Every pilot’s flight bag of pilot supplies may look a little different, but there are a few essentials and recommended items pilots should always have with them. This may include personal items that make your flight more comfortable or emergency supplies in the event that something should go wrong. As you’re getting ready to fly, here’s the aviation equipment you’ll need to consider for a successful flight.
All pilots keep a logbook that documents their activities and flight time. This proves that you’re qualified for the pilot licenses, endorsements, or type rating you’ve earned. It details whether you’re a private or commercial pilot, if you had training for the plane you’re operating, and what kind of piloting experience you’ve had in the past.
Keeping a consistent log of your flights will serve as your ultimate source of truth whenever you’re applying for new certifications and looking for larger and new opportunities. Even if you’re content with your current certificates, it’s important to maintain your logbook in case you need to prove your certifications for any reason.
Picking the right flight bag is a matter of personal preference. However, it’s a good idea to find one that fits compactly within your plane and is easily accessible. Your bag will hold important equipment that you may need at a moment’s notice—such as your pilot certifications. For optimal organization, you should find a bag with plenty of pockets and compartments that allow you to keep your supplies in an easy-to-find location.
Some pilots like to keep another smaller bag for their aviation headset to protect it and make it easier to transport, but this isn’t strictly necessary. Just make sure you treat your headset with care if you intend to store or pack it away somewhere else.
Like in any workplace or vehicle, it’s always essential to have a first aid kit on-hand in case something goes awry. Once you’re in the air and comfortable, it may seem like there’s no way you could get hurt, but accidents happen—even if it’s just scratching yourself on your console or some other part of your plane or helicopter. Always be prepared for the unexpected by keeping at least a basic first aid kit in your vehicle.
The aviation headset has two primary functions—noise reduction and communication with air traffic control. Planes and helicopters are incredibly loud, capable of permanently damaging your hearing if the cockpit can’t insulate noise well enough.
That said, you should expect to wear your headset the entire time you’re in the cockpit. For this reason, comfort is equally as important as functionality—especially if you’re flying cross-country. There is no greater agony than having to endure aching ears and uncomfortable, painful headsets for hours on end as you try to focus on navigation and flying. For that reason, know what your flight plans are before buying a headset so that you can tailor it to your needs.
A pilot watch can be one of the best tools you’ll ever invest in. They’re incredibly durable, and you need to charge them roughly once a week. Plus, manufacturers make these watches to be in near-constant use so that you’re always able to refer back to them. These watches track details like altitude, airspeed, and the nearest airports in relation to you.
While altitude and airspeed are useful for navigational purposes, having a reference of the nearest airports can be a real godsend when you need to make an emergency landing—especially if you’re somewhere unfamiliar, like a foreign country.
Media often depicts pilots as wearing aviators, and that’s for reasons other than style. When you’re up high above the clouds, there’s nothing there but blue skies and nonstop sun. Sunglasses are the simplest and most effective solution for keeping the sun out of your eyes, but you need to ensure the sunglasses you choose are non-polarized. Polarized lenses make it difficult to read “glass cockpit” avionics, like LED and LCD screens.
There’s no “right” or “preferred” pair of sunglasses, so you’re free to choose your favorite style, so long as they fit your face and effectively protect your eyes from the sun.
Of the aviation equipment you’ll need to get ready to fly, an iPad may seem like the most unconventional. However, tablets like the iPad are fantastic navigational aids that make plotting and charting your destination so much easier.
They’re so useful, in fact, that you’ll find iPads and similar tablets to have become an industry standard! With your iPad, you’ll have access to useful applications like Foreflight for GPS backup and flight planning. If you’re still in training, you’ve probably heard Foreflight mentioned and recommended often.
While many pilots use the iPad in their laps, a useful accessory to invest in is an iPad mount that will hold up the display for you. This will make it easier and less cumbersome to operate the iPad while in flight.
Lastly, consider having an iPhone or other smartphone on hand to serve as a contingency should your tablet malfunction, run out of battery, etc.
While pilots spend a lot of time training to communicate when avionics and radios go offline, it never hurts to have a backup handheld aviation radio in your flight bag so that you can maintain communication even when your avionics are down. Like with a medical kit, this is another step toward preparing for any scenario and ensuring your life in the air remains as easy as possible.
Snacks and Water
Lastly, but no less important, you need to ensure you take care of yourself while flying. Piloting can be more strenuous mentally and physically than you may realize. Keeping yourself well hydrated and fed will allow you to fly for longer, stay sharp, and relieve the stresses of flying.
While you can drink water while piloting, it’s often a better idea to eat while you’re refueling your plane or you’re in between the legs of your journey. Furthermore, you want to avoid snacks with a high glycemic index. Sugary foods may make you feel energized for a short time, but eventually, you’ll start feeling sleepy—which is especially dangerous when behind the yoke.