As a pilot, your flight bag is often your lifeline. After all, there are no department or convenience stores up in the blue yonder, so anticipating what you’ll need, or mightneed, is key to any successful – and safe – flight. Here are seventeen items to make sure are included in your flight bag every time you fly:
Pilot Certificate and Medical IDs
Just as important as a driver’s license and insurance card are for driving a car on the road, you’ll never want your aircraft to leave the ground without these critical identifiers.
Headset with Spare Batteries
The headset is an obvious necessity, and probably the one item you’re not so likely to forget. But, don’t forget to pack a set of spare batteries! You don’t want to run into a situation where your headset fails and you can’t remedy the problem.
Forgetting your sunglasses can lead to impaired vision when flying. Be sure to purchase the non-polarized kind, as they won’t reduce visibility through windscreens or instruments with anti-glare filters.
Fuel Tester with Screwdriver
These items are important for checking the quality of your fuel before taking off, particularly if you may be getting different fuel from different airports. Be safe – these small items hardly take up any room in your bag and can help prevent problems before they happen.
Extra Tools and Survival Gear
Emergency maintenance stops do happen sometimes. Be prepared when they do. It’s smart to keep a multitool, or a pocketknife, on hand, as well as extra oil and microfiber towels. A flashlight, compass, and first aid kit are important to have on hand, as well. If you fly over water, you may also want to consider getting a water-activated emergency light or beacon. Or, if you fly at high altitudes, consider purchasing a pulse oximeter. These are all items you hope to never have to use, but will surely be happy you had them should you need to.
Spare Handheld Two-Way Radio
The ability to communicate is an absolute necessity for any pilot! If your radio should fail, you’ll definitely want to have a spare handheld two-way radio on hand. This versatile item can also assist with visibility, as it can be used to turn on pilot-controlled lighting systems at non-towered, or small towered, airports.
Kneeboard with Notepad and Pens
Providing a sturdy surface for writing, kneeboards are one of those things that you don’t realize will be as important as they are until you need them. All pilots should have pen and paper at the ready to write down instructions and frequencies, and a kneeboard helps keep everything orderly and immediately accessible.
Winter Gear (Hat & Gloves)
If you’re flying to a winter destination, don’t forget to toss a warm hat and pair of gloves into your bag. There’s nothing worse than landing in weather you aren’t prepared for physically!
Delay Gear (Headphones and Eye Shades)
Should you find yourself in a delay situation, such as bad weather or needing mechanical repairs, a pair of headphones and eyeshades can help you to keep you rested while you pass the time.
Snacks and Water
A few energy bars are a good idea to keep on hand in case you find yourself growing either hungry, tired or both. Water is essential as it will prevent you from becoming dehydrated – the last thing you want to endure while 10,000 feet in the air. Consider getting a water bottle clip or find a flight bag with a bottle holder.
DC Power Adapter
Many GA airplanes have DC power ports. Consider buying a USB adapter so you can charge your EFB or phone in-flight.
iPad with ForeFlight and/or Sectional Charts
ForeFlight is one of the most popular electronic charts options on the market, allowing you increased situational awareness in the cockpit. You may also want to keep a set of up-to-date sectional charts as a backup in case anything should happen with your iPad.
Charging Cords and a Backup Battery
These items are important if you’re flying with an iPad or tablet device, particularly on long, cross-country flights. You also never know when you’re going to need to charge your phone mid-flight.
Your aircraft is a small space, which can be a breeding ground for germs. If you’re flying with others who share duties at the cockpit controls, consider using sanitary wipes to kill bacteria and keep yourself and anyone else from getting sick.
Seems such a small thing, but should cut yourself mid-flight, you’re going to want to seal off the wound to avoid infection – and also to avoid a bit of a nasty mess.
Another simple thing, but napkins sure do come in handy should you spill your water and/or other drink. And, you certainly don’t want water or soft drinks getting into your controls or computer systems!
It’s a small thing, but a little gum goes a long way to freshen breath after a snack up in the skies. The chewing can also help you to stay focused and alert while piloting.
Bonus Tip: Keeping a list of these items in checklist form in your bag is a good idea, too, so that you reduce the likelihood of any of these items ever being overlooked or left behind. Just remember safety first. If you’re well-prepared once you’re up in the air, you significantly reduce your chances of ever ending up, well -- left up in the air.