I recently decided to treat myself to a brand spankin’ new flight bag because the old one had seen better days. It was, after all, about five years old and the time had come to say out with the old and in with the new. So, as I’m transferring the contents of the old bag to the new bag, along with a rash of memorable flights, I couldn’t help but notice that this bag is quite different than the one I carried during my flight training. At some point before the bag got renewed, all my gear got renewed too. It happens little by little (that’s the best way to not raise any red flags with my wife) but eventually, hardly anything had remained the same since my training days.
My back is surely better off because of the changes. I looked up at my bookshelf and saw, from long ago, the Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge, FAR/AIM, Maneuvers Guide, Aviation Weather and a few other staple publications from my training. Those trusty books used to live with me everywhere I went. I’m thankful that chapter is over. I’ve fully adopted the paperless cockpit mentality now and my flight bag reflects that. My flight bag isn’t perfect for every mission, but here is a list of the essentials that are with me on every sortie.
To start, I’ll say that the bag I carry is now the Flight Gear HP iPad Bag. The contrast from the old Navigator bag is huge. Sleek, light and purposeful has replaced the spacious utilitarian duffle I had. I was worried that I’d have to make a lot of compromises going to the smaller bag but really without the books, it’s not a compromise at all. What I carry has gotten smaller, largely due to the iPad. The iPad Bag works for me because it has plenty of organization options.
My iPad fits in the back, my headset in the main cavity, and accessories are scattered throughout- but all in pockets. The bag itself is small enough to fit right behind my seat on the floor of the airplane. Thanks to its vertical layout, it doesn’t have a large footprint. That’s another big difference between my old duffle and the iPad bag. As of this writing, I’ve carried the iPad Bag for almost four weeks and have no craftsmanship complaints. It appears to be a solid build.
The Bose A20 headset has replaced the David Clark (DC) H10-13.4 in my bag. When I first started pilot training there wasn’t much of a chance I was squeezing a headset like this into my budget. For the record, I can’t knock the old DC but I wouldn’t consider the DC’s to be in the same class as my Bose. Comfort, transmission clarity and the noise canceling capabilities are nothing short of outstanding on the Bose A20. The Bose hangs from the headset hanger in my flight bag when I’m not using it. It hangs up high in the bag so if the bag endures a drop, the headset likely won’t impact the ground. The number one job of the flight bag is to protect my expensive gear and I’m confident that the iPad Bag will deliver on that promise.
My iPad Pro 9.7” tablet running ForeFlight for my charts. Maybe the biggest weight saver in the bag is my iPad. I fly with the 9.7” iPad so that I can split screen my device with charts and synthetic vision and still have a reasonably sized area to look at.
Stratus is my GPS plus the tons of other features it does. I won’t list everything the Stratus does because you can find that out elsewhere. What I will say is that the Stratus is the one thing I wish I had in my bag during flight training. If I could only pick one item to travel back in time with me, this would be it. My top reasons – convenience, safety and information.
The Stratus is a complete system with no wires, no fuss and everything internal. Stratus gives me a level of situational awareness in the cockpit that alerts me to traffic, weather and even my airplane’s health in the form of pressure altitude. Having all that data available to me in one spot makes me a safer pilot. Finally, the information the Stratus gets to my iPad and also saves for me is very valuable. I split screen my iPad with the AHRS information for synthetic vision in real time. The Stratus even records my flights in a logbook for me in ForeFlight – a feature I sorely missed during my training.
With a smaller bag, you’ve got to stay organized or the bag will be bursting at its seams. I use two gear mods on the back wall of the iPad Bag: the Large Accessory Gear Mod and the Sunglasses Gear Mod. Inside the Large Accessory Gear Mod I keep a host of charging cables, USB wall plug, USB cigarette lighter adapter and other odds and ends. One of the valuable benefits of the Gear Mod pockets is that when you need something out of the pocket, just pull the whole pocket out to get a good look at what you’re grabbing. All the Gear Mods just stick right on to the back of the flight bag so if I need it I can attach it; if I don’t want to carry it, it stays home. The Sunglasses Gear Mod is actually for my Stratus 2S. The size and padding are perfect for securing and protecting a Stratus. It slips right in the top of the pouch lined with soft fabric.
I use the dual USB cigarette lighter adapter for in-flight charging if I need to. But I get use out of this little guy whether I’m charging or not because of the built-in battery voltage screen. I’ve added plugging this into my 12V port to my pre-takeoff checklist so I’m aware of the volts my battery is outputting. I don’t want to learn my alternator quit when my panel goes dark. This charger gives a real-time readout of the battery and alerts me if the voltage gets below 12V. Aside from that, it does have the ability to charge the iPad and the Stratus at the same time. Very handy little device.
The digital carbon monoxide detector inspires much more confidence than the stick-on placards do, to say the least. I have this device clipped to the outside of my bag so it gets fresh air (hopefully no carbon monoxide) and can read the CO levels inside the cockpit. If it does sense CO, lights, sound and vibration will get your attention that there’s a problem.
The MGF kneeboard keeps the iPad on my knee while flying. I love that it rotates so I can choose any position to view it. For me, landscape when I’m using split screen synthetic vision and charts or portrait when I’m only using charts. This kneeboard also serves as my daily iPad case since it can stand up easily for viewing on my desk or flight planning. While I’m in flight, as much as I have adopted the technology today I still use good old fashioned pen and paper. The MGF kneeboard has a removable magnetic clipboard for paper and a pen. It’s the best of both worlds.
Thinking about all the things I used to carry (books, charts, foggles, E6B, etc.), I’m thankful the load has lightened. It’s been awhile since I’ve carried all those old training materials to lessons. My flying is always changing. I’m a little older, hopefully a little wiser but definitely a lot happier with the way my flight bag has adapted over the years.