Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Flight Bag For All Needs


Brightline’s new Flex system transforms the flight bag



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I must own seven or eight different flight bags. While it may seem that I have something of a flight-bag obsession, the truth is that I just have changing needs. Flying many different aircraft, one day, I might need a bag with just essentials because nothing else will fit in my biplane, while another day, I might be shooting photographs for the magazine while travelling somewhere in a bigger airplane. In each instance, I have to select a different flight bag because each is configured differently.

It turns out that I'm not the only flight- bag switcher, since many pilots tell me they do the same thing. Even when flying the same aircraft, missions change, and so do the contents of your bag. Brightline Bags—a company based in San Rafael, Calif., and founded by product engineer Ross Bishop—recognized the problem inherent with pilots' changing needs, and created a bag system that's unique to aviation. The company had great success with their first bag called, simply enough, the Pilot Flight Bag. It had features like color-coded zippers and pockets galore to allow just about anything to be carried in it while maintaining a compact footprint that would fit in most cockpits. It was a hit because the pockets and their contents were carefully thought out, and access to those pockets was easy.

Pilots could carry the bag flat or standing straight up, and things remained accessible. The hardware was tough and reliable. The handles were functional but felt good in your hand, and the bag was well balanced. It could hold a lot of gear and adapt to many situations. Bishop's engineering background and his interest in aviation came together to design the initial bag, and pilots bought it in droves.

The problem is that bag remained a one-trick pony. If, for example, a pilot suddenly needed to do an overnighter, or needed to carry camera gear, he or she was out of luck. Pilots still needed multiple bags. The dance was monotonously predictable: empty the contents of the first bag and re-group with additional gear, clothes or whatever, then transfer it all to a different bag. It was a time sucker and, if pilots were anything like me, they'd lose gear in the transfer process. I used to buy expensive, bright LED flashlights because they were so useful in and out of the cockpit. But after losing three or four to the same black hole where socks go, I gave up and just carry the $3 ones. I always lost flashlights when transferring them to another bag. The original Brightline bag could do a lot, but it couldn't transform itself.

Now, Brightline introduces their Flex bag system, which is a radical re-think of the flight bag itself. The system keeps what made Brightline famous in the first place: pockets that are just the right size, heavy-duty ballistic nylon, resin zippers, color-coded zipper tabs and compartments to spare. Two years of engineering and paying close attention to customers yielded an integrated system that does what the original bag couldn't: It transforms into bags of various sizes, capabilities and configurations.

The system is made of 11 different modules and pocket components. Each one is made for a different purpose. For example, Brightline's original Pilot Bag remains the starting point for most configurations, while additional bags can carry 13-inch laptops, iPads, handheld radios, clothing, paperwork and folders, or emergency gear. The biggest component is the 11-inch center bag, which has a large main compartment, and could hold enough clothing or large items for a multi-day trip. In contrast, the Side Pocket Alpha is designed to hold a water bottle or single radio. Each component adds more storage.



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