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16 Best Books for Helicopter Pilots - The Rotor Break

16 Best Books for Helicopter Pilots

Helicopter Pilot books

The “Best Books for Helicopter Pilots” list was created after extensive research. It includes the funny, the sad and some very moving true stories. You’ll also find books dedicated to “lessons learned” as well as those that will help you pass that next checkride and they are all available on Amazon right now. We will continually update and review the list so if you have a book that you love and would like to see it included in our list, please let us know.

71 Lessons From The Sky

by Fletcher McKenzie

A new survival guide for Helicopter pilots, Read the stories from seasoned aviators willing to share their experiences so that we can all learn from them and create our own preventive strategies for flying safely.
These 71 lessons offer a unique window to help identify the signs aircrew may miss until it’s too late. 

Fatal Traps for Helicopter Pilots

by Greg Whyte

A vital resource for pilots, helicopter enthusiasts, and aircraft maintenance technicians, Fatal Traps for Helicopter Pilots analyzes all aspects of helicopter accidents, including flight basics, engineering, meteorology, flight training, and human factors. This life-saving guide shows how proper preparation can help prevent accidents by addressing causes such as aerodynamic problems, mechanical failures, poor loading, mid-air collisions, and more.

Life Lessons From The Cockpit: Captivating Stories Of a BlackHawk Pilot

by Frank Van Buren

Frank Van Buren’s riveting, first person anecdotes, experienced over six years as a Blackhawk pilot in the U.S. Army, are a fun read with unforgettable lessons. The short stories involve harrowing close calls, incredible mental and physical challenges, and moments of high tension. Frank shares insights at difficult and challenging moments, reflecting the struggles, mistakes and obstacles he had to overcome in order to succeed. “Life Lessons From The Cockpit” is a compelling American success story, told in a way that relates to anyone who has ambitious dreams, but is hesitant to pursue them. This one is ideal if you are looking for an inspirational book that combines interesting storytelling with an honest recognition of the disabling emotions that we must conquer in order to succeed and experience a self-fulfilling life.

Search and Rescue (SAR)

Dustoff 7-3

by Erik Sabiston

This book is for heroes. Dustoff 7-3 tells the true story of four unlikely heroes in the rugged mountains of Afghanistan, where medics are forced to descend on wires to reach the wounded and helicopter pilots must fight wind, weather, and enemy fire to pluck casualties from some of the world’s most difficult combat arenas. Complete opposites thrown together, cut off, and outnumbered, Chief Warrant Officer Erik Sabiston and his flight crew answered the call in a race against time, not to take lives but to save them. The concept of evacuating wounded soldiers by helicopter developed in the Korean War and became a staple during the war in Vietnam where heroic, unarmed chopper crews flew vital missions known to the grateful grunts on the ground as Dustoffs. The crew of Dustoff 7-3 carried on that heroic tradition, flying over a region that had seen scores of American casualties, known among veterans as the Valley of Death. At the end of Operation Hammer Down, they had rescued 14 soldiers, made three critical supply runs, recovered two soldiers killed in action, and nearly died. It took all of three days. 

Heart of the Storm: My Adventures as a Helicopter Rescue Pilot and Commander

by Colonel Edward L. Fleming

A real gift for adventure readers, this is the autobiography of a veteran U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard rescue helicopter pilot. The title refers to where Fleming spent a good deal of his time, including during the “Perfect Storm” of book and movie fame and on the longest helicopter rescue mission ever flown–to rescue the sole survivor of a freighter lost off Newfoundland. Fleming also survived Vietnam-era helicopter training, served in the Gulf War and, toward the end of his career, organized the complex mission that rescued cancer-stricken Dr. Jerri Nielsen from the South Pole.

Never Quit: From Alaskan Wilderness Rescues to Afghanistan Firefights as an Elite Special Ops PJ

by Jimmy Settle

Never Quit is the true story of how Jimmy Settle, an Alaskan shoe store clerk, became a Special Forces Operator and war hero. After being shot in the head during a dangerous high mountain operation in the rugged Watapur Valley in Afghanistan, Jimmy returns to battle with his teammates for a heroic rescue, the bullet fragments stitched over and still in his skull. In a cross between a suicide rescue mission and an against-all-odds mountain battle, his team of PJs risk their lives again in an epic firefight. When his helicopter is hit and begins leaking fuel, Jimmy finds himself in the worst possible position as a rescue specialist—forced to leave members from his own team behind. Jimmy will have to risk everything to get back into the battle and bring back his brothers.

Rescue Pilot: Cheating the Sea

by Jerry Grayson

Jerry Grayson is an ordinary man who chose an extraordinary career. At age 17 he became the youngest helicopter pilot to ever serve in the Royal Navy. By age 25 he was the most decorated peacetime naval pilot in history.

His finest hour came during the infamous Fastnet Yacht Race of 1979 in which 25 yachts were lost. When a catastrophic storm enveloped the competitors he and his crew pushed their Wessex helicopter to its absolute limits and put their own lives at risk, flying into hurricane-force winds to winch shipwrecked sailors from heaving tempestuous seas. An investiture at Buckingham Palace with Her Majesty the Queen was the result.

Being a Rescue Pilot is a fast-paced career because there is no choice. Excitingly told, frequently funny but also very poignant, Jerry’s story is not an account of just one man’s deeds, it is a salute to all the men and women he worked with who were able to turn tragedies into triumphs.

