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Stick and Rudder: An Explanation of the Art of Flying

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"Stick and Rudder" is the first exact analysis of the art of flying ever attempted. It has been continuously in print for thirty-three years, and has enjoyed steadily increasing sales. Flight instructors have found that the book does indeed explain important phases of the art of flying, in a way the learner can use. It shows precisely what the pilot does when he flies, just how he does it, and why.

400 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 1944

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Wolfgang Langewiesche

22 books5 followers

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5 stars
711 (58%)
4 stars
351 (29%)
3 stars
119 (9%)
2 stars
18 (1%)
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7 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 84 reviews
Profile Image for Scott.
37 reviews6 followers
August 2, 2015
Don't let the 50s art of the cover fool you. This book is just as relevant and informative now as when it was originally written. Practical insights into understanding for pilots and those who are curious about how airplanes work. Cleverly written, this book does not become too technical, but remains grounded in the fundamental physics underlying flight.

A very enjoyable read.
Profile Image for Dan.
26 reviews14 followers
December 29, 2007
I can't add much to the general consensus. This should be required reading for anyone who wants to fly a fixed-wing craft. Parts of it are getting a little dated, though (it's over 60 years old), but it generally holds up quite well.

For anyone interested in this book, let me also point you to John Denker's See How it Flies , a really excellent discussion of flying techniques and aviation physics presented in a manner accessible to all pilots. It is a great compliment and follow up read to Stick and Rudder and is available in it's entirety free online.
Profile Image for AJ.
1,447 reviews112 followers
September 27, 2018
There's not much I can add to the discussion about the relevancy of this book, almost 75 years after it was first written. Much of it is centered about important flight fundamentals that should honestly be included in any flight training. (Thankfully, my CFIs do a great job and I did not find any of the "shocking" truths about the airplane controls to be actually all that radical, but what I already knew to be true.)

One thing that may not be terribly relevant today is the discussions on landing, as they pertain mostly to taildraggers. Not that people don't fly conventional-gear aircraft anymore, it is just less common. Nose-wheel airplanes are sort of mentioned as novelty items. Lots of discussion is also made on rudderless and "stall-proof" airplanes, of which I haven't encountered any. Not sure if they were just hyped up or pipe dreams, but as far as my limited knowledge of airplanes goes, any airplane can have its critical angle of attack exceeded by any idiot, and I have yet to meet an airplane without a rudder.

I would say if you skip any section of this book, it would be the last few chapters. Chapter 18 discusses flight safety. It is definitely dated. Read the Nall Report instead. Really. The author of the chapter states that weather is not a deadly problem for most pilots. I disagree. Chapter 19 is mostly a discussion of v-speeds, which is a useful discussion, but the author makes it sound as if it's impossible to determine what these numbers actually are for any given airplane. I'm not sure if AFM/POH documents didn't exist back "in the day" or if they just sucked, but v-speeds are easy to determine for modern airplanes.

All that said, I highly recommend reading this book to any pilot, student or not. You'll probably find out something new or at least have a better conceptual understanding of what you're doing when you're up in the air, and that is always valuable.
Profile Image for Esteban del Mal.
191 reviews64 followers
October 9, 2009
I thought this was a book about drag queens. Turns out it's about flying. I suspect that in the final analysis, the two aren't very different. I'll let you all know when I finish.


"Someone once said that if you will look at an airplane long enough, sit in it long enough, fool with the controls long enough you will decide you can fly it."

Not this cowboy. Call Bernoulli's Principle whatever you want, it's still voodoo.
8 reviews
August 10, 2010
If ever you aspire to take the controls of an aircraft, read this first.

There's even some really good stuff about instrument flying, but (as the name suggests), it's really all about what you do with your hands and feet, and how you convince your brain to give the right orders!
Profile Image for Jaclyn.
26 reviews1 follower
March 22, 2013
I've only taken a few flight lessons and wanted to get a better knowledge of the mechanics of flight. This book was perfect. Langewiesche is a master of describing complicated subjects in the most digestible way possible. I love how he interjects the voice of the confused student "But, why would the plane do that?". It's usually what the reader is thinking (at least I was) and it felt oftentimes that it was more of a conversation which was great.

This is one of the few flight books I've read so far so I can't easily compare it to others. BUT I can say that the way he stereotypes pilots is quite outdated. All those mentions of "Learn [flight stunt] to impress your girlfriend" or "Now you can even explain [flight mechanic] to your girlfriend so even she will understand!" really rubbed me the wrong way, but I'll let it slide.
Profile Image for Ahmad.
73 reviews5 followers
September 15, 2021
I love that we hunans can fly above the clouds and travel the world.
Flying an aircraft is amongst the most mesmerizing experiences that human can experience. This book is a very intuitive and brief guide of flying an airplane. It covers all the basics for pilots to grasp the concept of flying. As a general aviation point of view its a very good guide but not so much for airliners. Still it's a good read for any aviation enthusiast.

