Now, if you’re one of those “planners” you’ve had your list, your shopping is done, and you’ve got a bunch of perfectly-wrapped gifts. If, on the other hand, you’re like me, you’ve got a general idea of the number of days until you can’t get anything from Amazon before Christmas.
Chances are you’re somewhere in between, but you have the added stress of desiring thoughtful gifts—the kinds of things someone might actually like. So, let me help you a bit. Well…as much as I can while not straying too far from the subject matter I’m familiar with.
Just to lay everything out there, I’m using affiliate links where applicable. Clicking these links costs you nothing, but a portion of the proceeds generated by you buying things will make their way back to me. That said, here are ten thoughtful gifts for the aviation nut in your life.
1. A nice portable radio
Something like the Sporty’s SP-400 Handheld NAV/COM makes a great addition to any pilot’s flight bag. Back when I was doing my primary training, there was another pilot who learned first hand how to cope with a radio failure. That was the same day I understood why a portable radio might be a good thing to have. It also makes a great primary radio for aircraft, such as LSA or ultralights, not equipped with electrical systems. What I really like about this model from Sporty’s is that in addition to standard communications, it also handles navigation via VORs and ILS localizers.
2. An iPad Mini
This is one item that got a lot more affordable this year. I mean, yes Apple trotted out a new version, but it had a grand total of about 2 new features and the hardware was otherwise identical. So, consider it a cost savings and pick up an original iPad Mini, which can be had for about $250 now, or one of the second generation ones.
3. An ADS-B Reciever
If an iPad is already a part of their life, buy a gift that will make it an integral part of their flying. Specific, pick up a Stratus 2 ADS-B receiver. Add a subscription to ForeFlight Mobile and you’ve got the makings of a pretty solid electronic flight bag.
4. A Nice Flight Bag
I’m not ashamed to admit that one of my favorite gifts one year was a ASA’s Color E6B Flight Computer. I’ve also got JeppShades Training Glasses, a GATS Jar (since I have a habit of renting newer Cessnas with 13 fuel sumps), an analog Fuel Gauge, and so much more. Why am I telling you this? Well, because I’m assuming I’m not abnormal and every pilot has “stuff.” Sadly, there’s a better than average chance your aviation-loving friend is toting his gear in a recycled grocery sack or some type of general purpose bag. Don’t let them continue to suffer! Find a nice flight bag with enough space and pockets to hold and organize all their flying gear. Pro tip: Sporty’s has a really nice selection.
5. A Leather Jacket
The quintessential piece of flying gear. There’s nothing quite so rugged and durable, but also soft and inviting as a nice leather flight jacket. I’m partial to the A-2 Leather Flight Jacket, but there are so many options to choose from.
There seem to be two schools of thought on sunglasses: buy the cheapest one on the rack or buy the perfect pair no matter the cost. There are lots of great sunglasses designed with pilots in mind, but I’m in love with a particular pair—the American Optical Original Pilot. I’ve got two pair with the 57 mm True Color Gray lenses and I’ve yet to find a better pair of sunglasses for the price.
7. Something for the Hangar or Office
If you’re not opposed or the person you are buying for doesn’t live with you, there are lots of very nice decor items that make thoughtful gifts. If I were buying something for the home, hangar, or office, I’d start with a First Solo Shirt Frame or Classic Dual-Sided Plaque from Sporty’s, but a Pilot on Duty Sign, Flight Instructor on Duty Sign, or Mechanic on Duty Sign would also make a great gift with a little vintage flair. A Vintage Wooden Propeller or an aircraft model like this Cessna C-172 Skyhawk are also great gifts for the PICs office.
8. A Great Aviation Book
There’s nothing quite like a good book. I’ve trimmed my collection down quite substantially in the last year, but I’ve still got probably 100 books on various aviation topics alone. Sure we live in the internet age, but a book is so much more fulfilling. As for gifts, I’d start with these three: Stick and Rudder: An Explanation of the Art of Flying, Weather Flying, or Flying the Mountains : A Training Manual for Flying Single-Engine Aircraft.
If those aren’t right, you might try something a little more recreational, like Forever Flying or Flight of Passage. Both books are fantastic additions to any library, but will be greatly appreciated by the average aviation enthusiast.
9. A Magazine Subscription
There are a lot of really great aviation magazines. My wife regularly complains about the quantity of aviation magazine subscriptions I have. Since they rarely arrive on the same day, I don’t see a problem and I really enjoy reading them each month. I’ll start with Sport Aviation and AOPA Pilot or Flight Training. These are great magazines, but the real gift is buying them an EAA or AOPA membership for a year. If you want my opinion on the matter, Kitplanes is the best aviation magazine around—I can only take so many articles about multimillion dollar jets…
10. Flight Time
Last, but certainly not least, is flight time. It makes a great gift and can fit almost any budget. Pro tip: If the reciever of your gift lives anywhere near any of the ever expanding list of cities served by Open Airplane, you’re in luck, because they offer gift certificates.
I’m going to stop here. I hope you got some ideas and I wish you luck in finding thoughtful gifts for all your friends and family this year. Feel free to leave any suggestions of items you think I missed in the comments.