13 Student Pilot Essentials. Ignore costly bundled training kits.

student pilot gear and essentials

Student pilots are often on a budget and only pick the essential products for their pilot training. Instead of listing budget-friendly products for student pilots, most bloggers are busy trying to make a sale.

I won’t compromise a fellow pilot’s money for my gain. Thus I listed only the crucial products for a student pilot and the cheaper alternatives.

I’ll go straight to the point. Student pilots need all these items for private pilot training and beyond. Depending on your current stage, you can figure out what’s necessary and useless.

  1. Online private pilot ground school;
  2. Must-have books for student pilots:
  3. Flight bag;
  4. Headset;
  5. Pilot’s logbook;
  6. Flight kneeboard;
  7. iPad;
  8. Aircraft fuel strainer/Tester;
  9. Map – VFR Sectional Chart;
  10. VFR navigation flight planner;
  11. Rotating flight plotter;
  12. Aviator Sunglasses;
  13. E6B flight computer.

The materials listed above are adequate to complete your private pilot training; likewise, you can use them for further flight training.

The overpriced bundle of private pilot training kits disappoints me! Don’t buy them —order student pilot essential materials individually.

What should a student pilot essentially buy for private pilot training?

Before buying each product, ask yourself whether this product benefits your training. Because, in the end, you know what works best for you.

Every product has its purpose and contributes to your training in multiple ways:

  • Some materials allow you to grasp aeronautical knowledge with ease;
  • Others aid in improving in-flight performance;
  • Helps focus on CFI’s instructions without distraction;
  • Some help students prepare for cross-country flights ahead of time;
  • A few items are necessary to organize materials inside the cockpit for better management;
  • Lastly, all gears reduce a pilot’s stress and ease decision-making.

Later in this post, I explained why, how, and when to use each tool to ease a student pilot’s life.

Online private pilot ground school.

Aeronautical knowledge is overwhelming to grasp in the beginning. It would help if you put effort into learning and revising each subject multiple times to understand.

Using an online private pilot ground school, you can re-watch each video multiple times over the years as you have lifetime access to the program.

You can’t be a good pilot without fundamental aeronautical knowledge. Understanding aeronautical topics and applying them when necessary is critical for safe flights.

You can acquire the exact knowledge by studying books. However, there is a vital aspect to enrolling in an online ground school.

Why is an online PPL ground school essential for student pilots?

A PART 61 student pilot needs several endorsements to become a private pilot. A private pilot knowledge test endorsement is essential to take the test.

You can get the knowledge test endorsement by completing an online ground school and passing the exam within each program.

After you receive the knowledge test endorsement, you can register and take the FAA PPL knowledge test.

I recommend PART 61 student pilots complete their online ground school and pass the FAA private pilot knowledge test before they begin their flight training.

What are the alternatives for online PPL ground school?

There are several private pilot ground school courses available online. All of them are competitively priced. Yet some systems have abundant aeronautical information, and some don’t have detailed classes.

Typically choose the one from veteran flight instructors because experienced flight instructors can articulate information clearly and instill it in student pilots’ minds forever.

RELATED: Is online ground school worth it?

Must-have books for student pilots.

Typically ground school comes before actual flight training; thus, having the right books is essential to prepare for the actual flight.

A pilot always has to keep learning. So let’s start with the books I think are best for kickstarting your private pilot training.

1. Rod Machado’s Private Pilot Handbook.

It would be best if you had Rod Machado’s private pilot handbook to acquire detailed aeronautical knowledge at any time.

Taking an online ground school helps but reading a book gives you further detailed information. Reading a book instills knowledge in your memory for a long time.

Thus having this book is crucial for maturing in flying.

Why is this book essential for student pilots?

To become an intelligent pilot, you must continuously learn. Though aviation and aeronautics are exciting subjects, studying them can often be tedious.

Nevertheless, Rod Machado made the topics more interesting to read.

Rod Machado used transparent language, clear graphics, and images to keep studying fun in this book. I prefer this book over other books because this book is captivating.

The information in this book is easy to grasp and aids in theory and practical flying during training.

What is the alternative for Rod Machado’s Private Pilot Handbook?

The best alternative to Rod Machado’s book is Private Pilot Guided Flight Discovery by Jeppesen.

Jeppesen did an excellent job describing topics using illustrations and images in the book. The colorful images are fun to watch while studying.

However, I find the language in Jeppesen’s books challenging to grasp. Jeppesen guided flight discovery is a beginner’s book, yet Rod Machado’s books are more decipherable.

You can’t be mistaken about choosing either of these books. Both these books are famous among student pilots for how well they correspond.

2. “How to fly an Airplane Handbook” by Rod Machado.

As a student pilot, most of your flight hours will be in VFR conditions. You’ll have difficulty controlling and maneuvering the airplane as a novice student pilot.

