What’s In My Flight Bag

My Packed Flight Bag

My Packed Flight Bag

What to put in your flight bag and how to organize it is a topic I’ve never really covered in depth during training. I just tell students ‘you need this’, ‘you might want this’, ‘you need a way to organize it’ and move on. However, I have changed what I carry and how in the last few years, based upon my flight instructing experience.

As a flight instructor, I carry more than most pilots need to carry, but some of the items may be of interest and trigger you to evaluate what you carry. I am amazed to see that students and other pilots are often carrying more stuff (at least by volume and weight).

The Bags

I now carry a Brightline Bag (the version shown in this picture was the B6, but I’ve since replaced with a B4 swift after several years – very similar). They aren’t cheap, but I like the size and organization and so far it seems durable.

I carry my Bose A20 headset in its own bag, along with the cables and recorder and an extra set of AA batteries (I use rechargeable batteries since I use it so much)

Lastly, I usually carry my Panasonic GF5 camera and two lenses to increase the chance of getting good shots that aren’t possible with my phone’s camera and which I found didn’t work well with my point and shoot camera. If you enjoy my pictures recently on WingsByWerntz and Facebook, this is what I use for most of them.

Flight Bag

Exploded view

Exploded view

I’ll spend most of my time talking about this bag and I’ll work from my log book (lower left – black with red letters) in the picture, more or less clockwise:

  1. Logbook – the Gleim logbook is my favorite. It has the columns I need, space to write more than a word in the notes and is the best at being up-to-date on endorsement wording. I tape a business card inside it and also attach a small envelope where I keep my medical and pilot/instructor certificates.
  2. View limiting devices (aka hoods) – I carry two types for myself and my students. The ASA Overcasters work well for students with prescription glasses, but are very fragile, so I carry them in a small tupperware type containter to protect them. I carry a second set that I use for pilots without glasses – they fit on like glasses (I like the flip up style of the JeppShades, but they just break too easily)
  3. Notebook – this is always at hand while I am flying (usually in my lap) and I use it to carry lots of extra items. It’s a small 3 ring binder that takes paper half the size of normal letter sized paper and has a clear window on the front
    1. Extra checklist – I can see my checklist on the front, but easily remove it for reference to the other side
    2. Paper – I write a lot of ATIS, clearances, and notes; I also need to be able to sketch things out for students. I prefer grid paper
    3. Pen – I keep one in the notebook
    4. Airsick bags – they’re small and I keep two in the pockets of the notebook
    5. Sticky notes – for reminders and covering up instrucments
    6. Holding entry cheat card
    7. Selected IFR approach plates, charts and legends. I use Jepp, but could just as easily be NACO
  4. Pulse oximeter – for high altitude flying, this is a good thing to have and are now cheap enough (~$40). It allows you determine how you (or another pilot or passenger) are reacting to reduced oxygen. It runs on AAA batteries
  5. Extra pens –  {Pilot brand – what else?} these have a dedicated, easy to reach slot on the outside of the bag
  6. SPOT tracker – this allows others to be track me, even when I’m outside of radar coverage and can be used to signal for help in an emergency. Highly recommended for cross-country flights over remote areas. Uses AAA batteries (preferably lithium)
  7. VFR Charts – I always carry current paper LAX TAC and Sectional charts easily accesible in an outside pocket and have ready access to SAN TAC and SFO Sectional in an inside pocket.
  8. Practical Test Standard (PTS) – for reference with students. I now have this duplicated in other ways, so probably will drop that now
  9. Kindle Fire (tablet) – this was one of the earliest inexpensive small tablets. It has great battery life and I use it for instrument approach plates (all of CA via FltPlan.com app – free); reference material like POHs, FAR/AIM, and PTS. It charges via a micro-USB port and I have it in a protective sleeve case
  10. USB lighter adapter/cable – I can charge my cell or Kindle in any plane that has a cigarette lighter (12V or 24V)
  11. Mints and Gum – I’m in a small space with others, so I always worry. Gum is useful to chew to help keep ears unplugged during altitude changes
  12. Drugs – bonine, aspirin, and sudafed. For passengers.
  13. Keys – I carry a lot and have them on several different rings according to use
  14. Multitool – this is a Leatherman knockoff from Home Depot with screwdrivers, pliers, and a few knife blades.
  15. Handheld radio – I consider this a necessity for supervised solo flights, but is useful as a backup or just listening to chatter on the ground. This is an older Sporty’s model. I also carry a cable that would allow me to connect my headset. Trying to use this in a cockpit without the adapter would be challenging. The range is limited compared to panel mount radios, so don’t expect to be able to talk to SoCal or Center over long distances.
  16. Clip on sunglasses – just in case I don’t have my sunglasses, this is a quick backup
  17. Tire pressure tester – how do you know otherwise?
  18. Two small flashlights and small headlamp – see night flight for more details
  19. Fuel tester – I like having an extra even if there’s one in the plane. I prefer the type with a reversible screwdriver bit and a removable sampling pin.
  20. Barf bags – I keep the two in my notebook, but extras in my bag (I never want to have to clean out the inside of an airplane)
  21. Baby wipes – I get the individually wrapped type and even they dry out and need replacement occasionally
  22. Sticky notes – I keep a few in the notebook and dozens in my bag. These are the extra sticky Post-Its in the shape of an apple and work well for covering instruments for partial panel/failures.
  23. Batteries – I carry extra batteries in a glow in the dark carrier. I need 8AA, just in case the radio batteries die, but also for flashlights, headset, and pulse oximeter, etc. This carrier holds 8xAA, 4xAAA, 1x9V

  24. Not shown – cell phone (there’s a special slot in the bag for it)

Cross-country/longer flight bag

The majority of my flight is done inside of the LA Basin on training flights. It would be difficult to “disappear” in the LA basin, so I put most of my more survival oriented gear in a separate bag that I take with me for longer flights.

  • Life vests – 4 of the small inflatable style
  • Medical kit – prepackaged kit purchased at REI
  • Chocks – lightweight aluminum
  • Tie down straps – ratchet type (bought at Home Depot)
  • Jacket – packable in case I’m caught in unplanned inclement weather
  • Blankets – small alumnized mylar survival blankets

What I don’t carry

  • Kneeboard – always found they get in the way in the airplane
  • GPS unit (beyond what my smartphone or tablet can do)


2 thoughts on “What’s In My Flight Bag

  1. This is very helpful, and I always get a great deal of pleasure contemplating a packing list! I have a question: why BOTH airsick and barf bags? Aren’t they the same?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *