Member Login 

 Email Address 


Forgot Password

Flyer Signup

Perfect Picks for Potential Pilots

What Every Student Pilot Needs

Source:, By Sabrina Woods

pilot accessories

So! You want to get your ticket to go slip the surly bonds. You’ve done most of the hard prep work already: you’ve picked your preferred training path (part 61 vs. part 141); found a compatible, knowledgeable instructor; and selected the aircraft you envision yourself flying. Now it is time to fill in the glorious, accessory-infused details. It is time to pick out what you need to perfectly complement your piloting pursuits.

Hitting the Books

As with most educational undertakings, there is an element of good old fashioned book learning required in getting your wings. With that in mind, your first picks for your aviation information arsenal should be the FAA’s Airplane Flying Handbook, the Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge, a current version of the Aeronautical Information Manual, the current regulations for Title 14 and in particular 14 CFR parts 61 and 91, and the new Private Pilot − Airman Certification Standards.

These publications are available online (see “Learn More”) however a lot can be said for obtaining a print copy of the materials to be able to refer to at a moment’s notice. Trust me when I say you will be getting very well acquainted with key passages in each of the texts so obtain them earlier rather than later. Round out your mini library by gathering the aeronautical charts you will be using for the regions you will fly in, and a copy of an operating handbook for the make and model of the airplane you are flying.

Above all, the single most important “book” you will want to select and meticulously maintain is your logbook — it is THE visual record of your training. For some great insight into electronic versus paper logs, check out Susan Parson’s “eLogbook Logistics” in the May/June edition of FAA Safety Briefing (

Carry All in Your Carry-On

You are going to need a good flight bag to carry all of your goodies and you will want to make sure it is large enough to keep everything well contained, and it helps if it is specifically designed to suit an aviator’s needs (i.e., headset pocket, kneeboard strap, sunglass holder, etc.). Obtaining your private pilot’s certificate can be an expensive affair and admittedly, there are quite a few places where bargain shopping is totally warranted. This is not one of those times. It needs to be durable and rugged enough to keep up with you as you pack on the hours.

Inside that flight bag you should stock a ready supply of pens and pencils, pertinent checklists, a knee or clipboard, an aviation flashlight with green and red inserts, and a fuel tester. Complete this list with a small survival kit including waterproof matches, a personal locator beacon, fresh water, nonperishable food, a good knife, and a small cache of first aid supplies — you just never know when you might need these things.

Old School ...

Considering that technology, however wonderful, has this funny little exasperating way of failing (and often when you need it most), it never hurts to have some old school tools in your bag. This includes a pad of paper for writing down those ATC clearances, a plotter, printed copies of the flightplan and weather forms you will need to organize and prep your flights, and the good ole “whiz wheel” (E6B). The metal version of the E6B computer might be just short of “gone with the dinosaur,” but it is still a valuable tool to acquire and use proficiently enough so that when your favorite app abruptly stops, you can keep going.

... With an (App)reciation for the New

As you advance/progress in your training, some other optional tools can really help to enhance your situational awareness. A great tablet loaded with electronic flight bag (EFB) software including weather, flight planning, navigation, weight and balance, and checklist apps can be a blessing for the aspiring aviator. EFB reduces paper clutter (and weight — bonus!), items are kept up-to-date with a simple double-tap of the surface, weather and other pertinent pilot communications are more timely, and performance and training are easily logged and managed.

More advanced supplementary devices and apps used in aiding situational awareness during later stages of your flight training include Traffic Information Service – Broadcast (TIS-B) and Flight Information System – Broadcast (FIS-B) (usable so long as the aircraft is equipped with the appropriate transponder), and GPS. Having a separate handheld GPS and a portable radio is also a great idea in case your electronics go kaput for whatever reason.

Rocking “the Look”

Next up is cultivating your personal aviator “look.” Iconic Top Gun screenshots aside, a great pair of sunglasses will help keep the harsh morning sun glare down and protect those peepers. Make sure they are UV protected and carefully consider the tint before selecting to ensure you can maintain good visual in all forms of daylight (see “Learn More”).

While I admit I am totally enamored with any and all devices that included a noise-canceling function, your first headset probably doesn’t need to include this pricey feature. File this under “nice to” have versus “have to” have. What you will need is a good headset that is comfortable to wear and use while affording you the ability to clearly communicate with your instructor and with air traffic control. If you do splurge a bit and go for the noise-canceling variety, make sure you do a “test run” to ensure you can hear and react to any and all warnings or cockpit alerts properly (see “Learn More”).

Last, a watch that has a compass and timer function can serve multiple purposes besides just telling the time and can save you a little bit of cash over the often costlier options.

A State of Bliss

Learning to fly is exciting and challenging stuff. Document your progress by sharing, tweeting, or Instagramming it all with the help of a small portable camera. Check out “Flying Photo-bombs” in the May/June 2016 edition of FAA Safety Briefing ( to learn more about how to safely incorporate this bit of technology into your student pilot experience.

To quote one of my favorite Pink Floyd songs appropriately named “Learning to Fly”:

Above the planet on a wing and a prayer,
My grubby halo, a vapor trail in the empty air,
Across the clouds I see my shadow fly
Out of the corner of my watering eye

A dream unthreatened by the morning light
Could blow this soul right through the roof of the night
There’s no sensation to compare with this
Suspended animation, a state of bliss ...

Armed with grit, determination, and a few perfect picks, you are ready to go prospective pilot. Best wishes for safe and happy flying!

Learn More

Airplane Flying Handbook

Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge

FAA Regulations


Pilot Safety Brochure on Sunglasses

InFO 07001 on Noise-Canceling Headsets

Sabrina Woods is an associate editor for FAA Safety Briefing. She spent 12 years as an aircraft maintenance officer and an aviation mishap investigator in the Air Force.

I Fly America
PO Box 882196
Port St. Lucie, FL 34988

Office hours M-F 8:30am - 5:00pm
Our Privacy Policy
© I Fly America 2024