Searching for that perfect gift for the pilot in your life? You’ll be looking at something that matches their vibrant lifestyle and celebrates their passion for flying. No matter if that pilot is taking his or her first steps into aviation, or is a seasoned pro with thousands of hours of flight time, there are thousands of gifts to choose from. Traditional options like pilot watches may be stretching budgets, but inexpensive yet practical gifts are always appreciated. Here’s a shortened list of the best pilot gifts:
1) High Definition Camera Systems
For someone just starting with flight training and lessons, having a way to record each lesson with high-definition video and audio is paramount. Traditional options like Go-Pros may be on the more costly side, but a reliable HD camera system based on smartphones does the job just as well. With phones now offering cutting-edge video quality, student pilots can record cockpit audio, ATC instructions, and of course impeccable video of every training session.
Affordable kits adapt to the use of phones in cockpit settings, by filtering out propeller distortion, and come with all the necessary cables and mounting hardware. Articulating arms let you capture any angle and robust phone cradles attached to suction cups offer easy mounting and secure operation. There are even specialised yet inexpensive kits that can record crisp and clear audio in helicopters by connecting phone headphone jacks or headsets with the helicopter’s intercom. Similar kits are available for mirrorless and DSLR cameras and plug into the standard audio jacks.
All systems provide invaluable data that up-and-coming pilots can use to assess lessons as they go and build their skills. And they prove worthwhile for flight schools when assessing cockpit security in the event something goes wrong or aid during investigations. A more fun side is that an HD camera system can also record journeys, flights, and amazing landscapes that are the envy of many. With phones now capable of stabilised 8K video and high-res audio, these are experiences any pilot wouldn’t want to miss.
2) Pilot Watches
Pilot watches are a great gift for anyone, but for aspiring or established pilots their appeal goes beyond aesthetics. These are practical instruments that come in 2 distinct varieties, the basic ‘Fleiger’ designs hailing from traditional WWII designs and more elaborate timepieces with all the bells and whistles. The first have standard dial designs with oversized crowns and a distinct triangular 12 o’clock marker. Most also have a day/date function.
Pilot chronographs go one step further in that they have slide-rule bezels allowing pilots to make quick flight calculations, have a chronograph function to asses elapsed time or fuel use, and are equipped with a GMT or Dual Time Zone function to track time in different time zones and avoid confusion.
Both types are built with durability in mind, sporting anti-reflective sapphire or scratch-resistant crystal, anti-magnetic seals to counter changes in air pressure and more. And both need to be legible in direct sunlight and low-light conditions, coming with large, clear markings. Prices for pilot watches vary greatly, depending on among other factors if the watch has an automatic or Quartz movement and the heritage of the brand.
If you’re looking for smartwatches, don’t pass on the Garmin D2 Mach 1 or D2 Air X10, supplied with AMOLED touchscreens, automatic flight logging, real-time weather forecasts, full GPS mapping, and dozens of other aviation features, paired with 2-week battery life and a free subscription to Garmin’s exceptionally popular Pilot App.
3) Flight Bags
There are quite a few things pilots need to carry with them while flying. And what better way to have everything neatly organised in a dedicated flight bag? Student pilots may pack instructional literature, charts, logbooks, headsets, HD camera system accessories, kneeboards, as well as personal items, like keys, iPads, and wallets in the inner compartments or well-placed outer pockets in bags of different sizes and designs.
Larger backpacks are always a popular option, as are duffle bags when carrying more gear or neater-looking folio bags when outright style is your goal. Whichever you choose, all bags should come with a few essential features. Look for larger padded internal pockets to keep gear like tablets, iPads, laptops, phones, or cameras well-protected, enough space to fit a kneeboard, ample pockets to fit necessities like charts, torches, and transceivers, and smaller transparent pockets for ID. Niceties like straps or clips for quick access to headsets, keys, or sunglasses are always a neat touch.
Prices of bags vary by size as well as materials. Cheaper options are in polyester, but not the last word in durability. Spend a little more and buy a flight bag in Ballistic Nylon to survive the rigours of flight training and everyday flying tasks. The material is durable, won’t tear, and most importantly waterproof. Canvas is another popular option that’s long-lasting, looks good, and is offered in multiple designs and colours. Lastly, though not to everyone’s taste, leather is the traditional choice, scores high in the looks and durability departments but comes as a bit more expensive.