As aviation continues to embrace technological advancements, the contents of a pilot's flight bag have evolved. No longer burdened by stacks of paper, modern pilots rely on an assortment of gadgets and essentials to ensure smooth and safe flights.
In this guide, we'll dive into the essential items every pilot should have in their flight bags, from cutting-edge devices to time-tested tools.
Whether you're a new student pilot or a seasoned aviator, this comprehensive list will help you stay prepared for the skies above.
Table of Contents
- iPad and iPad Case (or Kneeboard)
- Pens or Pencils and Paper
- Handheld Radio for Backup
- Flashlight for Night Operations (with a Red Lens)
- Fuel Tester (Environmentally Friendly Gats Jar)
- Snacks, Water (Electrolytes)
- Multi Tools, First Aid Kits
- Tie Downs
- Docs (License, ID, Medical Cert, Etc)
- Backup Battery (for iPad, Phone, Flashlights, Headsets, etc)
1. iPad and iPad Case (or Kneeboard)
The world has gone digital, and so should you. These days, an iPad and an aviation mapping app are the way to go.
Our favorite kneeboard for pilots is the Battleboard Kneeboard - Tech Edition. This kneeboard fits full-size and mini-iPads or Tablets and comes in black or safety orange. This durable slim kneeboard has built-in pockets for all of the essentials (pens, paperwork, flashlights, etc). It’s roomy enough for your essential gear, but still slim enough to not get in the way. The best of both worlds.
Don’t need a mount for an iPad or tablet? If you still have a death grip on your paper charts, or you fly an aircraft that has a glass cockpit for mapping, we still have you covered. The Flyboys Reversible Kneeboard with Clipboard may be right for you.
Flyboys is a company that was founded in 1995 to meet the exacting needs of military aviators. These combat-tested kneeboards can be configured to accommodate pilot preferences and mission requirements.
2. Pilot Headset
It’s our belief that a high-quality aviation headset is one of the most mission-critical items that you require in the cockpit. Spare no expense and get the best headset you can afford. You’ll be more comfortable, relaxed, and alert in flight when you have one of the top-quality ANR headsets on your noggin.
We strongly recommend Bose headsets. The Bose A30 Aviation Headset with Bluetooth is the best headset ever made. In an ideal world, this headset would be in every pilot’s flight bag.
If looking for something more budget conscious, you should also consider the Lightspeed Zulu 3 ANR Headset, Lightspeed Sierra ANR Header, and the Pilot USA Carbon Headset with Bluetooth. Do yourself a favor and buy the best headset your budget allows.
Not only do Aviators look cool, but they also serve an integral purpose in flight. Randolph Engineering has been designing and handcrafting some of the finest aviation sunglasses since the early 70s. These frames are some of the strongest in the world. Randolph is so sure of the clarity and quality of their product that they even back it for the lifetime of the frame.
4. Pens or Pencils and Paper
Are you ready to copy down the ATIS, your next clearance or IFR reroute at lightning speed? With a Fisher Space Pen or Skilcraft Aviator Pen you can be confident that you’ll get your critical notes on paper. We love to compliment these pens with 5” x 8” Ruled Notepads that are found at most office supply stores. Also, the Checkmate FlyWrite Cockpit Writing Pad is a perfect solution for those that prefer following a structured, standardized layout.
5. Handheld Radio for Backup
Typically, all Handheld Radios on the market have the same standard features that an aviator requires: 8.33kHz spacing, ample power to transmit and receive at altitude, or on-airport, and the ability to quickly punch in the frequency that you need. Some have the ability to tune VORs, get GPS Long and Lat, and even GPS fixes. These are nice features, but if you’re using the radio as a backup device, we don’t think that they are necessary.
We recommend a basic handheld radio: The Yaesu FTA-550 AA Handheld VHF Transceiver. This radio uses Alkaline Batteries for power and includes a headset adapter cable that works with standard general aviation headsets.
For backup, we recommend a radio with AA batteries. Alkaline Batteries have an incredible shelf life. With the Yaesu FTA-550 AA Handheld VHF Transceiver, you know the radio will power up when you need it to, and with the included Headset Adapter Cable you can insure it will be easy to communicate through your aviation headset when necessary.
6. Flashlight for Night Operations (with a Red Lens)
A quality flashlight won’t set you back a fortune, and spending a fortune won’t necessarily get you a flashlight that you really need in the cockpit. There is one core aspect that matters when flying at night: The color of your flashlight. When you are in the cockpit it’s ideal to use red light to preserve your night vision.
