When asking more experienced private pilots what they considered “essential” gear for a student pilot, the first answer I got was “refills for your checkbook”. A bit old-fashioned, maybe (a better answer today would be “a higher credit balance”), but to some degree still true.
But there is still a need for some gear, even for a just-starting-out student pilot. Within the items that pilots deem “essential” is wide range of quality and price. What you ultimately purchase is more connected to personal preference and budget than anything else. Here is a list of the 10 items of essential gear for student pilots:
1. Logbook. If you are a student pilot, you want your flight time recorded, so you’ve got to have a logbook for your instructor to note your training time. Go cheap or go quality, but you’ve got to have one. Look here for a wider range of options.
2. Notepad or Planning Log. Many pilots recommend a cheap Mead notepad, which is fine, but a student pilot might appreciate something a little more structured so nothing is forgotten. Click here or the picture above for the ASA Flight Planner Pad.
3. Writing instrument. Go with a pencil (or several in case the lead breaks) or a pen, but you’ve got to have a writing instrument close at hand to write down air traffic control (ATC) instructions. Try the Skilcraft B3 Aviation Multi-function Pen with red and black ink, as well as a 0.5mm pencil – all in one!
4. Aviation headset. A subject of much (and continous debate), a student pilot can use the set that the flight school offers, but most pilots think that it’s better to have your own. You won’t be surprised by their condition and you can select what you think works best for you. Many pilots recommend starting with a set that will ultimately become your passenger headset. Here are the 4 best mid-priced pilot headphones for 2017. Click the picture above for the ASA HS-1 Aviation Headset, which several pilots swear by as an intro level headset.
5. E6B + Plotter. Necessary for learning manual flight planning, opt for an aluminum E6B flight computer like this one, ASA’s Color E6B Flight Computer. You’ll also need a plotter, like the ASA Flight Plotter. If your instructor allows it, the manual E6B can be replaced by an electronic flight computer, like the ASA CX-3 Flight Computer.
6. FAR/AIM. It’s the latest Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) and Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) and you need to have one to reference. Click the photo above to purchase the latest one.
7. Red light headlamp. In nighttime conditions, you’ll need to see your instruments in the event electronics go out. Red light is the best for this, and so is not having to use your hands – enter a headlamp that uses red light. This one, the Flight Outfitters LED Headlamp, is highly rated and is a great value.
8. Flashlight. You’ll want to have a flashlight on hand too – both as a night light (red) backup to your hands-free headlamp, but also because it helps you inspect the airplane. This one, the Smith & Wesson Galaxy 13, is ideal because it has separate buttons for red and white and no changing of lenses is required.
9. Kneeboard. We’ve compiled a list of kneeboard options too, as most pilots recommend having one – preferrably one that has pre-printed “cheat sheet” information to help in a crunch.
10. Flight bag. When you’re just starting out, what you’re carrying your essential gear in is less important than just making sure you are carrying your gear. And it doesn’t take much. Simple is better. Here is a list of 5 great looking flight bags, but many pilots recommend a very simple bag like the one above.
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