Buyer’s Guide: The Active Pilot’s Flight Bag
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Flight bags have certainly changed over the years, but what has changed most is what today’s pilots consider “must have.” My first flight bag was a military flying suit with pockets everywhere, each stuffed with some necessity. My current flight bag isn’t a bag at all but a large briefcase loaded with electronic gadgets, including a tablet computer, AC power supplies, handheld GPS and navcom, personal ELT and combined GPS, boxes of batteries, charts, the latest Flight Guide (a photographic guide to airports), a small wind indicator, extra eye glasses, sunglasses, sun block and a small container of prescription meds (just in case). As with most pilots, the centerpiece of my flight bag is my favorite headset.
High on a pilot’s list of must-haves are the EFBs (electronic flight bags). These portable, mini glass cockpits have advanced steadily from simple navigation programs to sophisticated, miniature MFDs. They’re capable of precise navigation, weather information, terrain awareness and can even alert pilots to possible traffic conflicts. The new tablet PCs are easy to transport and have easy-to-read, vivid touch screens.
How often have you been ready to take off only to discover that the tower is closed? Now, you can have the exact wind and weather conditions with a handheld mini weather station, such as Nielsen-Kellerman’s Kestrel 4500 Pocket Weather Tracker (www.nkhome.com). In the event of an emergency landing or a survivable crash, how will rescue squads find you? Easily, if you have a combination personal ELT combined with a GPS. The ELT sends out an alert, and the GPS informs them exactly where you are.
Vendors are also supplying computer-based programs for every mode of flight. Others offer special gel-filled headset pads, ear cups and external noise-reduction circuits to upgrade your favorite headset. It’s up to you to match your new headset or electronic carry-on flight aid to your particular needs. Do these new electronic carry-on products really work or do they clutter up the cockpit with connecting wires, power supplies and extra antennae? In spite of this, most pilots love them. Of course, an important consideration is the product’s price versus your budget. Be aware that “You get what you pay for” still holds true; also, pay attention to a company’s reputation with other pilots. Here are some of our picks for products that will make great gifts for any pilots in your life.