How much thought have you put into what goes in your flight bag? Is it just the thing that holds your headset and a few pens or is it a vital piece of flight equipment? It can, and should be both.
We polled our team of instructors asking them what they include in their flight bags. Here are some of the items you’ll find and why they are brought along.
Power: We are more and more reliant on electronic devices when we fly. Headsets, flashlights, tablets, phones, handheld radios, ADS-B receivers and backup GPS’s all rely on having a power supply. For most of our local flights there is very little chance the power will be exhausted on a device that is properly charged before the flight, but what about those long days flying long cross country flights? Does your tablet have enough power to last 3, 4 or 5 hours of constant use? Will your headset’s battery last the whole flight? What about your passenger’s headset? Your flight bag should contain some type of backup power solution if you rely on any electronic device on your flight. These can be simply batteries or USB power supplies that can provide hours of backup power.
Handheld radio: Flying in New England means that we are almost always navigating in, around, over, under or through controlled airspace. In many cases, we rely heavily on our radio to keep us safe, and legal. Having a radio problem is stressful, and even dangerous in the wrong environment. Having a backup handheld radio in your flight bag (properly charged) provides an easy solution should you ever find yourself about to squawk 7600.
EPIRB: Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons might seem like overkill to some but next time you are on a cross country flight, take a look around and ask yourself how you would find your way out of an area in the event you had an off-airport landing. Despite the fact that we live and operate in a fairly densely populated part of the country, a huge percentage of the land we fly over is wooded or at the very least far enough away from a population center where help might not get there quickly. An EPIRB can get you help faster. Your family and loved ones may appreciate being able to watch where you are on those longs flights using a SPOT tracker.
Passenger care: As a private pilot you will probably take some non-flying friends up for their first flights in a small airplane. Remember, they probably think a regional airliner is a “small airplane” so their stress level might be a little high lifting off in a Cessna for the first time. You as the pilot should be prepared for that and have things in your flight bag to help keep the calm. As our CFI Evan states “If you offer one to them a Sic-Sac if they start feeling queasy it can give them an element of comfort that will take the queasiness away for long enough to get on the ground.
Tools: A few basic tools can mean the difference between a stressful flight and a fun flight. Consider adding a multitool to your flight bag for those times when something needs to be tightened, opened or looked at. Another great “tool” is a simple microfiber cloth. Whether it is needing to clean smudgy sunglasses or clean up spilled oil, you’ll never regret having a towel in your bag.
Pens: Almost every member of team included spare pens on their list of must haves. Ever try to copy a full route IFR clearance without a pen? Put a few extras in your flight bag just in case.
The items above are suggestions and by no means mandatory for you. Whatever you keep in your bag, be sure to preflight it before you fly to make sure that everything is charged, filled, cleaned and ready to go. Doing this the night before your flight will give you enough time to address any issues with it (charging, replacing) without impacting your flight the next day.
So, what is in your flight bag?