There are now less than 20 days until Christmas. Unless you celebrate another holiday, you have less than 3 weeks to get the perfect gift under your tree or cactus. If you’re still shopping and you’ve got pilots on your list, I’m going to help you out. I’d like to present my 2010 Pilot Gift Guide. I should disclose that there will be affiliate links to Amazon for some of the items, but I do want everything on the list. Also, while a brand new plane would make a fine gift, nothing on the list exceeds $2,000 and precious little will exceed about $250.
Gifts For in the Plane
The Sporty’s SP-400 Handheld NAV/COM makes a great addition to any pilot’s flight bag. It makes a great backup in case of radio failure or even a great primary radio for aircraft not equipped with electrical systems. In addition to standard communications, the radio handles navigation via VORs and ILS localizers.
This is the most expensive thing on this list and, short of the Garmin 696, it is one of the best handheld GPSs on the market. It’s a great backup to a panel mounted GPS or a great primary for a VFR pilot. With touch screen, XM Weather capabilities, and aircraft/auto maps this GPS makes a great addition to the cockpit of your plane and your car.
I like the Garmin Aera’s, but if I was buying a handheld GPS for myself, the Bendix/King AV8OR or AV8OR Ace would be the ones I would buy. They offer the many of the same features as the Garmins, but they are priced about half or a quarter of the amount the Garmins cost. Not to mention the Bendix/King booth at Oshkosh this past year offered free updates to anyone who brought their device to the booth.
If you are asking yourself what an iPad is doing in this list, I have to tell you that an iPad running Foreflight is one of the coolest toys tools you could give any pilot. The iPad is a highly sought after tablet and Foreflight offers one of the best suite of aviation tools available. What’s not to love about that combination?
The “foggles,” as they are often called, play a minor role in primary flight instruction; student pilots typically borrow a pair. Pilots training for instrument ratings or maintaining proficiency, however, can benefit from having their own. The instant IMC provided by the glasses are all it takes to start logging simulated instrument time (well, technically a safety pilot is also required).
The GATS Jar is an essential piece of kit for anyone that flys newer Cessna aircraft. With 13 fuel sumps on the new Skyhawks, checking each sump can get old fast with regular testers. I’ve got one of these, and it allows me to check all the sumps and then pour the fuel back in the tanks rather than wasting it.
A final piece of kit that would be a great gift for any pilot is a Fuel Gauge. These tubes are designed for specific aircraft and tell you exactly how much fuel is in the tanks. What’s wrong with the guages in the cockpit? Well, they’re just not authoritative enough thanks to accuracy concerns.
Gifts for the Hangar or Office
A Pilot on Duty Sign, Flight Instructor on Duty Sign, or Mechanic on Duty Sign would make great additions to the office or hangar and offer a vintage flair. A Vintage Wooden Propeller or an aircraft model like this Cessna C-172 Skyhawk are also great gifts for the PICs office.
Great Aviation Books
This is where my own leanings come in. Unless you are talking technology, I can’t think of a better gift than a good book. It’s true, unless you’re thinking of getting me an iPad, I’d love to get a good book. So, now that you know this, you shouldn’t be surprised by this big list of books.
This is, in my opinion, required reading for pilots. It explains the complexities of flight in a way that makes them easier to understand. From the very first word to the very last word, this book teaches you how to fly.
What Stick and Rudder is to flying in general, this book is to flying under instrument weather. It explains weather in an easy to understand way and provides insights on judging and flying in all kinds of weather. This is a must read for all instrument rated pilots or instrument students.
This book is more of a how to guide to flying IFR. It offers information about IFR communications and flight plans, emergency management, and navigation that every instrument rated pilot should know. I particularly like that it includes little excercises that you can perform to improve your skills.
Flight Discipline and Redefining Airmanship are two books that I’ve only recently discovered, but the ideas they teach are something that I think every pilot should know. Flight Discipline offers case studies on human error in flying and strives to create safety conscious aviators. Redefining Airmanship focuses on defining and teaching principles of good airmanship such as judging one’s proficiency. I can’t help feeling like if every pilot read these books and took them to heart, we’d have a better safety record.
I bought this book during my training and it was worth every penny. It offers insights and tips on developing your landing skill. It offers excercises and tips that will improve your landings. Caution: applying the tips from this book will make people think you are a better pilot than you really are.
Ah, mountains. As a pilot who flies in the shadow of “the little mountains in the east,” I bought this book after I got my pilot certificate. Some might wonder why, but honestly a mountain is a mountain. This book provides a great introduction to all aspects of mountain flying in an easy-to-read style. I’ve enjoyed reading it and, honestly, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think everybody (even flat-landers) could benefit from it.
