top of page

For over 80 years, the content of From the Ground Up has stood as a literary benchmark for the teaching of the multitude of elements that make up the broad spectrum of subjects associated with aeronautics and the inspiring activity of learning to fly.

​Through its evolving editions, many generations of readers have been challenged by the concepts and theories that require thorough understanding in advance of the sought-after hours of flying enjoyment that are the ultimate goal of all who seek to earn their wings and expand their knowledge of flight theory and practice.

​The content of From the Ground Up may, at times, seem adverse and complex, but the pathway to learning the fundamentals of aeronautics is one that reaps much in the way of personal reward for all who pursue the goal of thoroughly understanding the subject. Indeed, it was by design that its original author, “Sandy” A. F. MacDonald — a man recognized as a “father” of what still stands today as the standard curriculum for ground school instruction — devised this textbook to be comprehensive and current while conveying its material in such a way as to enhance the reader’s understanding of every written word.

Not one to permit his vast experience to allow for foregone conclusions, MacDonald’s meticulous care in the creation of From the Ground Up has become the hallmark for its universal use and respect as the reference resource of choice in all flying schools throughout Canada as well as in multiple schools around the globe.

​Its latest edition is the 29th Edition. Like all previous editions, with every frequent re-print, From the Ground Up is updated with new content to ensure its leading-edge status at the forefront of aeronautical content. A French-language version is also available under the title Entre Ciel et Terre. Totalling 370 pages of in-depth two-column text formatted in a logical, additive and easy-to-read fashion, the publication boasts over 360 graphics, charts, diagrams, illustrations and photos, with additional full-colour navigation charts and a sample weather chart included.

All chapters are current in the latest technological and legislative aeronautical matters and cover such topics as The Aeroplane, Theory of Flight, Aero Engines, Aeronautical Rules & Procedures, Aviation Weather, Navigation, Radio & Radio Navigation, Airmanship, Human Factors, and Air Safety. From the Ground Up also includes an extensive index, glossary and practice examination.

​Since the 1940’s, virtually every student — civilian, military, commercial, recreational — who has ever learned to fly in Canada has used From the Ground Up as the primary ground school textbook from which they’ve learned everything one can learn about aeronautics, and about flying. Referred to as “the bible” of ground school instruction, From the Ground Up has long been considered an essential resource for all with any interest whatsoever in aeronautical theory, and in the art and practice of skillful aviating. 


“Sandy” A. F. MacDonald: A Pioneer of the Modern Day Ground school

A pilot for thirty years, a veritable encyclopedia of air regulations and navigational data, and the author of millions of words on aviation, Alexander Forsyth MacDonald was a pioneer of what still stands today as the standard curriculum for flight school training throughout the world.

“Sandy” MacDonald never let his wide experience permit foregone conclusions or second-hand information cloud his writing. Any fact that he committed to paper was checked and double-checked by recognized authority. Because of this meticulous care, the book From the Ground Up became the reference manual of choice for flying school and clubs in countless countries around the globe.

Sandy learned to fly at the Curtiss-Wright Flying School in Newport News, Virginia, in 1916. He saw active service as a fighter pilot in the Royal Naval Air Service on the Western Front during World War I. In combat over Passchendaele in 1917 he was seriously wounded, but he returned to the fray as a Royal Air Force Instructor with the rank of Captain.

He served in the Royal Canadian Air Force between 1927 and 1932, during which time his flying duties embraced forestry patrols, air survey, freight and transportation missions, including the first official Air Mail flight from Chesterfield Inlet to Fort Churchill.

Following this period in the Service, Sandy spent several years as a civilian pilot on charter and demonstration work in the United States and Canada. Eventually, in 1937 he settled down as Vice-President of Aviation Service Corporation, aeronautical research thereby claiming his attention just prior to World War II.

In 1939, he became director of the Paterson & Hill Aircraft Company taking on the duties of Chief Ground Instructor. He quickly became responsible for the graduation, in ground school subjects, of more than 35 percent of the Elementary Flying Instructors engaged in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. Later, he was appointed Chief Air Navigation Instructor of No. 20 Elementary Flying Training School in which capacity he originated the first practical navigation flight to be established in a Canadian flying school. It was during this period that From the Ground Up was really born, for the notes that he made for these courses would later serve as the foundation upon which he developed the textbook itself.

In the latter stages of WWII, Sandy became a Trans-Atlantic Ferry Pilot with the Royal Air Force. At the age of 45, he was flying the ocean at a time when aids were relatively scarce and the trips were still a very perilous adventure.

Sandy joined de Havilland as a Sales Manager when the company was building the “Fox Moth” for the bush flying conditions that he knew so well. He later became Public Relations Manager until finally retiring to devote himself fully to the development of From the Ground Up.

The year of his retirement from de Havilland, Sandy received the prestigious Writing Award from the Aviation/Space Writers Association of America for his work on From the Ground Up. His work was described as “excellence in content and meritorious authorship of an aviation and space manual.”

Shortly before his death, he was honoured with the Sherman Fairchild International Flight Safety Award. Once more his authorship of From the Ground Up was recognized with a citation that referred to “his extraordinarily thorough and well-written contribution to the art of flying safely”.

Generations of pilots owe their fundamental knowledge of flight theory and practice to the publication, From the Ground Up. Re-written and expanded by Aviation Publishers Co. Ltd. since the mid-1960’s, this title stands as a fitting memorial to an accomplished pilot, and dedicated ground school flight training visionary.

About the Author

FGU cover 2020 v2 (Front).png

From the Ground Up®

bottom of page