We offer an ‘old school’ Mini MagLite Black 2AA Flashlight Combo Pack that’s perfect for the cockpit. It has a bright white led that’s great for a walk-around inspection and a red filter that’s exceptional for preserving night vision in the cockpit. If that’s not good enough, the best part is that this whole package is available for under $20.00
Spending just a few dollars more, you can acquire the Smith & Wesson Night Guard Dual-Beam Flashlight. This torch has a separate button for red and white light, so you won’t need to fumble with a filter in the cockpit.
If you want to get fancy in the cockpit, here are three options that you might want to consider:
Panther Vision’s “Powercap” is a ball cap that has both red and white LEDs.
FliteLite’s LED Finger Lights come in red, white, or green.
Smith & Wesson’s Night Guard Dual Beam Headlamp is a perfect solution to keep your hands free.
7. Fuel Tester (Environmentally Friendly Gats Jar)
Did you know that over 3 million gallons of avgas get poured on the ground annually during preflight inspections? We have an environmentally friendly solution to this problem - Aviation Specialties GATS Jar Environmentally Friendly Fuel Tester. With this product, after your fuel has been tested, you can safely pour it back into the tank, saving fuel and the environment. This product fits both petcock and pin-type fuel drains.
8. Snacks, Water (Electrolytes).
It’s not easy to pull over and grab a snack on a cross-country flight. It’s also not ideal to take your chances with the FBO vending machine when you land (if they even have one). We highly recommend you pack snacks in your bag.
Granola Bars, Trail Mix, Nuts, Dried Fruit, Beef Jerky, and Crackers are great pick-me-ups and can typically be stored in your bank for extended periods of time. This is a great backup to always have around.
If you have an extra cooler (Pilot Mall Sells Several Cooler Styles Flight Bags), Fresh Fruit and Vegetables, Sandwiches, and Yogurt are great for day trips.
Don't forget to stay hydrated! Keep a few bottles of water or gatorade in your flight bag.
9. Multi Tools, First Aid Kits
It’s wise to keep a quality multi-tool in your bag. A set of pliers, a basic screwdriver, a knife, etc can all be quite useful in a pinch. One multi-tool will do it all!
Your local department store or pharmacy sells basic first aid kits with band-aids, gauze pads, and cleaning wipes. Keep one in your bag for minor cuts and bruises that can happen on the flight line, or in the cockpit.
We HIGHLY recommend the Elite First Aid Tactical Trauma Kit be stored in your aircraft for emergencies. We call this the “First-Aid Kit on Steroids”. You should never go on an adventure without one. Keep this fully stocked at all times (don’t pull out Band-Aids or supplies for minor cuts and bruises unless you have to). You want this kit ready to go for any and all major emergencies.
10. Tie Downs & Chocks
Nothing is worse than showing up at a small airport after hours and having nothing to secure your aircraft. Don’t take chances – pack your own equipment.
11. Docs (License, ID, Medical Cert, Etc)
Don’t forget about the FARs. Make sure that you always have all of the required flight documentation with you at all times. Keep a copy of these documents in your flight bag.
12. Backup Battery (for iPad, Phone, Flashlights, Headsets, etc)
We live in a digital age. headsets, radios, phones, flashlights and so much more exist in the cockpit. They all require power. Be sure to keep spare batteries for each and every device that you rely on in the cockpit.
In the coming weeks, PilotMall.com will be offering a 40,000mah, 100W Power Bank that has 2USB-A and 2USB-C ports. This device has enough juice to keep all cockpit devices running for a significant amount of time. Stay tuned!
Bonus – Let’s Not Forget the Flight Bags. These are our top recommendations.
This bag has a color-coded pocket, pouch, or folio for just about anything. It’s perfect for the well-organized pilot.
A flight bag and cooler in one. It’s the best of both worlds. Carry your aviation gear, tablet, and even fresh, healthy snacks on your next flight.
We love this flight bag because of just how comfortable it is. The weight of the pack and all of your heavy aviation gear is evenly spread out across your body, leaving your hands free to do anything else that you need to do!
From the cockpit to the tarmac, flight bags are a pilot's trusted companion for every journey. The items within help bridge the gap between old and new, blending a melody of the traditional essentials with new state-of-the-art technology.
As you venture out and embark on wonderous flying adventures, remember that careful preparation is the key to a successful flight. Equip yourself with the best gear, from headsets that offer unrivaled comfort to navigational tools that ensure precision. Organize your bag to reflect your needs.
As skies beckon and horizons unfold, let your bag be a testament to your commitment to safety, efficiency, and the thrilling freedom of flight!
So, before your next takeoff, ensure you're stocked and ready, for it's not just a bag - it's your wingman in the skies.
If you enjoyed this article subscribe now to elevate your piloting knowledge and be prepared for every adventure that awaits!