Top 10 things you need when starting flight training
Sporty’s is much more than just a pilot shop. From the very beginning, our company was based on teaching people how to fly. Today, our successful flight school has hundreds of students and is solely responsible for the University of Cincinnati’s Professional Pilot Program. The plethora of pilot supplies out there can be overwhelming, so students often look to us for advice on what you really need for flight training.
1. Training Course
If you haven’t already purchased one, the best value in aviation today is Sporty’s Learn to Fly Course. It will give you all the knowledge you need to become a proficient aviator and help you ace your FAA tests. Home study is an essential part of your training and Sporty’s Learn to Fly Course will save you time and money. It works on all your devices and it never expires, so you can buy it once and use it for the rest of your flying career.
Airplanes are noisy. In order to communicate in the cockpit (and protect your hearing), you will need a headset. There are tons of different headsets to choose from. Many students start with a passive headset before stepping up to an active noise reduction (ANR) model later on, which are generally much quieter and more comfortable. Our advice: you get what you pay in aviation headsets, so stay away from really cheap models.
Here are our favorites:
- David Clark H10-13.4: Classic, been around forever, will last 20 years, but a little tight on the clamping force. $344.95
- FARO Stealth 2: A little large, but cancels a lot of noise and has Bluetooth. $249.95 for passive and $449.95 for active make these a good bang for the buck option.
- Lightspeed Sierra: At $650, this entry level ANR headset is packed with many of the features you find on $1100 headsets.
- Bose A20: If money isn’t a deciding factor, these things are amazing. They are extremely comfortable and super quiet.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) publishes several textbooks that are often considered as required reading for student pilots. Many of these books can be found digitally as part of Sporty’s Pilot Training app. Click below to find the paper editions.
- Airplane Flying Handbook – $17.95
- Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge – $17.95
- Aviation Weather – $19.95
- FAR/AIM – $19.95
4. Fuel Tester
One of the many pre-flight tasks pilots perform on aircraft involves fuel, and it’s not just confirming you have enough for your flight and required reserve. Specifically, pilots need to inspect the fuel to make sure it’s the right type and that it is free from contaminants. That is where a fuel tester comes into play.
Types of Fuel Testers
Fuel Sampler Cup
This simple, small, inexpensive fuel tester consists of a clear acrylic cup with a rod in the center. The size makes it easy to stow, but the size makes it less than ideal for aircraft with multiple sumps.
Sporty’s Fuel Tester
The most popular style of fuel tester is this longer model. It has a screwdriver at one end, which makes it convenient for opening a cowling during pre-flight. The center rod is removable to work with both types of drain valves.
The GATS Jar has room for a lot of fuel and is often used with larger aircraft. The piece that is used to activate the fuel drain can be reversed so it can fit both types of valves. The GATS Jar incorporates a screen so you can pour sumped fuel back in your tank if so desired, while straining out debris.
Multi-Sump Fuel Tester
This is the fuel sample cup on steroids. The cup is mounted on top of a larger reservoir. Once the fuel in the top cup has been inspected, a simple push on the side of the cup dumps the contents in the larger reservoir. This allows the pilot to hit a bunch of sumps without needing to dump every time.
Part of getting your private pilot license involves flying at night. While we all have a flashlight on our phone, it will be extremely difficult to use for preflight and in the cockpit. Try to get a flashlight with both white and red light, since red preserves night vision. Here are three of our favorites.
Flight Gear Flashlight
This light is perfect for the cockpit. It has independent buttons for both the red and white light, so you won’t have to ruin your night vision to find the red light setting. The side is printed with the FARs pertaining to night flight, and a focusing head makes it easy to throw light up high on the tail of an aircraft.
Flight Outfitters Dual Color Headlamp
A headlamp puts the right type of light where you need it without tying up your hands. The white light has two levels, low and high, and a focusing ring takes it from a flood light to a spot light. The red light puts just the right amount in the cockpit without waking sleeping passengers.
Flight Outfitters Bush Pilot Flashlight
This rechargeable flashlight is the best we’ve seen for the cockpit. A selector ring on the back of the flashlight allows you to select the color and intensity of the light. A focusing bezel allows you to concentrate the light where needed. The best part of this flashlight is that it doubles as a backup phone battery. The same USB port used to charge the flashlight can be used to charge your phone.
