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December 22, 2022
One of a student pilot’s first purchases after he or she starts taking flying lessons is often a flight bag. But what should you carry in it to help ensure the flight is legal, safe, and comfortable?
Federal Aviation Regulations clearly spell out the items you must carry with you when you’re flying.
To comply with 14 CFR § 61.3, a student must have in his or her possession:
While this takes care of the legal requirements, there are a number of additional items you should consider carrying with you, and these fall into two categories: great (and maybe even necessary) to have and good to have.
If you’re flying in airspace where radio communication is required, you’ll need to pack a headset. Some flight bags for pilots have large pockets to hold a standard headset. And if you’re using a model with noise-cancelling capabilities, make sure the batteries are fresh—and bring spare batteries as a backup.
You should also have a current sectional chart and chart supplement (previously referred to as the airport directory) for your area, either a paper version or an electronic version loaded on your iPad or other device.
A kneeboard and/or yoke- or window-mount for your iPad or other electronic device helps you keep your charts, notes, and other materials within easy reach.
Chargers and cords, especially on longer flights, help keep your devices powered. And, of course, you’ll want to make sure you pack pens or pencils or, for your electronic devices, a stylus so you can jot down frequencies, squawk codes, and ATC instructions.
It’s also helpful to have printed airport diagrams on hand for both destination airports and alternates. They provide critical information about:
They are a good backup in case your electronic devices fail. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association Website allows you to search for free, printable, kneeboard-formatted diagrams.
Sunglasses aren’t only for the summer. Winter glare, when the sun reflects off of the snow, can be especially hazardous without shades.
If you’re flying in an airplane with a glass cockpit, make sure your sunglasses are non-polarized, as polarized glasses distort the image of digital displays. And if you depend on a prescription for seeing, make sure you have a pair of prescription sunglasses on board along with your regular glasses.
If you’re flying at night, you’ll need a small flashlight with a red lens to protect your night vision while conducting your pre-flight and getting organized in the cockpit before takeoff.
Bonus tip: It’s also a good idea to have a small red light that can clip to the bill of your cap or seatbelt so you can read your chart or notes while freeing up your hands for flying.
There are some items a student pilot may need to bring if they’re not already provided by the instructor, flight school, or fixed base operator (FBO) providing your aircraft. These include:
Lots of factors determine what to carry with you to manage an emergency, including the terrain, season, and weather. While you’re still training as a student pilot, however, when you’ll either be with an instructor or flying a route approved by your CFI, there are just a few items you should consider carrying to prevent—or in case you have to make—an off-airport landing.
It’s a good idea to tidy up your flight bag before leaving the house for your flight.
Throw away old scratch sheets, spent batteries, and oily paper towels you may have stuffed in there last time. Replenish notepad paper, charge your devices, and take out items you’re unlikely to need for the day. If you’re only planning to practice touch-and-goes in the pattern at your home airport, you can probably leave your iPad and associated mounting gear at home.
Beyond that, make sure whatever you’ll need for today’s flight is easy to access.
Organize your bag to keep the most critical items you’ll need during your flight on you, near you, or within easy reach during your flight. Some things, like your sectional charts, you’ll want to clip to your kneeboard before taking off.
The last thing you want to do, especially during critical phases of flight like landing, is reach behind to fish around for something in the flight bag you stowed on the seat behind you, which is a recipe for entering a stall, inadvertent bank, or for experiencing spatial disorientation.
As with any hobby or endeavor, there’s really no end to the gadgets and aids you could buy for your flight bag.
Your best bet? Begin with the basics.
And as you get further along in your training and after you get your license, you can acquire the tools that really help you be a safer, more capable, and more confident pilot.
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You’ve made the bold leap and are chasing your dream of becoming a pilot. Congratulations – we know how it feels to count down the days to earning your wings.
Today we’re talking about the timeline from starting training to earning your certification, plus ways to shave time off that journey while maximizing learning. So, how hard is it to become a pilot? Read on to find out.
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PlaneEnglish created this blog to provide aspiring and current pilots a resource for all things related to aviation radio communication.
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