Here is what The Aviationist Suggests You to Read During the Quarantine, Isolation or Stay at Home period.
During our Instagram Live Story show on Tuesday, March 24, David Cenciotti and Tom Demerly got ideas for great aviation books to read from viewers and readers and made some recommendations of their own favorite aviation titles to read while we are quarantined by the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. Here are the titles:
1. “The F-35 Lightning II: From Concept to Cockpit” Edited by Jeffrey W. Hamstra, By Timothy C. Lieuwen/Lockheed Martin.
This is a pricey ($100+USD!) but authoritative technical reference about the non-classified systems of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter across all versions. It is the de facto current F-35 reference book. Since the aircraft has become so ubiquitous and has already established an early and successful combat record with at least two countries, this expensive but outstanding volume will be relevant for a long time.
2. “Phantom Over Vietnam: ” By John Trotti.
Published in 1997 by a former U.S. Marine Corps F-4 Phantom II pilot who flew in the Vietnam Conflict, “Phantom Over Vietnam” provides unique insights into the F-4 Phantom and its use in close air support operations in Southeast Asia. There are fascinating insights in communications techniques used by the F-4 pilots in support of ground troops and in coordination with other air assets in the crowded skies over Vietnam in the 1960s and 70s.
3. “The Tornado Years: More Adventures of a Cold War Fast-Jet Navigator.” By David Herriot.
Sequel to his widely-acclaimed “The Adventures of a Cold War Fast-Jet Navigator: The Buccaneer Years”, award-winning author David Herriot brings us into the back seat of these remarkable British aircraft and provides insights unavailable until now. More than just an aviation book, Herriot is a skilled literary narrator, and his writing makes this short book a true gem.
4. “Topgun Days: Dogfighting, Cheating Death and Hollywood Glory as One of America’s Best Fighter Jocks” By Dave Baranek.
If the real-life “Maverick” wrote a book, this would be it. Dave Baranek, call sign “Bio”, was an elite F-14 Tomcat pilot and elite instructor at the famous U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School, “TOPGUN”. He went on to consult to the film industry about the production of the hit 1986 Hollywood blockbuster, “Top Gun”, starring Tom Cruise. Baranek’s insights into fighter aviation and the sensation surrounding the film “Top Gun” are more relevant than ever in anticipation of the upcoming “Top Gun: Maverick”. This is a book not to be missed.
5. “Russian Tactical Aviation Since 2001” By Yefim Gordon and Dmitriy Komissarov.
If you are a fan of Russian aviation or need a comprehensive reference of the Russian Aerospace Force’s technical capabilities, this book provides an in-depth and detailed overview. You could say, “If you only own one book on Russian aviation, make it this one”. Complete reference to Russian fighters and strike aircraft, written by two eminent experts on the subject matter. In particular, there is great detail about the Sukhoi Su-25, Su-27, Su-30, Beriev A-50 AWACS and many more.
6. “Mikoyan MiG-29 & MiG-35: Famous Russian Aircraft” By Yefim Gordon and Dmitriy Komissarov.
Another definitive reference of Russian aviation by Gordon and Komissarov. This specifically focuses on details of the MiG-29 through new MiG-35 multirole aircraft. This book becomes especially relevant as Russia seeks export customers for their new, generation 4++ MiG-35, a complete update and rework of the original MiG-29 airframe. This book is especially relevant to U.S. readers, whose lagging misconceptions about Russian tactical aviation have them often woefully misinformed.
7. “Spyflights and Overflights: U.S. Strategic Aerial Reconnaissance: 1945-1960” By Robert Hopkins III.
No aerial reconnaissance program in history was as vigorous as the U.S military’s surveillance of the former Soviet Union during the Cold War. In this detailed chronicle of the “golden era” of spy flights, author Robert Hopkins exposes many of the lesser known but truly sensational aerial surveillance efforts by the U.S. during the Cold War. If you thought U.S. reconnaissance was limited to border flights and the U-2 program, you will be delighted with the incredible detail and depth of this fascinating insight.
8. “America’s Secret MiG Squadron: The Red Eagles of Project CONSTANT PEG” By Gaillard R. Peck Jr.
