Well maybe it isn’t so mysterious after all but to some it sure seems to be. What we carry in our flight bags is another pretty common question from the earth-bound crowd. Those aspiring to become pilots one day themselves are also curious so I’ve decided to write this and show you some of the items you will find in the flight bag of a student pilot, certified flight instructor or just general aviation pilot in general.
This isn’t a one size fit all but it will give you a good baseline to start with or just satisfy that lingering curiosity.
None of the products that I carry in my flight bag are due to any sort of paid endorsement and any advice is purely based off of my own experience using a product that I purchased based on my own research and recommendations from other pilots.
Also, for the sake of full disclosure, in today’s commercial aviation bag you wouldn’t need a good majority of these items. An iPad with company approved charts, EFB (electronic flight bag), your headset of choice, and a few other items and you’re good to go.
So without further ado I present to you the contents of my “Mysterious Bag”.
First lets talk about the bag itself. There are many and I mean many different types available on the market for you to choose from. My get the most bag you can for your budget. Now by most I don’t mean the priciest I’m speaking about usability. My first bag was just barely big enough to squeeze in the required items for a Private Pilot student. I ended up upgrading because I realized I wanted more flexibility from my bag. Now I use the Brightline bags flex system with which the possibilities are endless. I’m currently using the B2 configuration but can plug and play as needed which is nice.
This is one of the most important purchases you will make in your flying career and there’s once again a great deal of options out there on the market. Headsets are divided into two categories based on their noise reduction. There are PNR (passive noise reduction) and ANR (Active Noise Reduction) headsets to go along with just about any type of budget. PNR headsets reduce the noise just by simply putting the headsets on and that’s it. ANR headsets actual use noise reduction technology to reduce the noise even further. ANR headsets are going to be more expensive, especially the premium ones (Bose and Lightspeed Zulu) but are well worth the price. If you plan on flying long term, especially in piston aircrafts, a good pair of ANRs should be considered an investment in your hearing. If you can afford it pony up and get a top end head set if you plan on making this a career. With that said the Bose A20 my headset of choice. It’s light and is comfortable. The Lightspeed Zulu 3s had too much pressure for me. Try them all out for yourself and see.
Pretty much any iPad will do but you will want one that includes cellular, but you do not need to activate a carrier data plan although it is nice to have in the odd chance that Wi-Fi isn’t available. The reason for this is that the cellular models include an internal GPS which can be used in conjunction with apps like ForeFlight. ForeFlight is pretty much a must and has an impressive slate of features that you can read all about it on their website and is very easy to use. In addition to ForeFlight, I also use Sporty’s electronic E6-B and keep an electronic version of the FAR/AIM.
Make sure you have one with a white and red light. For night flights it’s recommended to avoid bright white light for at least 30 minutes before your flight to allow your eyes to adjust. That’s why the red lens is necessary and it’s difficult to safely preflight your aircraft without sufficient light anyway. Safety is always the name of the game.
If you not an iPad pilot, or you’re a student in private, you will need to carry the necessary charts for your flight. For VFR flights this will include all the relevant Sectionals for the areas your flight traverses. IFR pilots will want to carry the necessary approach plates and charts as well. All pilots should carry the Chart Supplements, formerly known as the Airport and Facilities Directory, in able to have access to all relevant information along your route.
You’ll also need an E6-B and a plotter for conversions and measurements along the sectionals. A quick note on the plotter, any brand is fine, but just make sure the wheel rotates you will thank me later.
*Also even if you are an iPad pilot it’s always good to have the paper as a backup, or brush up on our dead reckoning and pilotage from time to time*
This is used during preflight to ensure there’s no contamination in the fuel before you go fly. I’d recommend one with a strainer portion on the top so that any small debris will be caught by the strainer instead of re deposited back into the tanks.
Your favorite pair of sunglasses are a must it gets bright up there as I’m sure you may have guessed. In addition, I like to keep a highlighter, pencil, and pen in the bag as well. Phone and iPad chargers aren’t a bad idea either. I also keep my IFR training Foggles in the bag as well, but remember to always use a safety pilot.
Did I miss anything? What do you carry in your flight bags? Add a comment below and let us know.