What Are the Pilot Flight Bag Essentials?

The modern pilot’s flight bag has become more efficient, smaller, lighter, and designed to hold all of the flight bag essentials in a ready-to-go kit. Just 15 years ago, pilots needed to carry catalog cases of charts that weighed over 50 pounds! Now, a pilot’s flight bag essentials fit in a much smaller tote.

Let’s dig into what is packed in the best pilot’s flight bag:

Licenses and Certifications

Two licensed pilots seated in the flight deck

The FAA requires that you carry your pilot’s license and your medical certificate in your flight bag. You must also carry a government issued photo ID on your person. Place your pilot certificate and other required paperwork in protective covers and stow them in the same easily accessible pocket of your pilot’s bag to stay in compliance with regulations.

Charts and Charting Software Devices

Most pilots carry an iPad or another tablet with a software package. There are other electronic chart options available. All such software should be up to date before taking off. Pilots should also carry sectional charts as a backup in case electronic charting devices fail during flight. Many flight bags have a specialized pocket to hold an iPad or similar size of tablet and the all-essential charging cord.

Kneeboard with Tablet and Pen

female pilot preparing flight documentation on a tablet.

No matter how high-tech your plane and your gear, having pen and paper nearby to keep track of radio frequencies and flight instructions is a good idea for any pilot. Using a kneeboard keeps these essentials ready for rapid use. Many kneeboards can also hold your iPad or tablet.

Pilot Headset with Extra Batteries

A good aviation headset is absolutely essential. When you are a student pilot in flight school, you may be provided with one because you cannot fly without it. The best headsets have crystal-clear audio and powerful noise reduction. Once you make the investment in your own pilot headset, always carry it in your flight bag, along with extra batteries or cords needed for charging. Specialized flight bags have a headset hook or tab to keep it secure.

Drinking Water and Snacks

Pilot man drinking water in the airplane.

A few energy bars or other packaged and nutrient dense snacks should be tucked in your pilot flight bag, along with a water bottle. These are in addition to whatever food and drink you might be packing for cross country flights. You never know when you might have an unexpected delay or experience dehydration or hunger during a flight. This extra body fuel is a good use of some space in your flight bag.

Good-Quality Non-Polarized Sunglasses

Not just a fashion accessory, pilot sunglasses are essential when you must fly on certain headings facing into the sun as it rises or sets. Choose good-quality sunglasses with a high level of UV protection, but make sure they are not polarized. Polarized lenses can interfere with the light-filtering characteristics of the windscreen or make it difficult to read instruments with glare filters.

A Few Good Tools

Space and weight are at a premium in a pilot’s flight bag, but there are some tools that can make a difference during flight prep and while the plane is in the air. Some tools and equipment many pilots carry include:

  • Flashlight
  • Fuel tester with screwdriver
  • Backup battery or charge booster
  • Multi-tool (Leatherman)
  • Emergency blanket
  • First Aid Kit
  • Water activated emergency lights (if you fly over water)
  • Pulse oximeter (if you fly at high altitudes)

Choosing a Pilot Flight Bag

Female airline pilot checking contents of her flight bag

What is a flight bag? It is the perfectly sized carry-on of the professional pilot. The best flight bags are made of durable fabrics with features designed specifically for your flight bag essentials. The best flight bags have:

  • A padded pocket for iPad or tablet
  • See-through pocket for paperwork and photo identification
  • Space for the kneeboard
  • A hanger for the headset in its own section
  • Snap or velcro key holders
  • Pocket for a transceiver and antenna
  • Pockets for charts, flashlights, and fuel tester
  • Exterior water bottle holder
  • Sunglass case or clip

Be Fully Prepared to Take Flight


Before you can stock your pilot’s flight bag, you will need to train at an approved flight school and obtain your pilot’s certificate. Kingsky Flight Academy in Lakeland, FL offers flight training for everyone from private pilots to aspiring airline pilots. Owned and operated by two experienced airline captains, we strive for the highest safety standards and can tailor a program to the needs of any qualified student.

When you are ready to pack up your flight bag and take to the skies, learn to fly or advance your skills with 300+ sunny flight days per year. Financing, GI bill, and scholarships are available. Contact us today to enroll with Kingsky.

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