For every pilot there are a few essential aviation products needed to begin a life of flying airplanes, calling out weather, and planning your flights safely. This extensive guide will help you know the essentials and where to begin. If you are new to aviation or if you are looking to refresh your pilot bag, aircraft hangar, or just an enthusiast this is the guide for you.
Best Aviation Products for Pilots
Most pilots nowadays have simplified their flight bags with what they carry with them to go flying. Gone are the days of having to take along paper charts. However, nowadays we use tablets, apps, and a few other essentials to get the job done.
iPad Mini 4
First of all you need to arm yourself with the best of the best tablet to be your core electronic flight bag (EFB for short) go-to. I am partial to Apple’s iPad Mini series for this. It is small enough to fit right over the yoke, yet powerful and trustworthy enough that I feel confident with it in the cockpit.
If you’re wondering what exactly a tablet is doing in the cockpit I would like you to remember that paper charts is no longer the way for navigating. Think digital everything! Gone are the days of lugging along AFD’s, sectional charts, and even your logbook. Now, you can run an epic product like ForeFlight and have access to all of that, live radar and weather and so much more at your fingertips on demand. It’s actually quite crazy when you start thinking about it!
Ram Claw Mount
There are a few options when it comes to using your iPad in the cockpit. Some pilots exchange their annoying kneeboards for an even more annoying iPad kneeboard which makes no sense to me. However, my favorite way of mounting my iPad mini is by using a “claw” type mount made by RAM to go on the yoke of the airplane.
This is perfect for most trainer aircraft and anything with a yoke into wall type flight control setup. If you are flying with an aircraft that uses a stick, get the suction cup mount version, it works just as good!
Dual GPS Receiver for Portable Devices
Like I mentioned above, if you are navigating with an iPad or other tablet device you will likely need some type of GPS bluetooth receiver. For me, the Dual GPS is a perfect solutions to connect to my iPad so I can get real time movement on ForeFlight without skipping a beat. It’s just awesome and I love it.
A Quality Flight Bag
It used to be critical to have a sturdy trustworthy flight bag that could withstand the lugging around of all of your paper charts when you went flying. Now that those charts have been replaced with a hand dandy iPad, all you really carry around is an iPad, an iPad mount, and your headset during your flights… maybe a GPS transmitter but we will get to that a bit later too.
You know what this means? It’s now officially acceptable to have a flight bag look more cool than it may be functional, guys!
For me, my now go-to flight bag is just my trusted Herschel Little America backpack. In all honesty I used to have a Sporty’s ultra deluxe something or other flight bag and it ripped apart pretty quickly. I have found that a good solid backpack is a great thing to have. I personally am also a believer in not making things more complicated than they need to be when packing.
ps… These Herschel bags come in a ton of different styles so find one that fits your personality! 🙂
A Good Pair of Ray Bans Sunglasses
It’s no secret that pilots typically want a good set of sunglasses when they are flying. In-fact, just the other day I was 100% blinded by the setting sun while driving home because I forgot my sunglasses.
There are two ways to go about getting sunglasses. One train of thought is to just buy cheap pairs multiple times per year. Or the other being to invest in a quality pair you won’t dare lose or forget. I choose the latter.
My go-to brand is of course the trusted Ray Bans. Now depending on your style you can go with classic Aviators. These are great because they of course are originally made for pilots. The large lenses protect your eyes from glare and the sleek sides prevent your temples from hurting as much with a headset on.
I used to fly with aviators and in some cases I still do, however I typically default to my handy daily Ray Ban Wayfarer Originals.
|Ray-Ban RB3025 Aviator Sunglasses||Ray-Ban Wayfarer RB2140 Square Sunglasses|
|More info & current pricing||More info & current pricing|
PILOT HACK : Do not purchase polarized sunglasses for flying. It is impossible to see screens, and other aspects of spotting critical flying related aspects.
High Quality Pilot Headset
I’ve reviewed some of the top quality pilot headsets before for you to compare quality and pricing ranges. I will add that finding a headset is kind of like buying a car. You need to test some out before you commit to one. All models feel significantly different and although some headsets can cost over $1,000+ your head may find a sub $1,000 headset to feel the best.
