Category Archives: Soaring

Books I’ve read recently

Berlin at War

I was in England a couple weeks ago. I stopped in a bookstore and asked if they had a book I had seen online. Buying in person saved shipping, but the train ticket may not make for good math!

I’ve commented before that I’ve been trying to raise the level of what I am reading. I have some basic novels on the way from Amazon and a few good books queued up. Next is the history of the periodic table (OK, that one’s not for everybody).

I was surprised to learn there were American journalists in Berlin for 27 months after the war started in 1939.

Last night I finished reading Berlin at War by British historian Roger Moorhouse. It is an incredible story about life in Berlin from 1939-1945, and how the average citizen lived during food shortages, bombings, no water/electricity, and the Russian assault/occupation of the city. The story of real people is much different than the story of the generals and the grand strategists. I’d like to find a similar book about the UK or the US.

I was surprised to learn there were American journalists in Berlin for 27 months after the war started in 1939.

As a teenager visiting East Berlin a few times, I saw some signs of the war, but nothing to indicate what life must have been like. This book closes that loop.

Soaring Books I like or recommend

In no particular order, some of my thoughts on soaring-related books

I’ve flown power planes since 1978 (I soloed when I was 18). I had a couple glider rides over the years, and my grad school graduation present to myself in 1991 was going to be joining the local glider club. Unfortunately, some time shortly before I graduated, the club disbanded. I eventually become a glider pilot in 2011.

A note about the links – they go either to the original author’s- or publisher’s website or they go to Amazon. If you buy it from Amazon, I get a few cents credited to a gift card. If you end up buying something from Tom Knauff or Bob Wander, please let them know you saw the link here. I don’t get anything beyond good will, but that’s OK; it’s a small population in the sport.

Helmut Reichmann’s Cross Country Soaring in the original German has been the most challenging hobby-related reading I’ve ever done!

Tom Knauff

Some time in the early 90’s I came across an earlier edition of Tom Knauff’s book Transition to Gliders in a pile of closeout books. It was (and still is) an interesting introduction to flying gliders for people who already know how to fly.

In addition to Transition to Gliders mentioned above, I have more of Tom’s books. His bronze badge study guide and Bronze Test Instructor’s guide are both useful study materials. However, I was able to test the limits of my own knowledge when the answers to a couple questions didn’t make sense. Turned out the key was wrong! I’ve shared that info with Tom for the next edition(s).

Tom publishes incredibly famous glider pilot/instructor Derek Piggott’s book Gliding Safety for the American market. Although it’s an older book, the gliders he describes as suitable for new owners are still a rather accurate reflection of what’s available on the used market today.

I don’t have these books, but Tom asked me to mention them. Glider Basics from First Flight To Solo and After Solo are unique because they fulfill the subjects required by the Fedral Aviation as it applies to “flying” the aircraft. Ground school, non-flying subjects are found in The Glider Flying Handbook, a much revised edition of the FAA manual.

Bob Wander

Weather is important to glider pilots. The weather-related phenomena that we use to fly includes ridge lift, wave, and thermals. Two books that really excite me (perhaps it’s my physics background?) about waves and thermals are Thermals by Rolf Hertenstein, Ph. D. and Practical Wave Flying by Mark Palmer. Both are available as part of Bob Wander’s Gliding Mentor Series. I can’t recommend either of these enough. Bob’s website uses frames, so I can’t give you a link directly to the page, but you can find it.

Bob also has what he calls his “… Made Easy” series. Each of these books takes a single topic such as badges (A, B, C; Bronze; and Silver), safety, transition to single-seat gliders, towing, and so on and focusses on the basic facts needed to grasp the topic. I found the Commercial Pilot Glider Checkride very helpful as I prepared for my own checkride. I’m now studying Flight instructor Glider Checkride
as I prepare for CFI-G training. If you have a decent library, or several of the “… Made Easy” books you begin to get some dupliction, but for a good introduction on the topic they are hard to beat. promises a lot on their website. These are not cheap books. I bought both recently as I started CFIG training. I found them pleasant reading and learned some new things. The section on weather seems particularly “learn-from-able.”


I have become very interested in glider aerobatics. There are very few glider-specific books on the topic. I have two of them, though. Les Horvath’s book Sailplane Aerobatics is a good introduction. It’s a 5″ x 7″ comb-bound book. I bought my copy from the Soaring Society of America (SSA), but I’m sure it’s available elsewhere. The other book I have is The Handbook of Glider Aerobatics by British aerobatic pilots Peter Mallinson and Mike Woollard. This is also an interesting and useful book. I read both before taking aerobatic lessons and then again afterwards. Both times were beneficial. I’m not going to divulge any more about my aerobatic experience(s) because I’ve promised to write an article for the SSA!


A good understanding of weather is critical to the sport. Here are the books I’ve been using to learn. I bought Brian Cosgrove’s Pilot’s Weather on a trip to England. Former senior Swiss meteorolgist Kark Heinz Hack has Aviation Meteorolgy in both English and German; his artwork is amazing! I’ve been studying FAA test-related weather using Gleim’s Aviation Weather & Weather Services, two FAA pubs in one volume.

British Gliding Association

British Gliding Association (BGA) book store has a lot of European soaring books. Their Instructor’s Manual is a great book. Although some of the content is related to flying in the UK, much of the “how” and “why” is quite useful for American pilots, too. How many American CFI-G manuals include aerobatics as part of normal training?

The Germans invented the sport/hobby, so read about it auf Deutsch!

Sometimes you find more challenge than you expect. The German book Segelfliegen für Anfänger, by Alexander Willberg, was interesting to read. I bought it a few weeks after starting gliding in Germany. As I read from one page to the next, it was often confusing, like a verbal speed bump. It turned out that the book has theory on one side of the page spread and practical tips on the other. You don’t read left then right, but left, left, left or right, right, right. No wonder it was confusing! The book is full of great information up through getting to basic solo flying. There’s no information on soaring techniques, but it gave me a great start on the important vocabulary.

Helmut Reichmann’s Streckenflug in the original German has been the most challenging hobby-related reading I’ve ever done! Reichmann’s Cross-country soaring is the classic for people wanting to set off beyond gliding distance of the airfield. The furthest I’ve been from the runway is about four kilometers while flying on Chiltern Ridge at Dunstable Downs, England. In the spring I’m going to give some sort of cross-country flight a try. Will I make Silver?

Marc Brökelmann’s Handbuch für Segelfluglehrer, zeitgemäße Segelflugausbildung is, not surprisingly, a rather German-club-centric, but has some good ideas for clubs with anyone who speaks German. It will certainly help me maintain my German soaring vocabulary!