Well, since this stack is in beta, I thought I'd take a wack at asking a book question to see how it fits in this particular community (of if it even fits to begin with).

I'm very curious about how aerodynamics work in plane design (especially wing design), but it's hard for me to ask questions here because I'm lack knowledge of so many of the basics. So I wondered if I could get a recommendation on a good book to learn the basics of aerodynamics? Keeping in mind that my understanding of math is limited, so I would need a book that explains the math being used to some extent.

Bear in mind when answering: This is a Q&A site, so try and have some reasoning behind why your book is the best. Especially if you could show it has good explanations of the math and, also, the books is good for the somewhat beginner.

Let's see if this works...

  • $\begingroup$ Book recommendations are generally not good fit for this Q&A format, but as you say lets see how the rest of the community respond $\endgroup$
    – Jamiec
    Jun 17, 2014 at 16:14
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    $\begingroup$ @Jamiec. Basically. I kind of wish that SE had a special area for book recommendations, as I think it would be awful useful. There's just a lot of smart people here, so I'd like to know their recommendations. $\endgroup$
    – Jae Carr
    Jun 17, 2014 at 16:16
  • $\begingroup$ I neither agree nor disagree, but its certainly something relevant to the wider community. Make the suggestion: meta.stackexchange.com $\endgroup$
    – Jamiec
    Jun 17, 2014 at 16:29
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    $\begingroup$ Theres a stack of books for aerodynamics here -- goodreads.com/shelf/show/aerodynamics $\endgroup$
    – Tasos
    Jun 17, 2014 at 18:50
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    $\begingroup$ I've converted this to a Wiki so if the community decides it gets to stay it can have one authoritative answer ala The C++ question. (The side effect is "Sorry guys, no rep" :-/ ) $\endgroup$
    – voretaq7
    Jun 17, 2014 at 19:00

5 Answers 5



  1. Fundamentals of Aerodynamics by John D. Anderson, Jr.
    Introduces the basics of aerodynamics with historical background, the mathematical explanation and some practical applications. In the latest edition, Computational Fluid Dynamics is also discussed.

  2. Mechanics Of Flight by Warren F. Phillips.
    Anderson's book is a good text for understanding the building blocks of fluid dynamics, such as the different types of flow. It is good for understanding how airfoils and wings work, as well as understanding the microscopic flow considerations. Phillips' text also talks plenty about flight dynamics and control, so you can better picture the forces acting on an airplane.
    Anderson's and Phillips' make a very good learning pack.


No books found as of yet


  1. Fluid Dynamic Lift & Fluid Dynamic Drag both by Hoerner
    I wouldn't consider these to be great "learning" textbooks, and the math can get very intensive at times, but these are still go-to reference text, and they are a great resource if you want to start a "deep dive" into aerodynamics and the practical effects of various design decisions. Both books are replete with wind-tunnel testing information and diagrams, as well as the supporting equations to back it all up.

Classics / Older

  1. Aerodynamics for Naval Aviators by H. H. Hurt Jr.
    This is a good primer on basic aerodynamics - as the title implies it's primarily aimed at naval aviators, but the material is pretty accessible and much of it is applicable to all fixed-wing aviation. There's even some helicopter stuff in there, though the section is rather thin.
    This book is available from a number of publishers. It is also known as NAVAIR 00-80T-80 or NAVWEPS 00-80T-80 and available from the FAA in PDF form.

Additional references

As far as mathematics goes, you can get Stewart's Calculus text. It is a pretty good book with quite satisfactory explanations, and you can get an older edition for almost nothing (make sure you get the full text with both single variable calculus and multivariable calculus sections). Without a basic understanding of calculus it will be difficult for you to get a good grasp of the aerodynamics material.

  • $\begingroup$ For Mechanics of Flight, I only found a book by Kermode, which says 9th edition... is this the same book as the Phillips one referenced here? @Farhan $\endgroup$
    – user42838
    Sep 8, 2019 at 22:13

I'm with DeltaLima's book recommendation [pdf].

Otherwise, this chapter of a larger ebook covers some basic aerodynamics: http://www.av8n.com/how/htm/airfoils.html

  • $\begingroup$ I'm thinking we should keep this answer around as "the web pages list" -- not necessarily textbooks, but web pages with good explanations? $\endgroup$
    – voretaq7
    Jun 17, 2014 at 19:08

Nobody mentioned the FAA handbooks yet, so I will. The FAA has a cornucopia of handbooks on various aviation-related topics, and in particular has a few on aerodynamics. They have the advantage of being easy to find, written to be understandable by anyone, and available free of charge. Here are a few

In particular, I would recommend reading aerodynamics of flight. It was written for student private pilots, so everything discussed pertains to aviation, and it does not assume that the reader has more that a high school education.

There are other books, that are aimed at the same public, but that expose the aerodynamics of helicopters or of gliders, though the contents of these books partially overlap, of course.

Finally, this manual is a bit outdated, but the first section features a useful glossary of aero terms.


I don't know a book which will provide you with a thorough mathematical explanation and at the same time treat the aerodynamic content in depth. Perhaps one exists, but I have not come across it as yet. I would recommend that you you can go for a book like Fundamentals of Aerodynamics by John D. Anderson, Jr., and simultaneously refer to a mathematics book which will give you the necessary background knowledge. There are plenty of books which can serve this purpose.

Anderson's book, meanwhile, presents the material in a manner which is quite easy to understand, and build a strong foundation of aerodynamics and its applications.

However, if you feel reading a mathematics book might take away a significant quantity of your time, another book I would recommend is Flight Without Formulae by A.C.Kermode. It is a classic book on aeronautical engineering, and covers the various aerodynamic phenomena over a wing. In my view, it is quite apt for a beginner.


A famous reference is: 'Aerodynamics, selected topics on the light of their historical development', by Theodore von Karman. There's also a site: Desktop.Aero offering a digital textbook on applied aerodynamics, but as I'm not engineer, I never went beyond cover page. NASA/NACA Cranfield database contain lots of aviation related papers since very early, a link to a list exists in Rotaryeng.net site: NACA UK Archive results page


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