This book targeted to a specific niche. If someone can't relate or have no interest to know about the art of flying then this book is not for them. Reading it can be dry and boring.
Profile Image for Arukiyomi.
382 reviews71 followers
February 20, 2021
I’ve always been fascintated by flying and, since building myself a computer that can cope with it, I’ve been using a flight simulator to teach myself how to fly. Stick and Rudder is one of those texts that anyone learning to fly is recommended to read. It was first published in 1944 when getting people (read: men) to fly was somewhat of a US government requirement.

Getting people in the air was one thing. Helping them stay there was an increasing problem. The world had rushed headlong into flight but hadn’t put as much thought into what people might do while they were up there. It turned out that they were likely to do many things that seemed logical but were actually going to kill them.

Along came Wolfgang who compiled articles he’d written for aviation magazines along with a section by a colleague and a classic was born. The fact that it is still widely read today when aviation technology has changed beyond recognition belies the fact that, when it comes down to it, the fundamentals of flying remain unchanged.

As someone who has literally only had 2 hours and 55 minutes’ real flying time (Piper PA-28) in his life (and prob. over 100 on a sim), Langewiesche’s lessons are invaluable. The basic premise is this: it’s all about making sure that your angle of attack isn’t too high. I don’t think there was any situation described in the book in which death wasn’t immediately preceeded by stalling and stalling by too high an angle of attack.

If the phrase “angle of attack” is a mystery to you, it’s either because you have no interest in flying and don’t need to know or because you do have an interest in flying but have been learning the wrong things. It’s you, budding aviator, who needs to get a copy of this. Some it is a bit repetitive, but that’s probably necessary. It’s essential reading.

You can probably leave aside all the quaint advice about tightening the stays between your wings and landing aircraft with wheels under the tail. However, you ignore the rest of the book at your peril … and that of anyone with you or beneath you.

For more reviews and the 1001 Books Spreadsheet, visit http://arukiyomi.com
Profile Image for Sadia Nahreen.
14 reviews9 followers
October 11, 2022
As a student pilot, I found this book to be an excellent read, as it cleared quite a lot of misconceptions regarding airplane aerodynamics for me, gave me counterintuitive insights into airplane's behavior in abnormal situations and ideas about common (and uncommon) ways things go wrong in an otherwise boring flight.

I docked a point because I found it very repetitive (or maybe that was the point in order to make the point?) in explaining the concepts. It also assumed a few 'misconceptions' which I don't think is as common as it was made to look like, and consequently wasted a lot of time 'clearing' them out.

If anyone has a good summary of this book please let me know, I'd love to revise it from time to time.
222 reviews1 follower
February 22, 2019
As a private pilot I was recommended this book 35 years ago when I was learning to fly. I have reread parts of this many times in flying over those years. It is a required touch stone for anyone who wants to fly, is learning to fly, or who does fly. If you fly a small private aircraft, military plane or an airliner all of the tenants, principles and dictum's in this book will make and keep you a better flyer.
2 reviews
September 30, 2022
For those who are interested in flying and the science/physics behind it, this is a must-read book. It was originally published in 1944, so it is the definition of "an oldie but a goodie". The book is split into 7 chapters, each having 3-4 sub-sections. The book explains the key parts of flying including the wings of the airplane, understanding the air, airplane controls, maneuvers, dangers, and "more air sense". The first chapter covers the reason wings cause the airplane to do the things it does, and clearly explains the physics behind it. This is a fairly complex book to understand, but there are drawings and diagrams every few pages to help with a visualization of the text.

As someone who struggles with reading for long periods of time, and understanding complex texts, these diagrams are extremely helpful and really help visualize the meaning of the text. This is a book that you can sit down for hours and read, or pick up and have a "quick read". Since this is a non-fictional book of information, there is no chronological story that needs to be followed and does not leave you sitting on the edge of your seat. Instead, the book has you desiring to continue to learn and read more and more. Because of this, I have had great enjoyment reading the book. I can read it for however long, and wherever I would like and still retain the same amount of great information.
Profile Image for Timber.
318 reviews
March 1, 2021
After nearly 2 years of trying to force myself to get through this book, I'm throwing in the towel. I really wanted to love this book, but I didn't. So many people recommended this book and I'm sure my grandfather enjoyed this book when he was in flight training so I was sure I'd love it. Nope. There are so many modern books that explain aviation so much better than this 1940s relic. I found it to be nearly entirely outdated and some advice it gives is incorrect for standard procedure nowadays. There are a few moments I enjoyed in the book, but overall, all the principles of flight are explained better elsewhere.
Profile Image for John Sperling.
131 reviews7 followers
February 28, 2021
I enjoyed this book. It is useful practically and theoretically. First published in 1944, it is still incredibly relevant. It was probably the first good attempt to bring engineering analysis to the actual practice of flying airplanes, and one of the first to emphasize the importance of angle of attack in all phases of flight. There is at least one not-so-minor error, such as the idea on p. 33 that a stalled wing doesn't produce lift. In fact, at the stall a wing's coefficient of lift is at maximum; a stalled wing still produces lift, just not enough to keep the aircraft in the air. The control wheel as the speed control, and the throttle as the altitude control-all of which may initially seem counterintuitive-is explained thoroughly. The anachronistic sexism (the flier is always "he/him", the aircraft always "his") is an annoying presence throughout the book. Perhaps a new edition is in order. Good flight training doesn't teach a student pilot everything they need to know (there is far too much), but teaches the essentials and gives them tools to explore safely. This book is a good addition to that training.
Profile Image for Chris Vig.
15 reviews
January 3, 2022
This is, without a doubt, the single most important book ever written about the art of flying airplanes. To a modern reader it may no longer be as revolutionary as it was when first released in the 1940s, but that’s only because Langewiesche’s ideas have already been thoroughly integrated into the modern pilot curriculum. That said, it should still be required reading for anyone who flies a fixed-wing aircraft, at any skill level, from student pilots all the way up to the space shuttle. Fascinating, lucid, detailed, and often quite funny, it *will* make you a better pilot.
197 reviews1 follower
May 27, 2023
Really enjoyed this book despite that it is, at times, dry and repetitive.

