The Boy Scout motto Be Prepared has stuck with the organization for countless years. And for a good reason too. While pilot supplies is not the most important aspect of flying, it plays a very important role. Have you ever flown a cross country trip without planning for it beforehand? I hope no one has answered yes. Proper planning and preparation is important for any flight; even the quick trip around the patch. Having the right tools at your disposal helps you handle any unexpected situations. I decided to throw together a list of this things I keep in my flight bag to compare with others. What do you have in yours?
Since I don't lug my entire flight library with me, I use a fairly small flight bag. Some spend hundreds of dollars on a flight bag; I find it unnecessary. In fact, I use the free one AOPA sent me for renewing my membership (kind of looks like the one pictured left). It looks cool and holds everything I need. I'm not saying don't buy a nice flight bag, just don't buy space you can't or don't need to fill.
Now here is where you can go crazy on quality. A good quality headset is very important to have. Comfort should be your number one priority with noise cancelling coming as a close second. Headsets come in two types: passive and noise cancelling. In a passive headset, noise is blocked by by the ear cups only. Noise cancelling headsets use electronics to cancel engine and ambient noise. I use Flightcom's 5DX passive headset. At $179, it carries a good price tag. Like I said before, and I can't stress it enough, find a headset that feels comfortable on you! Head over to your local pilot shop to try them on. You'll thank me later
In my opinion, a pilot's log book is the most important possession he or she has. It documents one's entire flying career. The movie One Six Right accurately describes the logbook as "a love story". Most log books are the same for the most part. I bring mine with me so I can document the flight immediately after securing the plane. Its also a good idea to bring it with in case ratings or sign-offs need to be shown to an official. This is even more important to the student pilot. Anytime a student pilot is flying as pilot in command (solo), he must have his logbook with him.
E6B Flight Computer
As technology increases, manual methods of computation seem to diminish more and more. We've gone from slide rules to $100 graphing calculators. One cool aspect of aviation is its preservation of history. Not only do flight instructors teach old school flight planning techniques, but we fly old school planes. I keep the E6B in my bag because its useful for flight plan deviations. Get to know your E6B; either a manual one or an electronic one. If you know how to use it well, it can help you in huge ways.
Airport/Facility Directory and Charts
Unless you're heading up for a patch flight, you should always stock the proper charts and A/FD. Even if you use a GPS, it helps to have these items with you. What happens if you have a power failure? Nothing (navigation-wise) if you have your chart with you. You did plot your flight path on the chart didn't you? I usually pack both my sectional and terminal area chart (since I fly close to Chicago). Its important to keep them up to date as well. You never know what might change (I had runway numbers change once!)
Obviously this will only apply if you fly at night. I suggest leaving it in the bag all the time, however, so you don't have to remember to put it back. I prefer LED flashlights since they are much more powerful. I use a powerful white one for dark pre-flights. Choose a flashlight that's not too big, in case you need to put in your pocket to use both hands. I also have a red flashlight that straps on top of my head. I use this in a dark cockpit environment to read charts and such. Use red light in the cockpit; it will preserve your eyes. That way, they will still be adjusted for the darkness.
Sunglasses are a must on sunny days. The visors provided in some aircraft won't do anything except compromise flight safety. It's kind of difficult looking for traffic with your eyes closed. Sunglasses come in a lot of different variations. Aviator style lenses are not required, but look pretty cool . The same thing goes for sunglasses as it did with headsets; find a pair that is comfortable. I have a pair of Verdalo HD's that I picked up at Oshkosh. They fit well and have descent coverage. The only thing that I would warn against is polarized lenses. I've heard that the polarization can mess up GPS displays. I don't have any experience with that happening but I'm not sure.
In addition to the items above, I always keep extra batteries, pencils, and highlighters in my bag. I also try to make quick reference cards (especially for my handheld GPS) just in case. My flight back probably contains something completely different than yours. So I'd like to know, what's in your flight bag?