I personally have owned and loved the Lightspeed Zulu headset for the last 8 or so years. It is just like new and would highly recommend it or their updated versions.
Best Products for Aircraft Owners
If you’re a soon to be aircraft owner it’s easy to forget about the little products you may need for your airplane. Here are some of the best aircraft products for you to have in your hangar.
The Claw C100 Aircraft Tie Down Kit
Although I am no airplane owner myself (yet), almost every single one of my friends that do own aircraft rant and rave about “The Claw” tiedown system. It’s critical that you have a good way of tying down your aircraft securely when on surfaces other than asphalt. Also, it’s kind of fun staking these claws into the ground.
The key here is to invest in a pair of wheel chocks that will cover the width of your tires. There’s nothing fancy about wheel chocks, but without them you run the risk of your aircraft rolling around and that could cause some serious damage.
Wash Wax from Aero Cosmetics
I have washed a good amount of airplanes in my aviation lifetime. When I did, I typically used Wash Wax which is a waterless aircraft washing system. You can invest in the kit that comes with all the essentials to get started. It’s pretty nifty stuff and makes for washing your airplane less of a hassle when you can’t find a water source at your local airport.
Aviation Products for Enthusiasts
One of the best products you can purchase as an aviation enthusiast would be an aviation handheld receiver radio. These radios allow you to tune into aviation frequencies near your local airport and listen to pilots talk to air traffic control in real time. This is a fun hobby to couple with plane spotting and can serve you hours of entertainment on a sunny weekend.
Be warned, the spouse or significant other may not be as enthused as you are. I still support you. 😉
When it comes to radios there are a slew of different ones you can purchase. This is why recently I wrote an article comparing some of the top aviation handheld radios.
I personally own and love the Yaesu FTA-550.
Canon Digital Camera and Lenses
It’s likely that if you are not able to fly, or just love being around airplanes that you would want to document it by capturing some fun photos or videos. I love plane spotting and I have used the Canon Rebel series for the longest time to do this. I would recommend that you invest in a DSLR verses a point-and-shoot camera for aviation photography because you will typically be too far away from the airplanes to get crips photos with point-and-shoot’s zoom capabilities anyway.
I still own a Canon Rebel T2i, although old it still works pretty well. You are probably better off getting one of their newer Rebel cameras just because the T2i is a bit dated by now. Does this mean I’m getting old?
An added point here is that the body camera is less significant as the lens you decide to invest in. For me, my trusted 100-400mm Canon L series lens is the winner for getting crisp aircraft photos from afar. If you get this lens I would recommend getting the older model that is a push pull instead of the new one that is a twist zoom. My friends have played with the twist zoom and it just is harder to work with when shooting airshows etc. as you are pointed towards the sky.
X-Plane Flight Simulator
I love flying flight simulators. Even though I don’t get to do it as much as I used to (and trust me I spent a lot of time flying sim), I still really love the aviation sim world. Honestly, I used to be a Microsoft Flight Simulator guy. However, with owning a Mac and with Microsoft not innovating anymore on flight simulators, I started trying out X-Plane 10 and have to admit it is pretty great.
It takes some time to get used to, but once you have learned the ins and outs it’s actually very realistic. I would highly recommend checking it out if you are looking to get into the sim world.
This may be dating my aviation life, but I remember when I first received a Jane’s book of all of the airline and airplane models and types.
It was the best book and I would study it inside and out as a young addicted pilot. I would still recommend the handy book to serve as a fun coffee table book to have laying around the home. However, I am well aware that the internet has tons of resources that now outpace what these books can give you.
For constant updated aircraft information and photography I would recommend checking out airliners.net
Well there you have it, a line up of some of the essential aviation products that I believe any pilot, aircraft owner, or aviation enthusiast should own. I’m interested to hear what products are your go-to’s, please comment below and share things I may have missed that you love and use on your flying adventures.