Who doesn’t dream of owning their own plane? While nearly every pilot would love to have a plane sitting ready to go flying, not everyone is a good match for owning. The trouble is, they don’t find out until they buy. This book is a great introduction to owning your own plane. It is laid out in phases and including chapters on the first year of ownership and beyond.
Where Airplane Ownership looks at owning in general, this book addresses similar points and moves on to look at specifics of various aircraft. It is a good follow up to Airplane Ownership. It guides you through selecting an aircraft and home airfield based and includes specific performance figures for about 50 models of aircraft.
Partnering on an aircraft is the best way to cut ownership costs. The truth is that most planes don’t fly all that much. If a couple or several pilots were to share ownership, the plane would fly more, cost less per person, and would probably be just as accessible. Aircraft Partnership is a guide to finding or establishing partnerships successfully.
Kit-built airplanes are a popular way to make aviation more affordable. While kit-planes are usually cheaper than their certified counterparts, they can require significant time and skill to build. Kit Airplane Construction leads you through the process of building a plan with insights on construction methods and specific models.
I first received this book as a gift late in my initial training. It is, as the title suggests, a book that takes over where your training leaves off. It offers a ton of things to do and many tips and techniques that might not come up in training. From hamburger runs with family to flight testing aircraft to buy, this book builds on the basic Private Pilot Curriculum to generate well-rounded pilots.
This book is stuffed full of tips sure to improve flying, taxiing, and handling aircraft. It is laid out in phases like a typical flight: taxi, takeoff, climb, cruise, etc. Each tidbit is backed up by an interesting story or anecdote. This is a great gift for pilots of any skill.
This book offers a unique look at the experiences that created a man who can pour tea backhanded while barrel-rolling and airplane full of VIPs. In case you were wondering, I’m talking about Bob Hoover, noted airshow performer and test pilot. The book, authored by Mr. Hoover himself, covers his life from his very earliest aviation experiences to his notable airshow performances.
This is one of the best aviation documentaries to come out in a long time. It focuses on the history of Van Nuys Airport in LA, but the flying and aircraft scenes make it a must watch for aviation buffs of all geographical leanings.
This is a great movie for vintage aircraft afficionadoes and warbird buffs. It looks at the work and love put into aircraft from bygone eras. It would make a great gift for anyone that appreciates the sleek polished aluminum look of a restored warbird tearing down the runway.
I count my numerous viewings of this 30 minute documentary as some of the best time I’ve ever spent. This is a great story centered around a great plane. The air-to-air footage is simply stunning.
This is a documentary about a small fly-in at a farm in Indiana. It is a great little film about pilots and non-pilots coming together and harvesting a little of what flying should be.
If you’ve never watched any of the Red Bull Air Race events, this DVD might come as a shock to you. I assure you, the pulse-pounding action of an entire season of races at your finger tips is reason enough to want this DVD. This is from the 2008 season, but any season would do.
For the Simulator Pilot
A good yoke, throttle and rudder system can make all the difference in creating a realistic the home flight simulator experience. There are several good models available, but I’ve picked three that are fairly prevalent.
Saitek has a pretty good modular set of flight simulator controls. The entire setup will run you about $600, but each piece only costs about $100. I’d start with the Saitek Pro Flight Yoke with Three-Lever Throttle. The throttle and yoke setup closely mimic most single engine aircraft, like the Cessna 172, there are enough switches and buttons to control the essential functions. The next step is the Saitek Pro Flight Rudder Pedals. Then finally there are several expansion boxes that provide more advanced functions: the PRO Flight Radio Panel by Saitek, Pro Flight Multi Panel, and Saitek PZ55 Pro Flight Switch Panel.
Thrustmaster has produced some of the most realistic flight control sticks going. Their latest the Thrustmaster Hotas Warthog Flight Stick looks like a great stick. The price is a bit much for the average gift, but it’s probably a great stick. On feature I really like is the split throttle which provides more realistic control for twin-engine aircraft. Combine it with some rudder pedals, and you’ve got a great flight simulator rig.
The stick is modeled after the A-10C Warthog. The joystick and dual throttle system also feature a 51-button control panel that will easily control most functions of any flight simulator.
I’m not a huge fan of Logitech usually, but they have put together a pretty nice setup. Their Logitech Flight System G940 Force Feedback Joystick gives you a stick, split throttle, and rudder pedals. The fact that everything comes in one box is very appealing. The force feedback lends a little more realism to the controls than a standard stick.