Essential reading list for pilots

Understanding the job of an airline pilot is essential before selection. Be ready to explain why you want to be an airline pilot. Here are four books to get you started. 

Rule books are paper, they will not cushion a sudden meeting of stone and metal.
— Ernest K. Gann

So You Want To Be A Pilot 2012: Flying As A Career Professional Pilot Training
Author: Gapan Captain Ralph KOHN FRAeS
Price: Free at Gapan
Why Read It? This is a perfect introduction to pilot training in one comprehensive document. Some of the advice won't be applicable to everyone and I would prefer if it encouraged the pursuit of the few sponsored opportunities that do exist. Although the text is dense, it is a must-read to the end. Any aspiring pilot will learn something.


Fate Is The Hunter
Author: Ernest K. Gann
Price: £0.64 at Abe Books £6.89 at Amazon
Why Read It? Nothing I can write here will do justice how important this book is. Our industry is still yet to quantify the stuff that it takes to make it as a pilot and what piloting an aircraft makes of you. This book makes you feel those feelings. Although written about experiences in the late 1930s and early 1940s it has not dated a single day. I once naively thought I was the first pilot to have to have these thoughts and emotions and ideas. When I read this book I realised what Ernest K. Gann had learnt. Piloting is as much about aviation as it is about learning who you are and what you're made of, even today, every day.


The Naked Pilot: The Human Factor in Aircraft Accidents
Author: David Beaty
Price: £0.64 at Abe Books £9.87 at Amazon
Why Read It? Never accept the term 'pilot error'. The media still uses it, but we in aviation know better. Instead of blame our industry has developed a proactive non-punitive system to reduce accident rates every year since aviation began. This selfless and mature attitude gave birth to the recognition of non-technical skills and the study of human factors and the practice of CRM. Our industry is an example to all others.
This book published in 1995 describes the human factors in incidents and accidents that occurred prior to the recognition of this life saving subject.


No Frills: The Truth Behind The Low-Cost Revolution In The Skies
Author: Simon Calder
Price: £0.65 at Abe Books £8.99 at Amazon
Why Read It? The airline landscape didn't always look as it does today. And it wasn't 9/11 that changed it. The rise and influence of the low cost airlines in Europe changed the industry forever. The consequences have had a massive impact on the career and day-to-day job of an airline pilot. This book tells the fascinating story of that change and speaks to those responsible.
Some advice: try and get the updated edition.

Your Suggestions Here

This is just the beginning of the Stripes library. What books do you think are essential reading for aspiring pilots? Leave your suggestions and reasons why in the comments below. I will add top voted entries to our reading list. 

10 things to do before pilot selection


There are no real academic qualifications required to be a pilot. FTOs (Flight Training Organisations) set some academic entry requirements; beyond those however, they focus on their own selection process. Over multiple stages, pilot selection typically involves online application, aptitude and maths testing, interview and group exercises and simulator assessment. Although pilot selection may be unfamiliar, like any job, interview preparation is the key – do not leave any of it to chance. Here are a ten tips that will give you a good start.

1.) Why do you want to be a pilot?

It is the one question you will be asked. Why do you want to be a pilot? Why do you want to work for us? Every time you practice your interview, answer this question. Make it your best.

2.) Know the job

pyrenees from the flight deck

pyrenees from the flight deck

Many people dream of becoming an airline pilot, but you must be able to give substance to that dream. Think about how you would answer questions such as, “Tell me about a typical day as a pilot?” or “What do you know about the job that makes you want to be pilot?”

Ask yourself what you know about the scheme you are applying to. What do you know about the syllabus or which phase of training are you looking forward to?

3.) Get close to aeroplanes

There are other jobs available at airports, either part-time, full-time or as a volunteer for work experience. Airlines require thousands of staff to support their aircraft. Handling Agents such as Servisair employ teams of staff who take responsibility for aircraft on the ground. There can be no better job for a wannabe airline pilot than a dispatcher. Even your local airfield needs its grass cutting. What can you do to demonstrate your motivation to be a pilot?

4.) Call a Pilot

Everyone knows someone who knows someone who is a pilot. If they haven't already offered, ask if they would mind you talking with them to discuss your application. Every single pilot I know would help you. Write down everything they say, and if you get a word in, ask them what they like about the job. At interview you might mention you spoke to this person about your application which will further show your interest in the profession and preparation.

5.) Research

Accurate preparation is the key to success at selection. Investigate every stage of selection. Use the FTO, internet resources and speak to people who have been through the process before you. Find out every last detail and decide what the FTO is looking for at each stage.

Next, research everything else. The FTO company, their history, the syllabus, the aircraft, their locations. The partner airlines, their history, their routes, their aircraft, their engines, their bases. Everything.

6.) Practise

Aptitude and numerical testing can sound daunting, but they are simply hurdles to overcome. Use your research to replicate each stage and practise, practise, practise. It is said that you cannot practise for aptitude tests, but that does not mean leave it to chance. You can still prepare by familiarising yourself with the testing process and sharpening your skills.

7.) Proof read

Find someone who reads applications for a living, or even just your friend who got an A in English. Ask them to read your application. You would be surprised at how many applications have spelling mistakes, missing words or don't make sense.

8.) Film Yourself

Practise your interview, but do not use a pen. You must practice answering questions out loud. This is the Socratic method. Answering in your head or on paper will not work, so practise – in the shower, in your car and every spare minute. Give a friend a list of questions ask for a mock interview and then ask for a debrief. Also, in this modern age you could use your smart phone to film your mock interview. Once you've have finished cringing at yourself, you are able to scrutinise, improve and repeat.

9.) Buy a suit

If anyone attends selection without a shirt and tie as a minimum, they are an idiot. Why wouldn't you wear a dark suit, white shirt and tie? In a competency based interview, appearance is likely to be a marking criteria.

10.) Watch the news

Nobody expects a candidate to have the answer to the Euro crisis, but a very basic understanding of current affairs and their influence on the aviation industry is required. So get reading and pay attention to the world around you.