Pen (or Pencil) and Paper
Writing on your iPad or tablet can be very handy, but cockpit resource management solutions tend to be intensely individual: What works for one pilot can seem unworkable to another pilot. The truth is that sometimes you just need to write something down on paper, dammit! An ending tach or Hobbs time, a phone number, or just a reminder. The low-tech answer is often a pen and pad of paper, both of which are easily acquired from most any FBO or hotel. I've yet to try it, but the ArmBoard™ looks like a interesting solution for cramped cockpits or aircraft with a control stick that makes it difficult or impossible to a standard kneeboard. Heck, with a little ingenuity and the right size of PostIt™ notes, one could easily concoct their own personal solution.
The Best Hood
At many points in your flying career you're going to need a view limiting device for simulated instrument flying. Pilots often dread flying with a view limiting device, but the good news is there are a bunch of options. The bad news is that many hoods and foggles are not only uncomfortable enough to belong in a medieval torture museum, they can interfere with your hat, eye glasses or headset.
In my opinion, the best view limiting device is prosaically named "The Best IFR Hood." It's cheap ($5), foldable, and it fits over/under/on top of ball caps, headsets and glasses. Looks can be deceiving because this puppy is extremely lightweigh, but effective. I buy them by the dozen and regularly distribute them to pilots I train. The first reaction is often one of skepticism, but after 10 minutes every pilot who has tried it is sold. Buy two, write your name on one, and stick it in your flight bag, and you'll have it when you need it. It truly is The Best IFR Hood.
The old saying is a flashlight is a container used by pilots to store dead batteries, but with highly-efficient LED flashlights and head lamps this is no longer true . You can always use your smartphone as a flashlight, but you may get reduced talk time and I personally prefer a dedicated flashlight. You can find inexpensive headlamps at your local hardware store. My favorite is an older Petzl e+Lite headlamp that offers white or red LED illumination. The newest e+Lite model weighs in at less than one ounce, but it costs quite a bit more than my old model. All LED flashlights are much more energy efficient and likely to have excellent battery life and endurance.
Nothing is worse than scraping your knuckles or getting a cut on your finger during preflight and not having something to bandage the wound. You could go whole-hog and carry a full-blown first aid kit, but just a few alcohol wides and a dozen bandages in your flight bag could be all you need.
Food and Water
The Law of Threes says we can survive three minutes without oxygen, three hours without shelter, three days without water, and three weeks without food. No one can blame you for not wanting to carry a tent in your flight bag, but food and water are fairly easy to check off that list.
Whether you invest in a BPA-free stainless steel model or simply grab a disposable water bottle at the FBO, having water on hand can be a very good thing. Long flights at higher altitudes with low relative humidity can lead to dehydration. Pilots often don't realize they're dehydrated so it's best to sip water regularly. An added advantage is than an empty bottle can come in handy should you need to ... um ... heed the call of nature while in flight.
Food comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. You can pack one of a dizzying array of energy bars. For my money an apple, a bag of peanuts, and some turkey jerky are quite satisfying during a long day of flying.
An absorbent cloth can be a very handy thing to have in flight and I like to carry a microfiber cloth. They can be bought cheaply by the dozen and are good for cleaning eye glass, wiping condensation off the inside of a windshield, removing smudges from glass panel displays, and a host of other uses. Another advantage is that microfiber cloth is washable and dries quickly.
Flying at altitude and breathing supplemental oxygen can cause sinusitis, headaches, even painful sinus block during descent. There are several approved OTC (over-the-counter) medications pilots can use, but most of the ones on the drugstore shelf are not very effective. The best remedy for my money is Advil Cold & Sinus, a combination of ibuprofen and pseudoephedrine. In the US, medications that contain pseudoephedrine are pseudo-regulated: They're kept behind the pharmacy counter, require you to show your driver's license, and the sale is logged, but that inconvenience is small when compared to the relief this active ingredient offers. Keep a few tablets in your flight bag and it will be there if and when you or your passengers need it.
You never expect a passenger to be affected by motion sickness, but when it happens it can come on unexpectedly. Nothing is worse for a passenger than feeling like they need to barf and not having a suitable receptacle in which to hurl. You can purchase ultra-effective sick-sacks containing absorbing gel, but a lightweight zip-lock bag or a simple plastic grocery bag works, too. Plastic bags are good for host of other uses, too. Why not keep a few in your flight bag, just in case?
A recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association Dermatology describes a study showing that a one-hour flight at 30,000 feet exposes pilots to the UV radiation equivalent to a 20-minute tanning bed session. Yikes! You don't have to fly in the flight levels to have significant UV exposure and to fight back, you can wear a cap or hat and apply sunscreen. Hats can be problematic for pilots who use conventional headsets, but for those of us using in-ear headsets like Clarity Aloft it's less of a problem. Regardless of your headset preference, applying sunscreen is a good way to reduce your risk of skin cancer. My favorite sunscreen is Ultra Sheer® Dry-Touch Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 100+ by Neutrogena. Some might say SPF 100 is overkill, but then those folks probably ride a bike without a helmet while chewing tobacco, too.
I've covered a few things I find indispensable, but if there's something in your flight bag that you find useful, yet simple and inexpensive, feel free to post a comment.
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