6. Flight Bag
A student pilot generally has more gear during training and you’ll need a dedicated bag to store this gear. Flight bags are purpose built with pockets and features needed for pilots.
Crosswind Flight Gear Bag
The most popular student pilot bag has enough space for a headset and books, yet is small enough to not throw off your weight and balance. The most important feature students wanted: price. Put more cash towards flight training and less towards gear with the Crosswind Flight Gear Bag.
Flight Outfitters Lift Bag
This sturdy bag has room for all the essentials, but won’t get in your way. Includes a large headset pocket, iPad pocket and multiple organizer sections with room for all your accessories. A helpful exterior pocket makes it easy to grab your backup radio in an emergency. Steel-reinforced carrying handles will haul even the heaviest load, and the reinforced sides offer additional protection.
Flight Gear Tailwind Backpack
This bag has quickly become a favorite at Sporty’s Academy, our flight school, and is perfect for those who prefer a backpack. With dedicated pockets for a computer and iPad, you’ll find yourself using this bag every day for work or the gym, as well as flying. With a heavy duty carrying handle and padded, no-slip shoulder straps, the Flight Gear Tailwind Backpack will put up to the rigors of daily flight training abuse.
You are required to keep a record of your training and flight time, which is done in a pilot logbook. These are the two most popular logbooks.
Sporty’s Flight Log and Record
Most pilots start with this logbook. Over 100 pages to fill with all of your training flights.
Senior Pilot’s Flight Log and Record
This is a larger logbook with more pages and columns. The Senior Pilot’s Flight Log and Record is normally used by professional pilots, who have more things to keep track of. Over 250 pages and 32 columns make keeping your records up to date.
Much like learning to drive a car across the state, you will need to learn how to read maps for navigating. These maps will be filled with information and you will need to be able to comprehend them. There are generally two types of aviation charts: VFR (visual flight rules) and IFR (instrument flight rules). When you are starting out, you just need VFR charts.
The United States is divided into sections and each of these sections is covered by a Sectional Chart. The Sectional Chart will be named after a larger city in that section.
Terminal Area Charts
Terminal Area charts take a small area of a sectional chart and make it larger. You’ll find Terminal Area charts around larger cities and congested airspace.
Chart Supplement, formerly known as Airport Facility Directory (AFD)
The chart supplement is the repository for information about each and every airport in a region. There are seven different chart supplements that cover the entire United States.
Most student pilots also train by using a navigational app, which has the ability to overlay charts (like Sectionals) on the screen. While these are approved for training, you may want to check with your instructor to make sure they are alright with you using electronic charts, as some flight schools want you to start with paper charts.
During flight training, you’ll have a lot of information thrown at you. Having a platform on your lap to take notes or hold charts/iPads will make it easier for you to focus on flying the aircraft. Here are our three favorite kneeboards.
Classic Aluminum Kneeboard
This basic clipboard is perfect for holding a chart on your leg and is the most popular.
Flight Gear Tri-Fold Kneeboard
The Tri-Fold Kneeboard adds side flaps for additional organization and pockets for storing small items.
Flight Gear iPad BiFold Kneeboard
Perfect for using a tablet in flight, it adjusts to fit different models. The side flap has extra pockets for other gear.
10. Flight Computer
You don’t have to have a PhD in math to be a pilot. While there are plenty of calculations involved, pilots use purpose built flight computers to figure crosswind components, time/distance equations, and a whole slew of aviation conversions. There are two types of calculators; most student pilots choose the electronic version.
Manual E6B Flight Computer
These trusty, old whizwheel computers have been around since the 30s. While they are great because they require no batteries, they have a fairly steep learning curve. The most popular manual E6B is this aluminum one.
Electronic E6B Flight Computer
Sporty’s E6B takes the guesswork out of aviation calculations. The rugged design is easy to use and approved for use on FAA written exams.
BONUS: you can get many of these products in a kit and save. Check out Sporty’s Deluxe Learn to Fly Kit.
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