The Best Gear For Pilots: 7 Must Haves in Your Flight Bag

The Best Gear For Pilots: 7 Must Haves in Your Flight Bag

By Ben Morris CFI, FO ERJ-175

From students to professionals, every pilot needs to pack some equipment for their flying. Preparing your equipment is an essential preflight activity. From interfacing with the plane, to keeping you comfortable and organized, these are some of the essentials that will help you get the job done.

1. Headset
A headset is arguably the most essential piece of gear. Not only do they allow you to talk to ATC and your crew, but they also protect your hearing. They come in two main forms, traditional passive protection, and ANR. Traditional headsets are a more budget friendly option, and are a great choice for starting out in flying. When you get some experience though, most pilots upgrade to ANR, or active noise reduction headset. Using the ANR requires batteries, but it can make the experience of flying a lot more comfortable and hearing radio transmissions easier. Some ANR headsets also can play audio over a Bluetooth connection, just make sure it isn’t too much of a distraction while flying.

2. EFB
In this era, most pilots chose to opt for some kind of Electronic Flight Bag instead of traditional paper charts for ease of use. I-pads combined with Foreflight are the most popular options, but other ones exist. The functionality of these are incredible. They can greatly help with situational awareness by displaying GPS position in real time on charts and other traffic with a receiver.
You can also check the weather, complete performance calculations, and much more. One underrated feature is the ability to download study and test prep material. You can even find pilot operating handbooks specific to your aircraft sometimes. Airlines will load up company I-pads with their manuals and procedures. You don’t need a top of the line model I-pad, but make sure you get one with cellular capabilities, as those ones have built-in GPS receivers. An Ipad kneeboard can help you keep everything where you want it while flying for easy access.

3. Flashlight
If you are flying at night, a flashlight is a must have. Preflighting and fueling in the dark requires you to be able to illuminate the area you are working in. I like small, lightweight flashlights that have a fairly high lumen rating. This means you have to change the batteries more often though, as the bright the flashlight the more power it will consume. Headlamps are also a good option. Red light interferes with your eyes' ability to see in the dark less, and should be used in the flightdeck to allow you to still have good visibility outside.

4. Notepad
Regardless of the type of flying you do, a good old-fashioned pen and pad of paper is a valuable tool. Most pilots develop their own form of “pilot shorthand” that is likely only legible to themselves. Writing down ATC clearances, weather reports, call signs, taxi instructions, or anything else you want to remember allows you to go back and look at what you wrote down. If you need to read back a lengthy clearance, it is much better to just read what you wrote instead of trying to memorize the entire thing. A kneeboard with a clipboard will help you keep it at the ready whenever you need it. The exact notebook you use is entirely personal preference. You can find “clearance pads” that are designed with specific boxes for different information, but I personally prefer simple lined paper in small spiral bound notebooks.

5. Sunglasses
Even on a cloudy day, you might climb through a layer and find yourself looking directly into the sun. Or maybe due to wind conditions you have to land straight into a sunset. Aviators are a popular choice, from both style and practical standpoints. The traditional wire frame of an aviator is designed to slide under a headset cup while still providing a good seal and limiting discomfort. Be sure to look for non-polarized pairs though, as the light shifting effects of polarization can make some displays and windshields difficult to see.

6. Provisions
Consuming adequate food and water is important to keep your performance level high. Being at high altitudes can dehydrate you quicker especially in the upcoming summer heat. A couple of water bottles can go a long way, just make sure not to overhydrate on those long cross country flights. I always have some kind of snack with me for long flights or busy days when I need something to pick me up but do not have time to stop somewhere. My personal favorites are
jerky, dried fruit, and chips. Sandwiches and burritos work well too if you want a more substantial meal in the air. Energy drinks or coffee can be helpful in keeping you alert late at night or early in the morning.

7. Flight Bag
Last but not least, you are going to need something to store all your stuff in and keep it organized. Purpose-made flight bags usually have compartments for headsets, tablets, ect. You can also use a regular bag, but I would recommend using protective cases for your equipment if your bag doesn’t have built in padding. Backpacks are great options, and having lots of pockets to stash things in is highly functional. I like to bring study books with me for ground lessons, such as a FAR-AIM to look up regulations on the fly. With bags and all other gear, it is really about finding what works best for you for the missions you are flying.

Adapting your gear kit to the type of flying you are doing is important to keep from hauling too much stuff around. Weight counts in an airplane, so pack efficiently, smartly and have fun out there!

By Ben Morris CFI, FO ERJ-175

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