Apart from a few flight blogs, there isn’t much information on this kind of stuff. But luckily i’ve been in this position myself so i’m able to advise you on what flight equipment I found to be (a) required, and (b) optional. This post might save you a few quid!
Required Flight Equipment for the PPL(A)
Here’s a list of the flight equipment you need for your PPL(A). You can’t avoid buying these:
- CAA Map (1:250,000 or 1:500,000 scale)
- Pack of pens
- Navigational Plog (A4 or A5)
- CRP-5 Flight Computer
- NM ruler (1:250,000 or 1:500,000 scale)
I’ll guide you through each item of required flight equipment one by one.
1. CAA Topographical Map
You’ll need a CAA map in 1:250,000 or 1:500,000 scale.
By law you have to carry a valid and up-to-date chart during flight. So you should buy one before your first solo — which will be approximately 10-15 hours into your training. Technically the map you carry doesn’t have to be your own (i.e. you could borrow one). But I recommend buying one from a flight equipment website.
There’s a selection of 1:500,000 scale maps available at Flightstore. The price per map is around £15.00, but varies depending on the region. Check them out here.
Be careful: charts expire every year. If you fly infrequently then you'll end up buying new ones without getting much use from your previous version.
A watch is needed for Navigations. It doesn’t have to be an expensive pilot-branded one. Just a normal one will do. If you have one already, then that’s great.
3. Pack of Pens
You’ll have to update your log book after each flight, and make general notes. Any pen will suffice for this.
For your topographical charts I recommend buying a set of Staedtler Chart Permanent Pens. The ink doesn’t rub off easily, which is ideal — but it can also be removed with a special eraser afterwards. Four different colours is sufficient.
Tip: if you order £20+ of items from Amazon UK then delivery is free. Why not combine your pens with one of our Fly GA products?
4. Navigational Plog
- Mag tracks
- Fuel remaining
- Distance to go
- Safety alt
- ETA , ATA & actual FL
- Fuel plan
… and so on!
The PLOG is an important addition to your flight bag, and the cheapest item on this list. You should expect to pay around £3.50 for one (before postage & packaging costs). We’re offering our Fly GA PLOG as part of our “Navigation Set”, designed for PPL students [release date: November 2017].
5. CRP-5 Flight Computer
You’ll inevitably need a CRP Flight Computer or “Whizz Wheel” during your aviation course. This is commonly used for PPL and ATPL examinations.
You’ll need the CRP to calculate the heading, and to estimate the time it takes to fly each leg of your planned journey. Both of these things very much depend on the wind. The CRP uses the triangle of velocities to give you a ground speed and wind correction angle, given the wind speed, direction, your intended heading and air speed. This all sounds confusing at first — but a flight computer is a fairly simple and easy-to-use 1950’s technology. Everything is fully explained on your course.
You’re best to purchase your CRP Flight Computer early on so that you can get to grips with using it (try YouTubing some tutorials in the meantime). Unfortunately they aren’t cheap…
October 2017 Update:
- We’re in the process of developing our own Fly GA Flight Computer. By December 2017 we hope release our first version on Amazon. Tutorials and resources will be available on this site.
6. Nautical Mile (NM) Scale Map Ruler
You won’t usually fly in a straight line for more then 60 nautical miles for your PPL(A). Most students fly triangle routes where each leg is around 50nm. Therefore a lengthy ruler is unnecessary; a shorter 60nm one is most suitable.
The Fly GA Nautical Mile Scale Ruler is cheaper than comparable NM rulers offered from popular online flight stores. It boasts a convenient size of 255mm x 38mm, reading 0-60nm in 1:500,000 (for planes) and 0-30nm in 1:250,000 (for helicopters). In addition, the ruler also includes Statute Miles and Kilometer (KM) scales.
This isn’t the same protractor you get in a school maths set! There are specific ones required for aviation.
An aviation Protractor quickly measures short journey legs, and prevents pilots from unnecessarily using additional rulers. It’s a simple product, but it helps to make flight planning more accurate. The very same concept (and Protractor) is used in marine navigation.
Optional Flight Equipment for the PPL(A)
Now for the optional flight equipment. You may well decide to buy some or all of the following in due course:
- Knee Board
- High Viz Jacket/Vest
- Books & Guides
- Diversion Ruler
- Compass Rose Stickers
I’ll guide you through each item of optional flight equipment one by one.