Every aviation enthusiast wonders just exactly what is flying around in the vast, secret training ranges north of Nellis AFB in the Nevada desert. Pioneering adversary simulation pilot and instructor Col. Gaillard R. Peck Jr. was the founding father of the top secret CONSTANT PEG adversary simulation program over the Nevada and California desert that used real, captured and otherwise “obtained” Russian-built MiGs and Sukhois. This is another great read in anticipation of Hollywood’s “Top Gun: Maverick”, but more significantly, this is a historic reference not to be missed and a truly incredible story.
9. “A Higher Call: An Incredible Ture Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of World War II” By Adam Mackos and Larry Alexander.
To this day, it’s hard to understand why this remarkable aviation story has not made it to Hollywood. Until it does, we have the beautiful and reverent narrative account of one of WWII’s more unbelievable incidents: the time a German Me-109 pilot escorted a heavily damaged B-17 to safety. This was suggested to us by lb_aviation on Instagram, and it is a rare story of heroism and valor. Far removed from the technical references we’ve recommended, “A Higher Call” is an inspirational tale of chivalry in the age of total war.
10. “SR-71 Revealed: The Inside Story” By Richard H. Graham.
Aviation and space expert, photographer and contributor to TheAviationist.com, Mr. Matt Haskell, recommended this excellent reference on the development and operation of one of the most famous aircraft in all of aviation history, the SR-71 Blackbird. Author Col. Rich H. Graham spent 15 years with the SR-71 program and provides insights unavailable anywhere else in this wonderful and fascinating accounting.
11. “Sled Driver: Flying the World’s Fastest Jet” By Brian Shul.
Stefano D’Urso, contributor to TheAviationist.com, gave us this gem of a recommendation once we got on the topic of great books about the SR-71 program. “Sled Driver” focuses on the experience of flying the SR-71 and its operations. This is a great partner Volume to Matt Haskell’s recommendation of “SR-71 Revealed: The Inside Story” as mentioned above. “Sled Driver” is a collectible book that has been out of print for a while, so if you want a copy, bring your wallet- used copies are fetching $300 USD easily. But, if you absolutely have to complete that SR-71 book collection, this is one to keep on the top shelf.
12. “Thud Pilot: A Pilot’s Account of Early F-105 Combat in Vietnam” By Victor Vizcarra.
The operational history of the F-105 Thunderchief is one of the most remarkable and notorious aviation stories in history. When you add the magnificent narrative of its operational combat over the skies of North Vietnam told in disarming and articulate candor, you have an aviation masterwork. That is Vic Vizcarra’s “Thud Pilot”. If you only read one book about the air war over Vietnam, this is a solid choice. Vic Vizcarra benefits from the editorial insights of his son, film producer and director and veteran F-14 Tomcat pilot Mark Vizcarra. This is a book by a family of illustrious aviators who contributed heavily to the history of jet combat across two generations in the modern age. One my own all-time favorites.
13. “Hun Pilot: A Pilot’s Account of The First USAF Supersonic Fighter” By Victor Vizcarra.
Vic Vizcarra’s “Thud Pilot” will have you hooked on his colloquial writing style, and the next remarkable installment from the Vizcarra family of great aviators and authors is “Hun Pilot”. This story of flying the North American F-100 Super Sabre touches on the history of America’s first operational supersonic fighter and in how the aircraft and its use evolved during Vietnam. The Super Sabre, the “Lady from El Segundo”, could be a dangerous bitch to fly, and Vizcarra’s account takes you inside the cockpit from avoiding the deadly “Sabre dance” that claimed the lives of F-100 pilots to employing the aircraft in combat over Vietnam. The Vizcarra family is so important to the history of U.S. military aviation that their books are must-reads. Vic Vizcarra’s son, Mark, is an accomplished documentary film producer who has also made award-winning documentaries out of both “Hun Pilot”and “Thud Pilot”, and those are great follow-on insights to these two excellent books. Now all we need is a book from Mark Vizcarra called “Tomcat Pilot”.
14. “Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years at Lockheed” by Ben Rich.
This is a book many aviation geeks already know. It’s the true story of some of the America’s most secret projects, including the F-117 Nighthawk, recounted by Ben Rich, Lockheed Martin’s boss for nearly two decades. Among all the other interesting this, the book also provides some details about the development of stealth helicopter concept to be used to intrude into the Soviet airspace. As discussed during the Live Instagram story, this could have been the concept that later became the Stealth Black Hawk exposed by the Osama Bin Laden’s raid.