It doesn’t matter if you’ve logged the bare minimum of miles to have your private pilot’s license in hand or you just bought your new airplane from an aircraft broker like CB Aviation. It also doesn’t matter if you’re taking a 30-minute pleasure flight, giving visiting friends a tour of the region or if you’re headed to the Bahamas for a quick getaway. There are a few essentials that you need to have in your flight bag at all times. Preparation and thinking ahead is key, which is what you learned when getting your license—don’t let that knowledge fail you now.
1. Your headset
This might seem obvious, but some private pilots count on members of their flight club or the office where their aircraft is stored to have rentals on hand. Pilots may even forget their headset and just plan to pick up new one en route—this is never a good idea. Of course, you need a headset to communicate with ATC, but you also need your own because it’s the only one that’s proven to be comfortable and effective for you. Consider an Active Noise Reduction (ANR) headset as a replacement or if you’re in the market for a new one, and always check to make sure it’s in good working order before heading to the hangar.
2. A Kneeboard
You’re going to need that platform to write down key information, because even the slightest amount of turbulence will make a thick notepad fall to the floor. Even worse, rough turbulence means this is the worst possible time to be scrambling for fallen notes (and taking your eyes off the controls). Particularly tech-savvy pilots might prefer the kneeboard with an iPad clip, totally replacing the traditional pen and paper route. Finally, don’t forget to always bring a pad and pencil, too, because you never know when technology will go on the blink (hint: It’s always at the most inopportune times).
3. Diagrams and Charts
Even if you’ve flown this route a thousand times, you always need updated charts and diagrams in your bag. Besides playing it safe, there might be a random ramp check and you could be penalized for not having them—plus, if there’s no GPS or if it’s on the fritz, how can you navigate with expired charts? Using an iPad with updated charts is also acceptable and legal, but there’s no substitute for having paper charts on hand, too.
4. Your Trusted POH
Even seasoned pilots keep their Pilot’s Operating Handbook (POH) in their flight bag, because it’s easy to forget the weight of the aircraft, a single item on the checklist or other key information you may need to know. It’s necessary for a ramp check and also very easy to miss what seems to be a minor checkpoint (until, of course, it’s not so minor anymore). Easily the most vital document to have on board, keep it in your flight bag at all times to play it safe.
5. First Aid Kit
You can’t plan for an accident, but you can at least be prepared. Maybe a passenger gets airsick, you somehow get a scrape or there’s some other minor emergency that’s suddenly urgent when you’re 10,000 feet in the air. The ability to give someone oxygen can save a life, and an ibuprofen can tackle a migraine when you’re on a cross-country flight, ensuring the safety of everyone in the skies.
There are many other “must haves” depending on the pilot. From flashlights to batteries, solar-powered backup radios to passports, make your own list of necessities and always pack accordingly.