Emergency Medical Services (EMS)

A Life on the Line: A MICA Flight Paramedic’s Story

by Darren Hodge

Darren Hodge has been a Medic for over 30 years and he wrote this book to share with the reader some of the more memorable experiences of his amazing career. His personal experiences from a collection of stories as a Medic and Flight Paramedic onboard an AW139 Helicopter for Air Ambulance Victoria in Australia will leave you happy, sad, and inspired. It’s a must-read for anyone involved in the EMS or HEMS industry.

Thankfully, Darren has also provided us with a “Day In The Life” story, that we recently published on our Blog. You can check that out here, A Day In The Life…Helicopter Flight Paramedic!

Life Inside the Dead Man’s Curve

by Kevin MacDonald

Travis County STAR Flight, in Austin, Texas, is recognized as one of the premier public-safety helicopter programs in the United States. Life Inside the Dead Man’s Curve is a firsthand account of the tragedy and triumph witnessed by STAR Flight crews as they respond to a myriad of emergencies, everything from traumatic injuries to rescues―and more. The author, Kevin McDonald, recounts how he turned his passion for flying into an extraordinary career filled with real-life twists and turns that will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. From his early days as a naval aviator, to his twenty years as a STAR Flight pilot, Kevin takes the reader on a powerful, emotional roller-coaster ride. Even if you’re not an aviation enthusiast, you need to strap in for this read. This is more than a book about flying helicopters―it’s a book about life, life inside the dead man’s curve.

Flying the Lifeline: Volume 2, Scene Call

by Patrick R Shaub

Finding himself a newly minted civilian in Los Angeles, former Marine helicopter pilot Paul Stone finds the least regimented job he can do in a helicopter. Working for John, an old hippie with a surprising past, Paul learns valuable lessons in living and enjoying his new life. He takes these lessons with him to settle quietly in the hill country of Central Texas. Life is easy until his old flight student and protégé, Arlen appears. With him Arlen brings Paul the answer to a long forgotten prayer. Soon, Paul is immersed in the life and work of an air ambulance pilot “Flying the Lifeline.” See what it’s like from an air ambulance pilot’s point of view. Strap into “Lifeline One.” Take the risks and learn the tricks that carry the crew day and night, through weather good and horrible to and from the trauma and medical ‘scene calls’ than mean life and death for them and for their patients.


The Helicopter Pilot – A Novel

by Darcy Hoover

An established career in the First World grows stagnant, an opportunity presents itself, and a timid man ventures abroad. In the unforgiving world of offshore oil exploration in a small African village, Edward tentatively drifts beyond his self-imposed boundaries, and finds himself drawn deeper into an existence he cannot escape. This is Edward’s struggle with his environment as much as his own nature, and the man he desires to be.

Author Darcy Hoover is no stranger to “The Rotor Break”. Author of not one but TWO of our most popular blog posts, A Day in the Life…The international Ferry Flight! and Pave Your Own Road…My Helicopter Pilot Career! Click on the titles or visit our Blog to read more.

Vietnam Era


by Robert Mason

More than half a million copies of Chickenhawk have been sold since it was first published in 1983. Now with a new afterword by the author and photographs taken by him during the conflict, this straight-from-the-shoulder account tells the electrifying truth about the helicopter war in Vietnam. This is Robert Mason’s astounding personal story of men at war. A veteran of more than one thousand combat missions, Mason gives staggering descriptions that cut to the heart of the combat experience: the fear and belligerence, the quiet insights and raging madness, the lasting friendships and sudden death—the extreme emotions of a “chickenhawk” in constant danger. 

19 Minutes to Live – Helicopter Combat in Vietnam: A Memoir

by Lew Jennings

“19 Minutes to Live” illustrates the incredible courage and determination of helicopter pilots and crews supporting those heroes that carried a rucksack and a rifle in Vietnam. Over 12,000 helicopters were used in the Vietnam War, which is why it became known as “The Helicopter War”. Almost half of the helicopters, 5,086, were lost. Helicopter pilots and crews accounted for nearly 10 percent of all the US casualties suffered in Vietnam, with nearly 5,000 killed and an untold number of wounded. Lew Jennings flew over 700 Air Cavalry Cobra Gunship Helicopter missions and received Three Distinguished Flying Crosses for Valor. This memoir describes first-hand the harrowing experiences of helicopter pilots and crews in combat operations.

Education and Training

Helicopter Study Guide: A practical review for the checkride.

by Bradley J. Fenster

This guide provides an excellent review of key material to help the helicopter student pass their check ride. The guide uses a question and answer format, with expanded explanations. This format is helpful for student preparing for the oral portion of the checkride. This edition is written for the private pilot, but contains useful information for all pilots. 

Learning to Fly Helicopters, 2nd Edition

by R. Randall Padfield

Extensively revised to cover the latest industry advances, Learning to Fly Helicopters, Second Edition, provides details on the technical and practical aspects of rotary-wing flight, guiding you from preflight preparation through postflight procedures and everything in between. Written in a conversational style, the book demystifies the art and science of helicopter flying

Cyclic & Collective

by Shawn Coyle

Possibly the most complete book written to date on helicopters and helicopter flying. Covers subjects not covered by other manuals such as turbine engines, performance, flight manuals, automatic flight controls, legal aspects, introductory stability and control and multi-engine helicopters.

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The Rotor Break is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to, as such, some of the links above may be  Amazon Affiliate links. 

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