1. Knee Board
It’s basically a clipboard for making notes and holding paperwork whilst you’re in the air. An A5 sized knee board is sufficient.
A knee board is optional for the PPL because there isn’t a great deal of writing. For example, you don’t need to write down a pressure setting to read off to an airport because it’s set (by you) on the Altimeter. You only need to really remember the ATIS Information Identifier. For taxiing its usually obvious — via Alpha, Charlie or Grass, etc. You will need to identify the surface wind, but in the early lessons this won’t matter to you.
Either way, a knee board isn’t going to break the bank. You can buy a cheap, sufficient one — like the AFE VB1 — for under £20.
You can usually borrow a headset from your flight school. However, I personally opted to buy my own. To be honest it wasn’t necessary, and I knew this at the time of purchase. But I wanted my own, new, higher quality set. They last a long time and I have every intention to continue pursuing a flying career — so why not?
The most expensive — and near enough best — headsets on the market are the Bose A20’s. They’ll set you back a whopping £1,000. Thankfully, you don’t need to buy those for your PPL (unless you really, really want them). You should be looking to spend around the £300 mark.
Many PPL(A) students opt for the David Clark headsets. It’s a good, reliable brand. You won’t be the only person in your school using them. Their ‘best value’ option is the H10-30 headset, which comes with a 5 year guarantee.
3. High Viz Jacket/Vest
High Viz is short for “High Visibility”. These fluorescent yellow jackets/vests comply with the European standard for Class 1 safety wear. They usually have two reflective bands across the torso, and brace straps across each shoulder.
Your airfield may require that you wear a High Viz jacket. They’ll either supply you with one for free, or ask you to buy one. Prices vary depending on whether its a vest (cheap) or jacket (more expensive). In any case they’re not particularly expensive. You’d be unlucky to have to fork out more than £30.
4. Books & Guides
You don’t need to buy books or guides at the beginning of your PPL(A) unless you’re taking an intensive course.
It’s not advisable to buy an entire set of guides in one go because the PPL syllabus changes so frequently. You’re best off waiting it out and buying the specific books as and when you’re studying each subject.
The well-known flight stores sell revision guides on each of the 9 PPL Subjects. AFE is good for this, and their complete range is available here. However, these are also sold on Amazon where you’ll usually take advantage of a better deal.
VFR Flight Guides are not required. Your club/instructor will be able to provide you with the information for where you’ll fly as part of your training.
A pre-flight checklist is a list of tasks that should be performed by pilots and aircrew prior to takeoff. Its purpose is to improve flight safety by ensuring that no important tasks are forgotten. Checklists are different for every plane.
You need a checklist — but you often don’t need to buy them. Your club/airfield tends to supply them to students free of charge (or included in their fee).
6. Flight Diversion Ruler
The Flight Diversion Ruler doubles up as a Nautical Mile Ruler, scaled at both 1:500,000 and 1:250,000. Plane and helicopter pilots all over Europe have opted to buy this product ahead of more expensive alternatives from other aviation manufacturers.
To learn how it works, check out our tutorial: How To Use The Fly GA Diversion Ruler/Plotter
7. Compass Rose Stickers
Navigational aids — such as self-adhesive Compass Rose Stickers — are a simple advancement in the aviation world. They’re relatively inexpensive to purchase compared with GPS packages.
It’s not mandatory that you buy VFR stickers. But again, it makes life easier for the pilot. Compass Rose Stickers aren’t going to navigate you to your chosen destination (they’re just stickers). But they are very handy when approaching an unfamiliar aerodrome. Plus I don’t feel like i’m ‘cheating’ too much by using them.
The Fly GA Compass Rose Stickers accompany the Flight Diversion Ruler. Hence why we sometimes run promotions offering the 2 products together. Our stickers are smaller (42mm diameter) and therefore easier to use on topographical maps than competing products. They’re also significantly cheaper.
You can learn more about VFR Aids here: VFR Flying Aids — Are They Worth Using?
Final Notes On Flight Equipment…
There are so many items of flight equipment that you could buy to make flying easier. But bare in mind that certain items — such as GPS systems — are forbidden during PPL examinations.
To keep costs down stick with the necessary flight equipment listed on this page and upgrade to other items when you’re ready.