General Aviation

Like most sports and activities, there is a huge amount of paraphernalia that can be purchased for both pilot and aircraft, whether they own their machine or rent one. Some of this equipment is necessary, some of it is optional, but it’s always fun to look at what’s available. Here are a few of the basics – there are lots more.

1. Headset.

Every serious pilot should have their own headset. You need a proper aviation headset and can’t use one made for another purpose as they have special jacks, construction and options. The idea of a headset is to reduce noise (the cockpit is loud), make communications easier to hear and make your voice clear – all whilst being as comfortable as possible.


Pilot “selfie” showing Dave Clark and Lightspeed brand headsets.

There is a massive range of headsets from one-to-two hundred dollars to over a thousand. Options include music inputs, bluetooth connections, built-in lights, special low-weight constructions and electronic noise reduction. There are several manufacturers including David Clark, Bose, Lightspeed and more.

2. Portable GPS / EFB’s

There are many options for portable GPS units and electronic flight bags (EFB’s). There are websites dedicated to this one element of flying. Pilots choose their system then learn it as well, as proficient use is very important in flight.


A basic Garmin 296 portable mounted on the dash – there are many different types and models available

Several makes and models are ubiquitous throughout aviation and include the Garmin range as well as Bendix/King and Lowrance. Pilots like their own GPS to take into rental aircraft so they are familiar with it and need not learn other systems. Increasingly, iPad and tablet options are becoming popular (see this quick article: here)

3. Sunglasses

This is perhaps more important to a pilot because optimal vision is (obviously) important in the air. Reducing glare and contrast (helping pilots to pick-out other aircraft) are primary features and several makes specialize in pilot requirements. Not every type works for the pilot, for example many manufacturers offer non-polarized lenses for aviation use. Also, it’s worth saying that the headset can interfere with glasses so finding one which works with your “cans” is a good find.

4. Kneepads

Kneepads are pretty unique to GA and are basically binders or pads which strap to the pilot’s knee to hold things like maps, paper (and pen), calculators etc. The cockpit is usually pretty small and the pilot needs to organize his/her space – the kneepad helps with this.

5. Pilot Bags

There’s a large variety of pilot bags in a similarly wide-range of prices. Like the kneepad, it’s about organization with special pockets for navigation items like maps, documentation holders, padded headset pockets etc. A basic sports bag will do – these are better.

6. Safety Equipment

Depending on the flying, some safety equipment is mandatory, but the prudent pilot carries more than the minimum. First-aid, emergency locators, water, signal-lights, fire-starters, food – all can be needed in an emergency.

There’s more. Oh, there’s lots more. As pilots we have an unparalleled number of gadgets and toys -some important, some less-so – to spend our loonies on. GA can be as much fun on the ground as in the air!


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