To commemorate National Aviation Day this August 19th, we’ve listed and summarized several aviation-related biographies and histories that we found well-written and researched—just what you might need to inspire your aviation-related writing.

In each case, the author writes accurately and creatively to draw his or her reader into the story. In addition, we explain how each can provide models of good writing to help you get started writing your own vignettes about the aviators and aviation-related events in your family history.

Our Recommendations


1. Enduring Courage: Ace Pilot Eddie Rickenbacker

At the beginning of John F. Ross’s biography Enduring Courage: Ace Pilot Eddie Rickenbacker and the Dawn of the Age of Speed, Ross opens the first chapter with descriptive writing featuring active, well-chosen verbs. The opening draws the reader right into the day fourteen-year-old Eddie Rickenbacker fell in love with speed.

The details are based on Rickenbacker’s own recollections, and newspaper accounts are woven into the vignette. If you are looking for models on how to write more exciting vignettes for your family histories using creative nonfiction techniques, this book is chock full of interesting examples. It’s an engrossing read for aviation enthusiasts. 

2. Birdmen . . . the Battle to Control the Skies

Let’s say your ancestor was involved in early aircraft take-offs and landings on warships, but you don’t have a sense of what that might have been like. Lawrence Goldstone’s writing and research in Birdmen: The Wright Brothers, Glenn Curtiss, and the Battle to Control the Skies will intrigue any aviation buff, but it can also serve as a great model of how to both inform your readers while inspiring visual images with just the right details to engage their imaginations.


This book explains how the early rope and sandbag system of slowing down the planes on the ship deck platform worked. It also provides a descriptive scene of pilot Eugene Levy’s ground-breaking landing and take-off on a warship’s deck. 

The chapter notes and selected bibliography might help you locate just the detail or fact you need to enliven your family history writing.


3. Women Aviators

If you have early women aviators in your family histories, you might want to learn more about the times in which they lived and the challenges they overcame. 

Mary Lovell’s excellent biographies of Amelia Earhart (The Sound of Wings) and Beryl Markham (Straight on Till Morning) are excellent examples of well-written and engaging biographies of two very well-known female aviators. Also, Lovell’s chapter notes include sources you might find helpful in your own research. 


If a female ancestor was involved in World War II aviation and you want to engage your teens and pre-teens in learning about their accomplishments and working conditions, consider asking them to write a short piece about that ancestor. To help them develop some background knowledge on the topic and to identify credible sources for further research, ask them to read Amy Nathan’s Yankee Doodle Gals: Women Pilots of World War II.

Finally, if the pre-teen or middle school aged girls in your family are interested in aviation and want to expand their knowledge of important women aviators, a good choice is Women Aviators, 26 Stories of Pioneer Flights, daring missions, and Record-Setting Journeys by Karen Bush Gibson. Not only are the short biographies interesting and inspiring, the book offers a useful bibliography of books, videos, and web sites – great resources for the beginning family history researcher!

Feature Image: Glenn Curtiss San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives 

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