A book of this length would usually be a 9 to 11 day read for me, but this one took me 15 days. Mostly because it's very information-heavy and I found myself taking a lot of notes.

On a positive note, despite this book being 80 years old, virtually everything in this book still applies today. What other books about technology/machinery/means of travel can that be said about?

This is still a considered a primary reference book in the world of pilots and aviation today.
January 17, 2018
This should be the first (or next) book any prospective student pilot or current pilot reads (especially flight instructors). Instructor turnover at flight schools is rapid and increasing, leading to new pilots, who were trained by new pilots, training still newer pilots. This book contains the information that won’t necessarily be specifically asked for on a practical test, but that will keep pilots alive.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
451 reviews7 followers
August 28, 2018
This book was fantastic! I've never read a more useful flying aid. Students who fly conventional geared (taildragger) airplanes are going to get the most out of this book. The last two chapters didn't hold up well to the rest. The author was also very thoughtful about "future improvements" to airplane design...but learning on very antique antiques is a very common thing in my area which made it idealistically cute. Good thing the rest was highly practical.
Profile Image for Edin Kapic.
39 reviews2 followers
May 20, 2020
A book on flying that has aged remarkably well. It's written in the 1940s but the sound advice is still sound for flying GA propeller planes. The repetitive nature of the chapters (due to the book being published as columns, I think) distracts a little bit as the core advice is repeated and hammered on almost every page: rudder doesn't turn the plane (it cancels the adverse yaw), the stick is the plane speed control and the throttle is the plane climb/descent control.
1 review
November 11, 2020
As a pilot trained after WWII, calling the elevators “flippers” will never not sound silly. That said, a phenomenal book about practical flying. Much of the cowboy type flying suggested in the book (feeling the stall and flying just above that on final approach) is not really in style or considered safe anymore. The practical examples of proper rudder use and how wings and trim set airspeed are amazingly helpful.
5 reviews
December 28, 2021
Every aspiring pilot should read this; it may save your life. While it is an older work, the fundamentals of physics are unchanging. The triumvirate of relative wind, angle of attack, and the urge to pull the nose up (even when that's what will kill you) are critical to internalize, and this book does a good job of driving it home.
Profile Image for Evan Hanau.
2 reviews
July 15, 2022
This book teaches you to think like a pilot. Not like an aeronautical engineer, but as a pilot. I read it a month before I first soloed and airplane and I credit it with making me a safer aviator. While technology has long since progressed past what is written here, the fundamentals will never change.
Profile Image for Mike.
8 reviews
January 4, 2018
This book would be more aptly named "Don't be an idiot, get the stick forward (and also don't do that with your rudder)"

It will take a while to read but it's worth trying to understand everything written in these pages.
April 16, 2019
A quintessential and relevant description of the practical application of aerodynamics. Although an old book, it has concepts that apply to the modern aircraft just as well today. A fantastic read during Air Force pilot training. L
Profile Image for Claire Bonello.
430 reviews8 followers
March 31, 2020
An absolute must-read for student pilots (or other aviation enthusiasts) who understand things more when they're explained rather than shown. A true explanation of the art of flying, and a glimpse of the aviation world in the 1940s.
Profile Image for Matt Kelland.
1,469 reviews2 followers
June 9, 2020
An excellent book about how airplanes actually work - a recommended read for any would-be pilot. It addresses common misconceptions about how to fly a plane - and it should probably be renamed "Stick and Throttle (and don't touch the damn rudder unless you really, really, know what you're doing)"
60 reviews
April 4, 2021
Great book for pilots of all ages and capabilities. This should be mandatory reading for pilots during their initial training, and read again somewhere down the line. It teaches the fundamental topic, flying the wing and angle of attack, which is often not 'felt' or understood by pilots.
Profile Image for Fernando Cardoso.
13 reviews5 followers
November 23, 2018
I wish one day I'll be able to, constantly and unconsciously, know where the wind is coming from. :-)
Profile Image for Sean Morrow.
4 reviews
November 22, 2019
Classic book on flying. Every instructor I've talked to has heard of this book and recommends it.
I think this book belongs on the shelf of everyone thinking of learning to fly.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 84 reviews

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