It’s because you don’t know how to control an airplane or when to maneuver it.

You must pay attention to numerous minor details to control an airplane smoothly.

It’s not always possible for a Flight instructor to instructor every detail about airplane control. Although flight instructors teach student pilots the basic maneuvers, flight instructors miss many important aspects of controlling the aircraft.

Rod Machado’s How to fly an airplane handbook is a book that contains tons of tips and information on butter smooth VFR flying experience.

In a VFR flight, you will use visual references outside the aircraft to fly and make perfect landings.

Many student pilots initially struggled to control the airplane using visual reference reasoning. The student doesn’t own the aircraft; instead, the airplane holds the student.

A novice student pilot commonly falls behind the aircraft. To understand many details about aircraft operations in the sky, you must read this book by Rod Machado.

Though you fly with a veteran flight instructor, a flight instructor can’t train and teach you everything about safe flying during flight training.

Often the flight instructors are too busy teaching you how to control the airplane and forget to mention the most straightforward techniques to make VFR flights more enjoyable.

The How to fly an airplane handbook can play a massive role for student pilots at this stage.

You will see noticeable improvements in your VFR flying once you read this book and apply it during your flight training.

As a student pilot myself, I struggled to land the airplane smoothly. However, I prioritized getting my first solo as early as possible.

Rod Machado’s How to Fly an Airplane Handbook is essential for student pilots to get their solo flight quicker and master all the basic maneuvers for VFR flights.

Trust me, reading this book will help you grasp aircraft control quicker, and you will not be overwhelmed during your flight with airplane control.

This book has no second best to get your solo flight sooner and surprise your flight instructor with your improved performance.

RELATED: Common student pilot mistakes to avoid.

3. Gleim Private Pilot FAA Knowledge Test.

Assuming you have finished your private pilot ground schooling and have flown adequate hours to get your pilot license.

It is time to take exams in civil aviation to obtain your private pilot license, and you do not know what questions you will have to answer.

That is when the Gleim Private Pilot FAA Knowledge Test is crucial.

This book contains materials from FAA reference materials. Everything you read in this book will prepare you for your private pilot knowledge test.

All the questions you will practice in Gleim Private Pilot Knowledge Test Prep are relevant to the FAA test papers.

Prepare yourself with this book; no obstacles will stop you from passing your private pilot license exams.

The sooner you pass your exams, the sooner you get a private pilot license.

Is a flight bag essential for student pilots?

A flight bag is a must-buy. Flight bags are designed especially for pilots, and their purpose is to ease a pilot’s life.

You may have to carry several things during the flight, and bringing them in a regular bag can be troublesome.

Though a student pilot’s flight bag is not large, it can accommodate all the essential materials for a student pilot’s flight training. Flight bags are designed to access all vital tools quickly.

Why is a flight bag essential for pilot training?

Carrying numerous things in flying lessons and having them in your spare whenever you need them can be time-consuming if your bag is clumsy.

A flight bag organizes and has a compartment for each flight tool. Thus having a flight bag makes flight training smoother.

If you are busy organizing things inside the tiny cockpit of a trainer aircraft, how can you focus on flying lessons and what your flight instructor says?

Don’t hinder the flight training, and buy a flight bag. It’s the first thing every student pilot must buy before getting into the aircraft.

A regular briefcase will do the job, but unfortunately, an ordinary briefcase is inconvenient for student pilots.

student pilot essentials
Lightspeed Aviation Flight Bag.

Therefore, buy a durable bag to accommodate all the student pilot gear and essentials. A flight bag gives student pilots easy access to pilot gear and contributes to better cockpit management.

As a student pilot, the least you want is poor cockpit management while struggling to control the airplane.

Traditional flight bags are convenient and best for pilots.

The Lightspeed aviation flight bag is a perfect bag for student pilots that they can use for a long time.

What is the alternative to this flight bag?

The Lightspeed Aviation flight bag is durable, thus, a bit pricey. For the student pilots reluctant to spend extra, I recommend Oakley Stealth Backpack.

The Oakley stealth backpack is a multi-purpose backpack. Its sole purpose is not to ease a pilot’s life, yet it’s a spacious bag.

If you are a pilot that rides a motorbike to the airport, then this Oakley backpack would be easier for you to carry while riding to the airport.

Oakley bags are durable and great looking too. This backpack is not as sexy looking as the Lightspeed Aviation flight bag, but if you want to save some bucks, this is your best alternative.

If you are a student pilot beginning your flight training, then this Oakley backpack is the right choice:

  • The bag is decently priced compared to a Jeppesen’s flight bag;
  • At the same time, very sturdy;
  • Adequate space inside the bag to take extra clothes for your next cross-country flight.

The only con of this bag is that it’s not the most stylish bag for pilots. Nevertheless, it’s a practical bag to use.

