it goes down the plug-hole, complete with drawings, and is expanded into a discussion about the basic philosophy of gliding.
Do you want to go around in circles of increasing rapidity like a goldfish in a bowl, or do you want to soar onwards and upwards and at the end of the day land somewhere you have never been before? The UK has a group of people who still fly open distance competitions following the inspiration of Philip Wills.
|Advanced Soaring Made Easy
| The first book to read after you go solo.
There are many reasons why this is a good book. The first one is that it is written in Australia, about our flying conditions. You don't have to worry about weather that they only get in the UK or the US, and winds always blow the right way around cyclonic depressions.
The writer, Bernard Eckey is a coach and the book is written from that perspective. It begins with local soaring… just what the post solo pilot needs to know, and moves on to cover extended local soaring, crepearation for cross country and everything else including wave flying, competitiions and training your mind There is a lot of technical detail and reports on research about thermals. The nice big ones that we fly. And some sensible instruction on how to find them, go up in them, and when to leave them.
This book is also very practical in a way that many other books are not. There's a good chapter on our weather including things like sea-breeze fronts. There's a chapter on outlandings, and even one on that forbidden subject, safety. If you only have one instruction book after Basic Gliding knowledge, make it this one.
|Competing in Gliders
| The Y generation's approach to Reichmann.
If you only bought this book for the pictures, it would be a brilliant book. Unlike Reichmann, this book really does make you want to glider. It is absolutely packed with pictures of sailplanes in the air and landing in all sorts of interesting terrain.
Written by two Italian (several times) champions, the book is filled with techinical information accompanied by personal stories and comments. The result is a very inspiring and well rounded book. The gliders are modern and so are the ideas and techniques on offer.
The book is very focussed on competition (as you would hope from the title!) from a mental as well as a pilotting perspective and covers a lot of modern sports motivation ideas.
It is an excellent book to follow on from Bernard Echey's book even if you have no thought at all on competing in gliders.
|Cross Country Soaring
| Don't buy this book! It could be a huge mistake.
It has been noted above that these reviews are biased. This is possibly the most famous book about soaring, and as you can see by the cover of this book, well studied by many pilots in the 30 years since it was published.
This book put me off flying sailplanes for 25 years. After reading this book, I felt as if all glider pilots did was switch between one type of vario and another and obsess constantly about their rate of climb. Probably in metres per second.
Where's the fun in that! My guess is that hundreds of thousands of hang glider pilots and paraglider pilots have read this book over the years and thought "Spam in a can. Who'd want to do that".
So while reading the Story of Gliding will make you want to fly, and Philip Wills will make you want to fly as far as your imagination will allow, this book could make you want to take up gardening, or even worse, golf.
There are obviously good bits in the book. For example, Rechmann's idea on the ideal crew is a great laugh! Me, I'd rather spend an evening reading the phone book.
|Pilot's Touring Guide
| The Pilot's guide to adventure touring in Australia.
If you have a self launching glider or are planning a safari in company, and if you are interested in landing somewhere new each day rather than the place you took off, then this book will be very useful. The Pilots Touring Guide is designed to help plan flying adventures by providing information about destinations into which a touring pilot can fly. In a word, it answers the questions of ‘why go there’ and ‘what will I find when I do'.
The Guide contains a lift out map showing all the destinations, whether or not they have fuel as well as showing the nearby towns where fuel is readily available. The map is ideal for trip planning before transferring the track to the WAC.
The Guide goes on to describe the attractions of the town or property or resort or National Park and how you can get around to see them. It also has notes on the history of the destinations. The Introduction has some useful tips and suggestions of what to do and not to do when planning a flying trip.
The Pilots Touring Guide answers these essential planning questions: If there is no fuel at my destination, where is the nearest place I can get it? What is the phone number of the hotel? How far is it to town and how will I get there and back? This first edition has over 230 interesting destinations, including farm-stays, resorts, unusual pubs and country and coastal towns. The Guide is a companion volume to the AOPA National Airfield Directory, which contains details of the 2,200 airfields in Australia.
|Gliding. An introduction to Soaring Flight
| Learning to Glider from a slightly English perspective.
Derek Piggott has probably forgotten more about teaching people to glide than most people know. He's been doing it ever since anyone can remember and written a lot of books about the subject.
This one is relatively modern and has a lot to offer for anyone who is learning to glide and wants to read more than the GFA's Basic Gliding Knowledge has to offer.
The drawback for Australian pilots with many of these books from the northern hemisphere is twofold. First, the appalling "weather" that they have up there only happens down here in Melbourne, where thankfully they don't glide, and the winds in the north blow the wrong way around.
There are other differences too. Many of the techniques in these books are written with the idea of moderate weather being the norm. This means very low circuit joining heights compared with the standard heights over here. Similarly, our normal high cloud bases compared with their normally low ones mean that their flight regime is quite different to ours. That being said, this is a valuabke book for those doubtful moments when learning to fly.
|BGA Gliding Manual
| Warning. This is not a gliding manual.
It is difficult to know what this book is without knowing more about gliding in the UK. What this book is about is the technical aspects of flight and gliding in a relatively easy to grasp format. The book begins in a light and humorous vein and is quite dull and dry by the end.
There are many useful sections on Jar 22 and the performance envelope of modern gliders which are absent in most other books. There are some excellent bits of information on topics like G loading, flutter and what VNE really means.
But a gliding manual it ain't. If you read and learned this book from cover to cover, you would no more learn how to fly a sailplane than to cook a decent curry.
If you want to know about aerodynamics and why aeroplanes fly, the best book around is the Martin Simons book Model Aeroplane Aerodynamics which is mentioned above.
|Gliding In Australia. Allan Ash
| An outstanding book about where it all began.
This book covers the story of gliding in Australia from its earliest beginnings up until the advent of glass gliders. I was given this book when I was hang gliding by my brother in law who said "Read this. Every mistake we ever made is written here." It is a book I have read many times since. It's a great and inspiring read.
Allan Ash was the editor of Australian Gliding for years and years. He must have talked to almost everyone when writing this book. It goes in great detail into the colourful personalities and the clubs from the '20s to the late '70s.The book details the jerky progress of Australian gliding from initial ground hops in Zoglings to local soaring and to extended cross country thermal flights. There are many hair raising and hilarious accounts of record breaking flights which if done now, would have the pilot promptly grounded by the CFI.
So why would this book be of any relevance today? This book covers the evolution of the gliding movement, and the rise and demise of many clubs. We're still in danger of making many of the same mistakes which were made then and many of the people, old and young, entrusted with guiding the gliding movement into the future, need to be reminded from time to time about its past.