Thursday, April 14, 2005


Here's a list of the stuff I take along for a day of local soaring in club ships at my home airport. If you're just starting out you might not think of some of these items. There's a lot MORE stuff I would need for cross-country soaring!

Flashlight A little Maglight for looking inside the wings and fuselage during preflight inspections.

Multitool The first time I went on a club trip, when we started to assemble the ships, everyone had a Leatherman on his belt, so I figured I better get with the program. I always used to take it off before flying (just more junk on my belt), but then I read accounts of in-flight emergencies wherein the pilots had to use pliers to crimp a wire, or a knife to cut something that was jammed, so now I leave it on.

Stopwatch I got a cheap digital stopwatch for timing my flight. Then I learned that cheap digital stopwatches black out when they get hot, so I wear it on the inside of my wrist to keep it shaded.

Sunscreen There's no shade at our field!

Ziploc bags Airsick bags. I've never needed them but passengers have. Get the kind with the slide closer, so if you do need one while flying it's easier to close with one hand on the stick.

E6B electronic flight computer Used more during training and the written test than in real life.

Hat Sorry, I just can't do the "bucket hat" that seems to be so popular with soaring pilots. I like the AOPA's baseball cap because it has NO BUTTON on top. These are really hard to find elsewhere. In a tiny cockpit, a button is a real hazard to your skull and the canopy!

Radio Our trainer doesn't have a built-in radio, so I got an ICOM IC-A5 handheld. Also handy on the ground for accessing AWOS, learning communications techniques and keeping in contact with local pilots.

Radio gear:
  • Headset I cannot hear the handheld with the wind noise, so a headset is a must. I got a cool little earpiece-type that clips onto my sunglasses.
  • Push-to-talk switch This has velcro so you can stick it to the stick.
  • Patch cable This ties the radio, PTT switch, headset, and mic together. Also makes for quite a tangle in the cockpit.
  • Velcro strap So what do you do with the radio in the cockpit? Stick it in the dumb little pocket where you can't reach it? Get a wide velcro strap and clip the radio to your right thigh. It's visible and within reach but out of the way.
  • Battery pack The ICOM NiCd only lasts so long... I got the extra pack for alkaline AAA's.
Log book

Notebook To keep all my training materials, glider manuals, sectional, plotter etc. in one place. I got the view kind and I stick the Soaring Forecast in the front and the wind forecast map in the back and leave it out so others can use the info.

Personal soaring notes I have a "cheat sheet" on which I list things I need to work on or remember. Once those things have become instinctive, I drop them off the list. Actually, this is a note in my PDA so I can jot things down as I think of them wherever I am.

Pen For the preflight checklist, aircraft flight log, and my log book.

Plotter Cheap plastic one.

Sectional chart Current!

Lunch If I have time to pack one.

Snack In case I don't.

Spare contact lenses

Eye drops

Soaring Flight Manual Gotta have it.

Soaring forecast Our local NWS office produces a daily soaring forecast for the whole Southern California region.

Water bottles A little twist-top one that fits in the cockpit pocket. A quart one that I freeze so it lasts nearly all day.

Camelback water pack I got one of these 'cuz it looked like a good idea. It doesn't work out in the Blanik because of the cushion shape, but I think it'll work out in the PW5. Try out every model you can find because they vary widely in capacity, comfort, and the location of the tube can interfere with radio etc.

Wind forecast I print the winds aloft map from ADDS (See the Java Tools tab at ).

Coat or sweatshirt


Sunglasses This is a whole subject in itself. I use American Optical's FG-58.

Handkerchief For cleaning my sunglasses.

Digital camera Since I write the club newsletter, I need to take pics of members, activities, etc. It would also be important to have a camera in case of an incident or accident.

Cell phone

PDA Several soaring-related things in my Palm. I'm going to change from a Palm to a Pocket PC with dedicated soaring software and a GPS.
  • HandyShop is a program intended for shopping lists, but makes a great checklist tool.
  • Weight and balance calculator You can use your e6B for this, but a dedicated program lets you store the moment arms for your particular aircraft. You can buy/download these. I wrote my own in a database called HandyBase.
  • Soaring notes mentioned above.
  • Phone numbers of club members in case of a land-out!


SkyHigh said...

Interesting Blog, keep it up! :-)

p.s. There's a reason that bucket hats are popular, they don't have the hard rim of baseball caps and so don't impeed your lookout, and the also protect your neck more that a baseball cap :-)

Mark Hawkins said...

You don't have to dump your Palm for a PocketPC. Just use SoaringPilot ( with the latest versions found on the SoaringPilot yahoogroup at


Anonymous said...

Hey, I saw your note on using the AOPA had due to the lack of a button. There is no need to use a special hat. Those buttons come off pretty easily with a pair of pliers and removing the button doesn't affect the hat one bit.

Buckets are better in my own glider, but my commercial customers seem to be more comfortable with the look of a baseball cap. If I am near other aircraft, I just turn it around.

Sunscreen does a better job on your neck than any hat can!

Gavin Short said...

btw baseball hats are not allowed in UK - a ruling by the BGA to ensure lookout is not impeded.

re: Camelback. get one without a rucsac. The model is called Unbottle which comes in 2 litre or 3 litre models. They have 4 D rings for attaching to comething in the cockpit. In my standard cirrus I hook it up and it lies under my right shoulder/right elbow and the tube is tucked under a chest strap to hold the tube in an accessible position in flight. I treat myself to a drink when centred in a thermal, however racing/x-country lore has it that you should have nothing to distract you in climbing in the thermal and only drink when you are making ground cross country in a glide....academic at the moment as I am not up to that standard yet. You can also get a neoprene sleeve for the drinking tube to stop it freezing up. It was -5C (23F) at 1500m (4,900ft) last weekend over keihuvel in Belgium - but it didn't freeze up even after over an hour up there. Toes were cold though!

Roger said...

Someone asked about my radio headset. It's a Plantronics model MS50/T30. It clips onto the temple of your glasses, and has a little earplug and tiny bendable tubular mic. Very light - I don't even notice it's there. I got mine at Aircraft Spruce a year ago, it's currently $169 there.