Oakley did not design this backpack for pilots, yet this backpack seems the most suitable for carrying student pilot gear and essentials.

RELATED: Common student pilot mistakes to avoid.

Headset for student pilots.

A headset is an essential gear for pilots. In the beginning, you might think borrowing a headset from the flight school is better as you can save some cash not buying a headset.

Eventually, you’ll figure out so many issues with borrowed headsets.

Often borrowed headsets are unhygienic because many students leave their sweat on a pair of headsets.

Occasionally you’ll find no available headsets to borrow and might have to cancel your flight. This may not seem like a real problem, but it’s more common than you think.

If you don’t want to spend a thousand bucks on a pricey headset, go for an inexpensive headset as a student pilot and upgrade to a better one in the future.

A decent headset can aid you in communication throughout your private pilot training without any issues.

RELATED: Best headset for student pilots.

Why is it essential to have a headset?

A headset is a key component for communication during any flight. For a student pilot, it’s essential to learn communication using a headset to conduct safe flights.

I listed several headsets for student pilots in this article. I recommend everyone invest in a pricey headset that can last a lifetime.

However, I understand student pilots are mainly on a budget, so spending those extra dollars for a fancy headset is not viable.

For student pilots beginning their journey, you can buy the David Clark H10-13.4. It’s affordable and has excellent sound quality with durability.

  • David Clarks headsets are affordable and durable without any issues;
  • The David Clark H10-13.4 is the best headset in this price range;
  • It is a decent headset to do the job;
  • Cancels sufficient background noise;
  • Moderate clamping pressure on your ears during a long flight.

A regular headset will work fine if you can endure the uncomfortable clamping pressure during long cross-country flights. The pressure on your ears will be annoying during flight training.

This David Clark headset would serve its purpose during private pilot training and beyond.

RELATED: Best David Clark Headsets.

What is the alternative for student pilots?

The David Clarks are nice-looking, durable headsets. But David Clark H10-13.4 is not the best in quality.

According to most student and professional pilots, Bose A20 headsets are the best headset for general aviation.

student pilot essentials
  • This BOSE A20 headset cancels more noise than any other regular headset.
  • It has significantly lesser clamping force on your ears than its other counterparts.
  • BOSE A20 headset also offers Bluetooth connectivity for the pilot during flight.

Bose A20 aviation headsets are a bit pricey, but you get what you pay for. Excellent support and a great performing headset with passive noise cancellation. The Bose A20 headset will last a lifetime without any issues.

A pricey headset is not necessary during the early stages of your flight training. The David Clark Headset mentioned above will do the job right.

Pilots Logbook.

If you fly all the hours without logging in to a logbook, how would you keep track of your flying hours?

ASA Pilot Logbook.

A pilot’s logbook is essential, and online versions of pilot logbooks are available today. Yet, every pilot must have a traditional pilot’s logbook.

I believe a traditional logbook is always safer than having a digital version.

The only drawback of a paper logbook is that it has limited pages, and as you accumulate flying hours, you have to add more logbooks to your student pilot essentials.

What are the alternatives?

There are many options for traditional logbooks. Most of them don’t have any significant difference.

Thus buying any standard logbook, such as one of the logbooks by ASA, would do the job perfectly. This logbook has adequate pages to log hours for a private pilot license and hours to become a commercial pilot.

Flight Kneeboard is essential for student pilots.

A flight kneeboard is essential for student pilots to tidy up necessary documents in flight.

You need access to multiple pieces of information to enhance your awareness inside the cockpit and conduct flights safely.

Imagine having all the information on sheets of paper unorganized inside the training aircraft cockpit.

A flight kneeboard helps a student pilot by making all these sheets of paper accessible and manageable. By using a flight kneeboard, multi-tasking becomes effortless and improves cockpit management.

What are the alternatives?

There are varieties of flight kneeboards available online. Not all of these kneeboards are suitable for student pilots.

Some kneeboards are made for military pilots, and others for commercial pilots. As a student pilot, choose a kneeboard suitable for the size of your training aircraft.

MyGoFlight kneeboard is a pricey alternative for student pilots. However, if you have an iPad and need to attach your iPad with a kneeboard, then the MyGoFlight flight kneeboard is the most suitable option.

RELATED: Do student pilots need an iPad?

iPad for private pilot training.

iPads weren’t essential for pilot training a decade ago. But today, it’s a necessary device for student pilots.

You can continue your pilot training without an iPad, but having an iPad will make your training activities much less stressful.

Student pilots buy iPad to ease their trouble during their flight training. However, too much dependency on an iPad during your general aviation flight training can be harmful too.

Learning to do tasks manually is often helpful for student pilots.

If your iPad runs out of battery and you are too dependent on an iPad, you might run out of luck with your iPad’s battery.

