The following is a list of the items that I recommend for students who are training as private pilots.
Pilot Log Book: I prefer the Gleim logbook (please don’t get a Jeppesen logbook) It has a bit more space for writing down what we did in a flight and has all the necessary pre-printed endorsements, including the one for the TSA. You need this on the first flight. I usually keep a supply of these for students – $12, which is often cheaper than buying online including shipping.
Small Spiral Notebook: I recommend this type of notebook. It’s small enough to fit easily in the plane and a bag. The spiral is large enough to hold a pen easily. It has a couple of pockets to slip a few papers into. You need this, plus an appropriate pen on the first flight to take notes. This should set you back less than $5.
Headset: I let my students borrow some headsets for the first few lessons. After that, you should plan on purchasing one of your own. Headsets can be purchased for less than $100, but can also cost over $1000. I generally find students are happiest with one that costs about $300 as a reasonable compromise between cost, comfort and performance
Fuel Tester: While each of the planes should have a fuel tester, they sometimes are broken or go missing. I recommend getting your own. These can be purchased online or locally for less than $10 – the test tube style fits better in some bags, but the sample cup can be easier to use.
Charts: By your second or third lesson, I recommend picking up a Los Angeles Terminal Chart (aka the LAX TAC). This detailed chart covers the Los Angeles basin. Charts are updated every 8 weeks (new in 2021)
every six months, generally in December and June for Los Angeles. You can buy new charts as they come out locally or on the web, or sign up for a subscription that will send you the new chart every six months. Once you get further in your training, you will also need a Los Angeles Sectional Chart and possibly even a San Francisco Sectional. The terminal charts are about $6 and the sectionals are about $10. For looking at charts online with a computer, I recommend SkyVector. I do want students to have a hard copy initially (and as a backup to a phone/tablet/app), but cheaper to use an app.
Chart Supplement (formerly Airport and Facility / Directory): In the past, I recommended purchasing a hard copy of this. Now I find that students can get by fine with getting information off AirNav as needed and maybe having an Chart Supplement in pdf format or an appropriate app for their phone or tablet.
Flight Computer and Plotter: The E6B flight computer is amazing little circular slide rule. You will need an E6B and plotter as you prepare for your cross country flights and your written test. I usually have a few extra of these available for $25.
Flashlight: as you get to night flight in your training, you’ll need at least one flashlight or headlight. I always carry two flashlights, extra batteries, and a small headlamp. A bright directional light is helpful during preflight and ground maneuvering. In the cockpit, a dimmer, long lasting light or headlamp is helpful. See a discussion on night flight for more information.
Flight bag: a flight bag can be as simple as dedicated old backpack or as fancy as a purpose-made leather flight bag that costs $200. You need a dedicated bag in which you carry all the items you need to every flight. I recommend that the bag be a type that closes. You can see what I carry and how I organize it.
If you take a ground school, it’s likely the instructor will assign a specific book. If you prefer the self study route, I can recommend three alternatives:
- Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge (PHAK) – this is the FAA’s version. It is freely available online in PDF format (updated in 2016) or can be purchased online for about $20 (currently this links to the older version, as there are no printed versions for sale of the 2016 version). It covers what you need to know in a reasonable manner, but some may not find it polished or flashy enough. This is the route the vast majority of my students take. For information related to flying and maneuvers, try the Airplane Flying Handbook.
- Rod Machado’s Private Pilot Handbook: Rod is an instructor, aviation writer, and a comedian. Some people really like his style and some don’t. This is the book I used for my self study.
- Jeppesen Private Pilot Manual or Textbook: this looks more like a traditional textbook – hardback, thick, expensive printing and new editions out with some regularity. Many instructors consider this book the gold standard.
FAR/AIM: These can generally be purchased for less than $20 and are published once a year. All of the information is available on line, but as you prepare for your checkride, a paper copy or PDF/Kindle version you can bookmark is very helpful.