I suspect that every pilots needs and wants certain things. Everyone needs a medical certificate, and thus needs good health. Everyone needs a flight review. Everyone (well, except the rare masochist) needs a headset. Maybe not everyone, but a great number of people would want a personal TBM 900, if they could have one. Alas, most of us temper our wants, and make do with mostly the needs.
Here are some other things I want. They’re are not a Cirrus SR22T GTS, but smaller, incremental things to make me safer, happier, and maybe a tad cooler as a pilot. So, mostly things that I haven’t been able to move into the “need” category, but could if it came to it.
Personal Flotation Device (or two)
There is a fair amount of water around here, and some of these life jackets come in tiny packs and are a pretty good insurance for those who can’t swim well. I can’t swim that well. They have a water-activated beacon light, and can be inflated with CO2 or manually. As most reviews say, these are fantastic and yet nobody wants to be in a position to have to use one.
Personal Locator Beacon
There are also a fair number of mountains around here, and in the event of an off-airport landing, a PLB is probably a great alternative to a cellphone that might be well out of reach of any towers. They are surprisingly pricy for a single-function item you hope to never have to use, but having one might mean getting found in hours rather than days.
I have a receiver, which I don’t carry with me, and which is surprisingly difficult to use. It’s strange how actual aviation transceivers are not very cheap, though. I have not yet had any reason to want to use them, though I have had a radio fail on me once or twice, and if it wasn’t for the second radio then I would be squawking 7600.
For survival, this is probably a must. These are pretty small, very inexpensive, and supposedly “reflect and retain 90% of your body heat”. Given that I fly in Southern California, usually, I would imagine that they mainly need to help with a SoCal winter night and not actual negative temperatures
Software and Electronics
Foreflight Pro Plus
For those of us with iPads, a Foreflight subscription is a fantastic aid. It’s pretty universally acknowledged that Foreflight beats all other consumer flying software. While I have the Basic subscription, and would continue to pay for it, there is some allure in the Pro Plus plan as well. Log book, weight and balance, etc are great, but also the additional hazard avoidance and synthetic vision features would make night flying a lot safer. Perhaps the value of the Pro Plus will be greater when I become IFR-rated, but even now it’s enticing for these smaller, helpful features.
No discussion of Foreflight, or for that matter safety equipment, can be complete without a consideration of ADS-B and the Stratus 2S. I’ve been involved in the Stratux project, which aims to build a Stratus-compatible ADS-B In receiver, and it works — but there’s no denying that a professionally-built piece of hardware is better and easier to work with than a home-brew kit. This becomes especially important if one moves from merely exploring the concept of what an ADS-B In receiver can do, and on to changing one’s personal procedures to reflect the additional information available on one’s iPad.
In the Cockpit
iPad Yoke Mount
This may be unnecessary — I love my iPro Aviator/M kneeboard. It’s sturdy, offers a way to hide my iPad from the sun, provides a surface to write on, etc. However, it’s a bit distracting to keep staring down into your lap to look something up on the map. In any sort of poor-visibility conditions this could lead to unnecessary disorientation. I’ve not wanted a yoke mount because they seem strange to have with impermanence (constantly mounting and unmounting them), plus I’m not a fan of having my map tilt every time I deflect the flight control even slightly. But it’s undeniably closer to one’s line of sight during straight-and-level flight, and probably much cooler when there’s a lot of sun on your lap.
Flying with friends? Go borrow a headset from the club. That’s all fine, but the last time I did so, the choice of headsets was poor and the best of the bunch didn’t look that comfortable. At some point it would be quite useful to get my own headset for passengers. There are many kinds out there, from used Lightspeed Sierras to passive David Clarks to brand new Bose A20s. At the end of they day, they just need to be decent enough to not break, and to be comfortable to wear for a few hours.
Child Headset (or two)
The one time I flew with my older kid, I put an adult headset on him. Itwas pretty uncomfortable-looking, and kept slipping — which meant that half the time I couldn’t hear him, half the time he couldn’t hear me, and the entire time he probably heard the roar of the engine. Child headsets exist, and are not very expensive either, though they have pretty poor quality and durability. The main thing standing in the way of getting those then is that I just don’t fly with my kids, yet. I wonder whether getting a child headset would actually influence this.
I am not training for an instrument rating, but I probably will at some point. In addition, I do end up getting checked out by CFIs from time to time — in new planes, for recurrence, for the flight review, etc. Infrequently, I just have another pilot with me. It would be helpful to have ready access to a view-limiting device to keep me current in controlling the aircraft without outside reference.
I don’t know why this is necessary, but apparently every pilot carries a fuel tester with them. I’ve been in exactly one airplane before that didn’t have a fuel tester on board (usually a GATS jar, but sometimes the thinner one with a screwdriver at the end), and in that case the rental place was kind of embarrassed and someone went to find one for me. But maybe the other pilots know more than I do.
Because why not? Every self-respecting person should have a piece of metal that can turn, pry, twist, cut, and bend other pieces of metal.