Regardless, iPads are essential for pilots throughout their careers in this modern age.

What are the alternatives to an iPad?

Any android device is a good alternative to an iPad. But most applications created for pilots are only available for Apple devices. So, having an android device is not always beneficial.

Most useful pilot applications are available for iPad users only.

RELATED: Which is the best iPad for flight school?

Aircraft Fuel Strainer/Tester.

Before each flight, you must check the fuel for contaminants and water. It’s crucial to test if your flight is the first fight of the day. To do so, you need a fuel tester.

You can either look for a fuel tester in the hangar or borrow from your pilot friend. Anyhow, you must inspect the fuel to safeguard your flight.

The convenient way is to have a fuel tester of your own. It’s a cheap product and widely available online.

student pilot essentials
Aviation Fuel Tester.

What are the fuel tester variants?

There are fuel testers similar to the picture above, which are easy to carry in your flight bag.

The other variant is the fuel tester cup. The fuel tester cups are preferred by some pilots but require space inside the flight bag to carry.

VFR sectional chart/Map.

To conduct cross-country flights, you need a VFR sectional chart/map. Today maps are on an iPad. So, many student pilots don’t find physical sectional charts essential anymore.

However, not having a paper map in flight can be dangerous.

As I mentioned above, your iPad can run out of battery, so you’ll be left without a map.

Do you think getting lost in the sky as a student pilot is an option?

I don’t take foolish chances, and I recommend student pilots carry a sectional map of their area to conduct safe flights.

Check into your local pilot shop for the designated map of your area. Ask your flight training school, and they can suggest something too.

A map is crucial for student pilots to learn cross-country flight planning.

VFR Navigation Flight Planner.

Planning your flights every time before you take off significantly reduces the chances of error in conducting flights.

To plan a cross-country flight, a VFR navigation flight planner is essential.

Planning a cross-country flight and using it during a flight reduce a pilot’s stress.

Rotating Flight Plotter.

To plan a cross-country flight, you require magnetic heading and the distance between your departure and arrival point. To do so, you need a rotating flight plotter.

Though there are online resources available today to prepare a flight plan. It’s handy to have a rotating flight plotter.

Entirely relying on digital resources is not always the best option. As a backup in case of urgency, it’s best to keep a rotating flight plotter in your spare.

student pilot essentials

E6B Flight Computer.

E6B flight computers are not used during flight training nowadays. An iPad eased so many tasks and replaced multiple tools for pilots today.

Learning to use an E6B flight computer is essential for student pilots. However, the E6B flight computer is vital for student pilots. It is helpful during many incidents of actual flight.

Thus, learning to use an E6B flight computer is essential for student pilots.

What are the alternatives?

Many student pilots prefer to buy an electronic flight computer, which is the right thing to do today. But during flight training ground classes, you will learn to use a manual E6B flight computer.

An iPad can also be considered an E6B flight computer alternative. Many applications on an iPad perform as a flight computer. So having an iPad can function as an alternative tool today.

RELATED: Which is the best iPad for flight school?

Aviator Sunglasses.

Going to the airport on a sunny day? I wouldn’t consider going to the airport on a sunny day without a pair of sunglasses and a cap.

Sunglasses are a must for student pilots.

You must protect your eyes while walking to your hangar on a sunny day. Though you’ll get used to the atmosphere in general aviation, buy sunglasses to protect your eyes if you can afford them.

Aviator sunglasses are not expensive and are designed for pilots. The most popular aviator sunglasses are by Ray-Ban.

Buy Ray-Ban aviator sunglasses once, and you can use them for years. Additionally, you’ll look elegant in your uniform wearing sunglasses.

You can check Jomashop to order your first pair of Aviator Sunglasses.

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  1. Capt.elite,

    I’m curious as to why you point student pilots to the very pricey Jeppesen or Rod Machado Private Pilot Handbook to use when studying (I assume this is either with or without a online program) then you suggest the Gleim Private Pilot Test Prep.
    Why not the Gleim Private Pilot Handbook with the Gleim Test Prep?

    1. Hi Ken, It’s a good question.

      I pointed Jeppesen because Jeppesen’s books are well written and excellently illustrated. It has an elaborate explanation of each aeronautical subject. Thus it’s a bit pricey.
      I believe Rod Machado’s Private Pilot handbook is the only better alternative to Jeppesen’s private pilot handbook. If you really want a more affordable alternative, there are resources online which have books for free. You can check for two free books here.

      I recommend Gleim’s private pilot test prep, particularly to prepare for the FAA Private Pilot knowledge test. To pass the knowledge test, you have to practice multiple choice question answers. Gleim’s have nailed this part of the private pilot licensing very well. Likewise, you can use the Gleim’s test prep to identify which subjects require further review to comprehend subjects thoroughly.

      Let me know if you have any more confusion, I will clarify.

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