Aviation is not a cheap hobby or occupation and the money we have to spend on our gear is not infinite – Trust me I wish it was! This page was created to help give you some idea of the products I currently use or have used during the last +15 years of commercial bush flying.
Some of these products I find are indispensable and others are just great helpers in the cockpit. I am a big believer in buying a product once and having it last me. There is so much junk in this world today and this page is to help guide you in any purchasing process you may be facing so that you too buy it once and it lasts. Most of the items you see here are still going strong after +10 years of hard service! To me, that is the kind of product I would like to have recommended to me!
Aircraft are noisy, especially helicopters! Not only do you need a headset to be able to hear the other aircraft occupants and air traffic control, but it also protects your hearing. Without a good quality headset, your hearing can be damaged over time and it can be difficult to understand an ATC instruction, especially if the controller is speaking fast or has an accent!
My first ever headset I bought when I started flight school was the Bose Aviation X for helicopters and I still use it to this day! A new set of ear cushions is all that has been needed to keep this headset a loyal companion! Unfortunately, the Aviation X has been superseded by the modern Bose A20 Aviation with Active Noise Reduction and integrated Bluetooth connectivity.
We have the Bose A20 Aviation in our company helicopters and if I were to purchase a headset today there is no doubt that this would be top of my list! The fact that its predecessor is still rocking on strong after 15 years shows its pedigree!
You can find the Bose A20 Aviation Headset HERE at Amazon.com
The Bose A20 Aviation headsets come with connectors for both airplane and helicopter models. Be sure to purchase the one to suit your aircraft!
Helmets are mainly used in helicopter operations and for the last 10 years, the companies I have worked for have mandated their use during any flying operations. They are a great tool for the pilot as they give hearing protection, lenses for eye protection, and head protection in the event of heavy turbulence or a hard impact.
When Night Vision Goggles are used in the operation, the only way to mount them is to a helmet, so if this kind of career is in your sights then purchase a helmet and not a headset.
I have since stopped wearing my helmet as it is not mandated by my company and I’ve found that over 10 years of use it has started to cause me neck and back tension due to its 4 lb weight hanging off my noggin, especially when leaning over doing vertical reference work.
- My Current Helmet is the EVO 152 from Evolution Helicopter Helmets
- My Previous Helmet was the Alpha Eagle from Gentex Corporation
- Another great pick would be a Gallet LH250 from Tiger Performance
If you are like me and your headset or helmet is not new and is missing built-in Bluetooth connectivity then you are going to need something else to provide that functionality.
Being able to make and receive phone calls during flight is really handy if you need to make amendments to flight plans, call FBOs to update your ETA, call flight services to get a weather briefing, call back to base to speak with an engineer if you are experiencing a problem, and much, much more.
But how can you achieve this when flying outside of radio range, but you have cell phone reception? This is where the BluLink Bluetooth Aviation Headset Adapter from Pilot Communications USA comes into its own!
I was missing this functionality in my headset and helmet and I did not want to spend over $1000 on a new headset just to get Bluetooth. My wife brought me this adapter for my birthday and I’ve been using it for almost a year now and it’s fantastic!
Not only can I effortlessly engage in phone calls but listening to music and podcasts while on long ferry flights is a great boredom killer. The device just plugs in between your aircraft and the headset and connects to your phone or iPad and works great
You can find out more information about BluLink HERE at Amazon.com
For any pilot, a pair of high-quality sunglasses is paramount to protect their eyes from harmful UV radiation emitted by the sun. The higher the pilot gets, the less atmosphere there is to prevent the harmful UV rays from penetrating into their eyes.
For every 1000 feet climbed the UV protection decreases by 5%!
No matter which aircraft you fly, you need to invest a bit of money to get yourself a good quality pair of sunglasses. Avoid Polarized lenses as these can block colors and data on digital cockpit screens!
I have been a fan of Ray-Ban sunglasses for decades and always have a pair in the cockpit that I can easily put on when the bright sun comes out.
There are so many sunglasses out there but I would look for a pair that is durable, lightweight, have thin arms to fit under headset earcups, and have lenses in the gray, green, brown, or black palette as these help to see better in flat light.
You can find a great selection of sunglasses from many brands designed for pilots HERE at the Pilot Teacher Store.
A reliable, good quality watch is something you will use everyday you fly. Getting a watch that is durable, accurate and easy to use is essential. If you watch the video below my watch lasted me 15 years before it finally decided enough was enough! This kind of quality does not come cheap but that watch has never let me down!
