Holiday gift ideas for student pilots

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Learning to fly is more than just a fun hobby; for most it’s a life-changing decision. One thing you’ll notice right away is that friends and family start to ask about gifts – they know you probably want something aviation-related, but it’s hard to know the difference between ANR and ADS-B if you’re not a pilot. To help the gift buyers this Christmas, we’ve assembled a list of 10 can’t-miss gift ideas.

10. First solo award – There are many milestones along the path to becoming a pilot, so make sure you celebrate each one. From first solo trophies to framed shirt tails to pilot certificate plaques, there are a number of ways to commemorate a your big day. Shop Now

Air Scan II
An aviation radio is a fun way to improve your communication skills.

9. Aviation radio – Many new pilots struggle with communications, especially early in training. While there are plenty of training courses available, another great way to improve your skills is with a portable radio. Whether you’re at home listening to the airliners overhead or at the airport listening to local traffic, you can hear how other pilots talk and practice scenarios in your head. We like the Air Scan II for listening at home (with music playing in between transmissions), or the new PJ2 for total portability (and the ability to transmit if you need to).

8. Flashlight – You can never have too many flashlights in your flight bag. A bright light is essential for conducting a thorough pre-flight inspection, and a dimmer red light is important for night flying. Don’t settle for a cheap hardware store light; there are some great options that are specifically made for pilots, and will last for years. Shop Now

7. iPad accessories – Tablets and electronic flight bag apps (like ForeFlight) have become required equipment for pilots of all experience levels, and with a few accessories that off-the-shelf iPad can become a much more powerful tool. First, make sure you secure your tablet, with either a mount or a kneeboard. Next, consider adding an external GPS receiver to get a precise moving-map display, or upgrade to an ADS-B receiver to get in-flight weather. Finally, don’t forget about backup power options! Shop Now

6. Flight simulator gear – A home flight simulator won’t teach you how to make smooth crosswind landings, but it can help you understand the different cockpit instruments or practice checklist flows. There are simulator options from under $200 to over $8,000 so match the equipment to your budget and requirements. (Here are some tips to consider when training with a simulator.) Shop Now

2020 courses
A home study course is an excellent investment.

5. Home study course – There’s a lot to learn as a student pilot, and much of that learning takes place outside the airplane. That’s why a good video course is such a smart investment. By preparing for each lesson ahead of time, you’ll spend less time reviewing and more time making progress. A complete course can even help you prepare for the FAA Knowledge Test and give you the endorsement to take it. The latest edition from Sporty’s includes access to multiple formats (online, phone/tablet apps, smart TV) and never expires. Shop Now

4. E6B Flight Computer – Whether it’s determining groundspeed or figuring weight and balance, you’ll spend plenty of time doing calculations during training. Many of these go beyond basic math, so an aviation-specific calculator (called an E6B) is a real time-saver. And since you can’t take a smartphone or tablet into the FAA testing center, an E6B is essential for passing the Knowledge Test. Shop Now

3. Headset – This one is easy – you should wear a headset on every flight. Not only does it protect your ears from permanent damage, it can also improve clarity and thus safety. There are dozens of options, from just over $100 to over $1,000. The most expensive ones include active noise reduction, which uses microphones and speakers to reduce the engine, propeller, and wind noise. If you can afford ANR, it’s a smart buy. Shop Now

Flight bag
A good flight bag is the perfect way to organize all your gear.

2. Flight Bag – With all the pilot gear you own, from headsets to radios to flashlights, make sure you have a high quality flight bag to protect your investment. A good flight bag will also make it easy to stay organized in flight, with dedicated pockets for your most frequently used items. There are different sizes and shapes to suit any preference, and many of them cost less than $100. Shop Now.

1. Complete Kit – If you want to save time and money, these Deluxe Course Kits are the way to go. They include most of the key items, including: video course, flight bag, logbook, E6B flight computer, fuel tester, key textbooks, and more. For just under $400, it’s the perfect gift for a new pilot and will ensure they get off to a fast start. We’d suggest adding a headset (a personal preference usually) to make it totally complete. You can even include embroidery to the flight bag to add a personal touch. Shop Now

Of course if you just can’t decide, a gift card is always appreciated.

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Coming from an aviation family, John grew up in the back of small airplanes and learned to fly as a teenager. Ever since, he has been hooked on anything with wings and regularly flies a Citabria, a Pilatus PC-12 and a Robinson R44 helicopter. He is an ATP and also holds ratings for multiengine, seaplanes, gliders, and helicopters. In addition to being Editor-in-Chief of Air Facts, John is a Vice President at Sporty’s Pilot Shop, responsible for new product development and marketing.

1 COMMENT

  1. I tell my students not to buy anything before trying mine. EVERYONE wants to sell you something in aviation. Some things are worth it, some are not. Borrow mine and try before you buy.

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