The Poor Pilot

frugal flying for student and recreational aviators

The poor pilot’s flight bag

flight bagNo matter what our financial situation is, us pilots are very fortunate to experience the joys of aviation. I should’ve probably mentioned that  in my first blog post.  Really  there is no such thing as a poor pilot,  but still,  flying isn’t cheap.   The flight bag is no exception.   My flight bag has close to $1,000 of stuff in it, and I pride myself in being frugal.

So what’s in my bag?


The most expensive, and probably the most essential piece of equipment I have is my headset.   I know there are much cheaper options but I wanted a headset that would last a long time, and because I like my hearing,  active noise reduction was a must for me.   I bought a new David Clark H10-13X ANR headset , which you can pick up on Amazon here for $660 brand new, or used for $499.  The noise reduction on this was comparable to that of my CFI’s Bose headset, and David Clark seems to have a pretty good reputation with all the pilots that I know.  The owner of the flight school I go to said that this was an older model so he gave me a pretty generous discount,  I believe there is one more available at that price ($500,)  so shoot me an email and if it is still available I can send it out to you.  The only thing I don’t like about the headset is the ANR switch can easily get bumped to on when putting it back in the bag, this only cost me one 9 volt battery so far, but I can see this happening again.  Overall, I am happy with my purchase.

If you plan on a career in flying I would suggest not skimping on this purchase, you only have to buy a headset once, maybe every 10 years.  I recommend just asking around your school, and searching for a deal.  I found a posting for an unopened David Clark H10-13.4 , no ANR, at one airport for sale at less than what they purchased it for.


The next most expensive thing I have is my iPad.  I have the 3rd Generation iPad 16GB , which I didn’t have to pay for because I just told a friend I was going to buy one, and because she didn’t use hers, she just gave it to me.  That saved me quite a bit of money.  I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth but when it comes to aviation, there are some issues with it. In the Diamond DA-20 , which I train in, there isn’t much room for the full size ipad.  Even with a fancy knee board, which I also got for free from a friend,  it really is in the way. reccomends the iPad mini for a space constrained cockpit, and I’d have to agree.   They also recommend 5th generation iPads or newer, or 2nd generation iPad mini or newer, because the processors are pretty slow when it comes to running foreflight. I have noticed that to be true with the map redraws, and again I have to agree with them.

To protect my iPad have the Flying Circle – Tactical iPad Cover, this isn’t cheap at $65, but again, I didn’t pay a dime for this because apparently I have some good friends. This thing is fully loaded, and I would pay for it if I had to.   It’s sturdy, has plenty of storage, a kickstand, built in screen cleaner, pen/stylus holders, elastic bands for one hand holding, leg strap for hands free use when flying, velcro everywhere, and I’m sure there some stuff that I haven’t figured out yet.  It transitions great from the classroom to the cockpit.  Get one and protect your iPad.


All these gadgets require some source of power. To keep my iPad, and iPhone up and running on those cross country flights I have a Poweradd Pilot 2GS 10,000mAh Portable Phone Charger.  When this thing has a full charge it can charge my iPhone 6s twice and my ipad once.  That is plenty of juice and it is only $18.

I also bring all the cables and AC adapters needed to charge my charger, phone and iPad  when at airports. These  all fit nicely in the ipad case.  I also bring an extra AA battery for my flashlight, and a 9 volt for the ANR on my headset.   

The Bag

So I shove all this (-minus the iPad) into the basic David Clark Headset bag.   It sucks a bag doesn’t come with the headset, but I got this from my school for $19 and couldn’t find it cheaper than that anywhere, it’s $30 on Amazon.  It has an additional zip up pocket in the front that fits, and secures the slim logbook ($13), my student pilot cert and passport, and the extra batteries.   There is a small pouch pocket on the front that I store a notebook, clip on my flashlight, and keep a pen and pencil in.   There is another pouch pocket in the back that I throw my charger, sectionals, an e6b, and plotter into.

The notebooks I use for everything are the small soft cover Moleskine journals,  they are $8 for a pack of three, so these are a bit of splurge.  I just like the clean style, plus they have a little pocket in the back, and the last few pages are perforated so you can rip out pages without destroying the binding.

The flashlight I use is the Redline OC Flashlight and I got this through my job,  so again I didn’t have to pay.  I just move it from my tool bag to flight bag.   This thing is great for my job and aviation.  It has a glow in the dark button so you can easily find it in the dark, adjustable beam, a strobe light mode, and it is super bright.   This only cost $18 on Amazon, and I’m actually thinking about buying another one, just so I don’t have to transfer it from bag to bag all the time.

So that is pretty much it.  I know this doesn’t seem like the most frugal bag, but the way I got everything was pretty poor pilot-ish’.   Tell your friends what your looking for, ask other pilots around the flight school if they have used equipment they have laying around, and keep an eye out for postings at airport or flight school bulletin boards.  You never know when you can get lucky!

Anything I should have in my bag that I didn’t mention?  What’s in your bag?  Please share in the comments.

Fly Safe!



  1. Yet another great post Tony! I’d say you just about covered all of the necessities for the general aviation pilot. But one might want to bring along an extra set of batteries for their headset as well as investing in an external battery for your ipad so you never have to worry about losing power. They range in price around $40-$70 and some can be cheaper if you have a manufacturer’s coupon. When I started doing long x-country flights, a back-up external battery as well as headset batteries were a must. As you’ll soon find out if you haven’t already, being overly prepared in aviation is essential to being a safe and responsible pilot. Looking forward to the next post… Justin

    • Tony

      April 19, 2016 at 8:00 pm

      Thanks for the feedback Justin. I’m gonna try and ramp the number of posts up. Thinking of featuring a poor pilot once a week, and posting up a “free ground course” I find online. You let me know if there are any other things I should look into, and share any tips you have on saving a few bucks.

      I put in the post the poweradd I use. It is just a coincidence it’s called a pilot, but its only $18. Check it out.

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