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Pilot Gear and Gadgets

Like any sport, flying a sport plane or airplane light-sport aircraft (LSA) can bring with it lots of fun new gadgets and gear. You’re likely to encounter and use all of these items at some point in your flying career.


Sport plane engines and propellers make a certain amount of noise. To protect your hearing and carry on a conversation in the cockpit with your instructor, copilot, or passengers, you will want to use a headset with a boom microphone connected to an intercom. Today, many sport planes have built-in intercoms that use standardized headphone and microphone jacks. The best headsets use active noise cancellation technologies to eliminate most engine and propeller noise.


As a sport pilot, you will keep a record of your flying experience in a logbook. The logbook is your primary means of showing what type of flying experiences you’ve had. For each flight you will typically record the date, type of aircraft and registration number, point of departure, destination, duration of the flight, number of landings, operating conditions (i.e., night or instrument weather), and your role (i.e., pilot in command, copilot, instructor, student pilot receiving instruction). You are required to log any flight time that is needed to meet FAA minimum levels of proficiency and currency. BUY NOW

Pilot’s operating handbooks

Almost every sport plane you fly has some form of Pilot’s Operating Handbook, or POH for short. The POH describes all of the aircraft’s basic characteristics and capabilities; standard and emergency operating procedures; equipment configuration; weight and balance information; and a description of its systems, instrumentation, navigation, and radio equipment. Technically, there is only one legal POH for each unique aircraft serial number. It is updated throughout the life of the aircraft with changes to standard and emergency operating procedures that are issued by the manufacturer, as well as to reflect changes to the aircraft’s equipment configuration and weight and balance information.


Use of a checklist helps ensure that no key task is omitted, and that all required tasks are performed in the proper sequence. The most routine checklists that you will used are the preflight aircraft inspection checklist, the engine start checklist, the pre-takeoff checklist, the pre-landing checklist, and the engine/aircraft shutdown checklist. You’ll find all your aircraft’s approved checklists in the Pilot’s Operating Handbook, or as stand-alone products sold at many pilot supply stores.


You’ll use a variety of basic forms to plan a flight, record weather information, calculate your aircraft’s weight and balance, or file a flight plan with air traffic control. You can see some of these forms by visiting our online library.

Handheld GPS

Handheld Global Positioning System receivers featuring detailed moving map displays can show you where you are, where you’ve been, and where you’re going. They can also show you the airspace and terrain features around you. Many include route planning tools and detailed information about airports and navigational aids. There is a huge difference in GPS models, from the basic road GPS to the top of the line aviation GPS, ranging in price from $100 to $6000 depending on the features.

Handheld radios

Like so many other sport plane pilots, you may want to carry a portable radio when flying. You can buy a transceiver that not only receives but also transmits on all the civilian aviation communications frequencies. Some handhelds also receive signals from aviation navigational aids, hence the name NAV/COM. A transceiver, or a less expensive aviation-band receiver allows you to listen to aviation radio transmissions…a great way for you to learn the terminology more quickly!

Flight calculators

As a sport pilot, you use mathematics (at about an eighth grade level) to calculate such things as how much fuel you’ll need to complete a flight, what compass heading you’ll use to maintain the desired ground track, and how fast you’ll be traveling over the ground given the effect of winds aloft on your aircraft. BUY NOW

You have your choice of using a traditional or electronic flight computer.The traditional mechanical E6B or “wiz-wheel” as it’s often know is a simplified adaptation of a slide rule. It never needs batteries and works every time. The modern electronic E6Bs that work just like a handheld calculator, making your aeronautical calculations fast and easy.

Plotters and pens

Plotters are made of clear plastic and feature a special aviation ruler that lets you draw straight lines or measure distances on maps and charts when planning flight routes. They also include a basic protractor for measuring course angles and bearings. Plotters come in all shapes and sizes; some even fold up to fit in your shirt pocket. Pens are used to drawn the lines on the map. Some include both a black felt tip marker on one end and a yellow highlighter on the other to help you see the route you’ve drawn once you’re looking at the map in flight. BUY NOW

Flight bags

You’ll need a flight bag in which to carry all of your flying gadgets and gear. As a student pilot you may buy a large bag to carry all of your study materials plus flying gear. As you become more experienced, you’ll probably shed most of the books and pare down to just the gadgets and gear that are time-tested basics needed for any flight and no more. That’s when you’ll buy a much smaller flight bag that doesn’t require a luggage cart to carry it from your car to the aircraft. BUY NOW


Sunglasses provide important protection from UV radiation and make spotting other aircraft through the afternoon haze easier. Plus, how can you really call yourself a pilot if you don’t have a nice set of cool pilot shades?

Fuel strainers

You will become familiar with the ritual of drain a sample of fuel from the sport plane’s fuel system before every flight, to verify the type of fuel being used and look for water or other contamination. Most flight schools will supply you with a basic fuel strainer when you rent their aircraft.

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