Are you a brand-new student pilot? Congratulations! As you count down to the first day of class, you’re probably wondering, “how do I prepare for pilot training?” and “what supplies are needed for flight school?”
Your instructor should provide a list of flight school materials to buy, but we know you are eager to prepare, so today we’re giving you a head start with our own round up of student pilot must-haves.
Not a pilot-in-training yourself? That’s okay. Stick around. Our list is for more than just students. Friends and family members will find great pilot gift ideas for all budgets. We’ve made gifting easy because every item on this list is something that your pilot loved one will need and use often.
Ready to get inspired? Here you go:
1. Cockpit Posters
Even the simpler cockpits of training planes have plenty of controls for student pilots to learn. Give yourself a jumpstart on the memorization process with a cockpit poster for each aircraft you plan to fly.
Hang it up in your home or office so you can see it every day and quiz yourself on the control locations. By the time you get into the real-world cockpit, the layout will already be familiar.
2. Current printed version of the FAR/AIM
Part of learning to be a pilot is memorizing key portions of the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) and the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM). These manuals contain the FAA regulations and operating standards you need to abide by. Plus, both your written test and checkride will include questions on this content.
Pro Tip: Break out the sticky notes and highlighters to mark up your printed copy of the FAR/AIM. This will make it easier to study for your tests.
You don’t need to buy every single piece of pilot gear right away but sharing your school’s pilot headsets will get old quickly. Your own pilot headset is one of the first flight equipment investments you’ll probably want to make.
Before you jump in and click that “add to cart” button, here are some resources we’ve created to help you choose your best headset:
- 10 Best Aviation Headsets to Kill the Noise
- The Best Aviation Headsets for a New “Student” Pilot – High End or Economy?
- Active vs Passive Noise Reduction: Which is Best for Pilots?
- ANR Aviation Headset Buyers Guide
- Passive Aviation Headset Buyers Guide
As a student pilot, you’ll have plenty of checklists, notes, and guides in the cockpit not to mention your digital and/or physical charts. An aviation kneeboard is the best way to keep everything you need organized.
When picking a kneeboard, you have a full range of options. You can choose a simple clipboard-style design, an advanced trifold set-up, or even a rotating tablet-style model. It all depends on what you want to have within arm’s reach, what type of charts you’re using, and your personal preference.
Every minute you spend behind the controls of an aircraft counts, and it needs to be logged. If you’re like most pilots, you’ll want both a digital and physical pilot logbook.
When picking a physical logbook, look for one with a sturdy binding and cover plus archival-quality acid free paper that will last for decades. Many logbooks are printed on aviator green paper that reflects glare and prevents ink bleed through.
The best logbooks also include sections for recording certificates, ratings, endorsements, medical certificates, flight proficiency history, and more.
Look for a book with annual summary pages for easy, at-a-glance records. Professional logbooks allow for up to 10 years of data entry.
Size is another consideration. A smaller logbook is easier to carry in a compact flight bag, but it may hold fewer or less detailed entry options. Larger logs provide plenty of room for all your information but do take up more room in your go bag.
Pro Tip: Invest in extra protection by getting a logbook cover. We like the black leather and saddle brown leather options from Rustico for an understated classic look. Or, embrace the rugged, adventurous bush pilot aesthetic with khaki canvas logbook cases (available in either small or large). These leather accented cases include inner pockets for licenses, medical certificates, checklists, credit/fuel cards, IDs, and a pen.
6. Flight Computers and Plotters
Once you earn your pilot certificate and start flying solo, you’ll probably use digital and automated navigation tools most of the time. But to earn your license, you first need to prove you can run all the flight planning and navigational calculations manually.
This means you’re going to need both a flight computer and plotter. A paper E6B flight computer can be used to calculate variables like density altitude, true airspeed, wind components, time/speed/distance parameters, and more.
You will also need a rotating plotter for calculating true course of flight for VFR flights.
Flashlights are probably not the first thing you thought of adding to your student pilot shopping list, but they’re important. You’ll use a light when walking around and inspecting the plane during your pre-flight checks. It will also be useful for extra cockpit illumination when you start doing night flights.
Pro Tip: You’ll need a white light for outside/daytime and a red light for night, but that doesn’t mean you have to purchase one of each. Lots of flashlights are combination style with both red and white light functions. We suggest getting two lights so you have a spare.
8. Supplemental Books
Official flight training books and test prep guides aren’t our only recommendations for your new pilot library. For ideas, check out our list of the top books every student pilot must read plus other must-have aviation books for professional pilots and fans.
9. Pilot Training Kit
Yes, you could piece together your training materials bit by bit, only to later realize that you’ve missed out on some important and helpful resources, or you could simply save time and money with a built-for-you package.
ASA, Jeppesen, and Gleim all make a variety of pilot kit packages for student pilots, private pilots, helicopter pilots, and instrument pilots.
10. Flight Bag
A good flight bag gives you a place to store and carry your pilot gear between home and the airfield. We have flight bags for every budget from entry level to high-end and every size from small tote to large roller.
If you’re not sure where to start, the Jeppesen Student Pilot Bag is a good option. It has seven exterior organization pockets plus a double-zippered main compartment and is sized with student pilots’ needs in mind. This bag is built to last with rugged construction and water-resistant PVC coating to protect your gear from rain (or coffee spills).
It’s your turn
Expert pilots, we’d love to hear from you. What other items would you add to the flight school materials list? Was there gear you wish you had but didn’t when you first started flight training?