The Student Pilot’s Flight Manual

Student Pilot's Flight Manual

In the category of Books That Have Made an Impact on Me, there is one that I always seem to forget, although it’s impact has been profound: The Student Pilot’s Flight Manual by William Kershner.

I first encountered this book (with the cover seen above) in 1980 or 1981 when I was 8 or 9 years old. My dad was taking ground school at T. F. Green airport in Warwick, Rhode Island. The book was sitting around, I guess, or maybe he gave it to me to look at. The result was astounding. The minute I began flipping through its pages, I knew I wanted to fly.

I believe it is the first book I ever memorized from cover-to-cover. Much of it I didn’t understand, despite having memorized it, but a lot of I did. For one thing, the book taught me that flying a plane was not as simple as driving a car. For another, it taught that in many ways it was far simpler. I could draw the control panel of a Cessna 152 from memory, thanks to that book. I would draw them and pretend I was flying. A few years later, when the first version of Microsoft Flight Simulator went on the market, I began pretending on those as well.

When I was 15 years old, my cousin, a pilot, took me up in his Cessna 182. We flew over parts of New Hampshire, and he let me at the controls. That just confirmed what the book told me when I picked it up. I was supposed to fly.

In 1999, I began taking flying lessons out of Van Nuys airport in Van Nuys, California. On April 3, 2000, I passed my practical examination (on the first try!) and was a licensed private pilot. I don’t think we used Kershner’s book in the ground instruction I took for my license. There was some other book. But I still had Kershner’s book, tattered though it was, and I read and re-read it. I had about a year and a half of flying before 9/11 made it difficult and expensive for fair weather pilots like me.

I haven’t thought of The Student Pilot’s Flight Manual in years, and I’m not sure why I thought of it recently, but I’m glad that I did. I think it is the perfect demonstration of the power of books. Give a kid the right book when he’s 8 years old, and 19 years later, he’s achieved one of his dreams.

Published by Jamie Todd Rubin

Jamie Todd Rubin writes fiction and nonfiction for a variety of publications including Analog, Clarkesworld, The Daily Beast, 99U, Daily Science Fiction, Lightspeed, InterGalactic Medicine Show, and several anthologies. He was featured in Lifehacker’s How I Work series. He has been blogging since 2005. By day, he manages software projects and occasionally writes code. He lives in Falls Church, Virginia with his wife and three children. Find him on Twitter at @jamietr.

One reply on “The Student Pilot’s Flight Manual”

  1. Bill Kershner’s books are great. I keep a copy of his Flight Instructor’s Manual handy. It’s about how to teach a student, not how to pass the CFI check ride. What a great post about following your dream and the power of books!

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