Just like for sunglasses, I created a collection of watches aimed purposely at pilots to help steer you to the features I look for in a good pilot watch but not at a price that needs your house to be remortgaged!
You can find a great selection of watches from top-quality brands HERE at the Pilot Teacher Store.
Before I began using the iPad with ForeFlight, for years I used a portable aviation GPS from Garmin. To this day it stays in my flight bag as a handy backup in case my iPad decides to quit. My trusty Garmin 296 is a color screen GPS with the North America aviation database on it which works great.
In recent years I have flown helicopters with the latest portable Garmin aviation GPS called the Aera which is now a touchscreen update to my trusty 296. The touchscreen works great and allows you to quickly scroll, zoom and click to drop a waypoint which makes it super handy while flying with a customer on board who likes to look at things!
If you are looking to get a GPS for your aircraft then Garmin will always be my go-to manufacturer! Their pedigree, accuracy, and reliability are second to none and you will not go wrong.
For more information & latest pricing on the Garmin Aera GPS check Here at Amazon.com
iPad & Mount
Outside of the training environment, an iPad mini loaded with the aviation navigation software ForeFlight is the cockpit companion for most pilots today. Having an iPad in the cockpit allows so many tools, calculators, documents, charts, apps, and so many other items to be at your fingertips makes flight so much more efficient.
I have been using the iPad setup for the last few years and it’s a great tool to have. So much so, that like I just mentioned, my trusty Garmin GPS had to be relegated to my flight bag because all it can do is be a GPS.
With the iPad, I can do all my flight planning, weight & balance, scheduling, logbook, weather checking etc in the hanger, walk out to the aircraft, place it into its mount and go flying. It’s perfect! For most cockpits, the iPad mini is the perfect size. The normal-sized iPad is just too big and cumbersome and takes up too much room.
My Current Cockpit Setup is:
- iPad Mini (Link to Amazon.com)
- PIVOT Case (Link to Flyboys.com) Use Discount Code PilotTeacher to get 10% off your order!!!
- Ram Mount Mounting System (Link to Amazon.com)
- ForeFlight Navigation App from Boeing (Link to Foreflight.com)
As pilots, we always seem to have lots of junk we need to take to the aircraft. Some of us seem to have way more than others, but, we all seem to have some stuff that goes on every flight. Over the years I have used many different flight bags to suit the kind of flying I was doing. This was quite frustrating as I spent a lot of money on different bags as there was no other option at the time.
Today, if I were looking to buy a new flight bag the one I love is the Modular Bags from Brightline Bags. These bags are awesome as they come with pockets and compartments that can be added or taken off to suit the amount of gear you need to take.
Doing an IFR flight, add on your IFR pouches full of charts & approach plates. Going for a quick trip to practice some touch and go’s, just take the headset and sunglasses compartments!
The modular design makes these bags suitable for every pilot and it allows you to grow or shed gear as your career or hobby progresses!
Flashlights are always needed by a pilot. Whether you are preparing for a night flight, an early morning flight, doing a visual aircraft inspection, or looking into fuel drums to check for water, a quality flashlight that is lightweight and batteries that last a long time is a must!
In my flight bag I carry two types of flashlight:
- Is a regular handheld flashlight I use to check inside fuel drums and for quick searching around when it’s dark
- Is a headlamp to use while doing visual aircraft inspections in the early morning or putting the aircraft to bed after an evening landing. This helps keep both hands free.
The headlamp I recommend is from Energizer and is super bright, yet very battery efficient.
You can find it Here at Amazon.com
The flashlight I recommend is from Coast and also has a red light to help maintain visual acuity when getting ready for night flights.
you can find it Here at Amazon.com
There are times when you are out in the middle of nowhere with your aircraft and you find something is not quite right and needs adjusting, you need a knife, a saw to cut some brush that’s impeding a safe takeoff are any number of reasons why a tool is required.
Carrying a full tool kit in the aircraft can be a hassle especially if your aircraft is small and weight is an issue. For this reason, every pilot should carry a multi-tool in their flight bag or clipped to their belt. They are super handy and you will be surprised how much you use one once you have it!
I have always been a fan of the Leatherman range of multi-tools due to their quality and selection of tools on each product. These make great items for stocking stuffers or for something from the kids if your partner is asking you what you want for Christmas etc.