Monday, August 29, 2011

See How It Flies

See How It Flies is an excellent on-line book by John Denker. The subtitle is “a new spin on the perceptions, procedures, and principles of flight,” and I think it is quite unique in the way that it integrates practical flying techniques with the physics of flight. Denker is both a physicist and a flight instructor, so I guess such integration makes a certain amount of sense. It’s really a book on how to fly airplanes, with a lot of background material on why things work the way they do. It’s been around since 1996, and since it’s an on-line book (and free, by the way), Denker has updated it over the years based on reader feedback. Copyright date indicates 1996-2008.
Denker seems to be the kind of guy who knows a lot about everything. He wanted simulated wind tunnel graphics for the book, so he wrote a wind tunnel simulator program. He’s done extensive flight instruction, so he knows the kinds of questions and confusions inexperienced pilots are apt to have (though I'm sure most experienced pilots could also learn a lot from this book). He’s a physicist, so he’s not afraid to put a few mathematical expressions in his book (though not a lot – there are many more diagrams and charts than equations). But he’s also a pilot, so he’s not afraid to provide simple, intuitive rules of thumb when they can help (some of them quite literally rules of thumb, like “a thumb at arm’s length subtends 4 degrees,” which is a nice glide slope angle, see figure).
If you want to print the book or have it available off-line, it’s a bit tricky because it is spread across many separate web pages. Saving it correctly with all its graphics and links intact is not easy (at least for me). I was able to find a couple of PDF links to the complete book, but none of the most recent version (this one is from 2001).

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