All year long we've reviewed, tested, and kept our eyes on the best gear that any pilot could want. From classic aviator sunglasses to the latest in flight training technology, here are our editors' picks for the flight enthusiast in your life.
Scheyden Fixed Gear C-130 Sunglasses
Modeled after Scheyden’s Mustang sunglasses, the C-130 uses a lower lens at the nose but includes a handcrafted ultralight, durable titanium frame and slim temples that will fit comfortably for hours under a headset. The C-130s include cloisonné temple tips for a comfortable fit. Soft silicone nose pads are fully adjustable for added comfort. Bifocal or reading lens options are available.
Ray-Ban RB3136 Caravan Sunglasses
Bose ProFlight Aviation Headset
ProFlight is Bose’s newest and lightest noise-canceling headset, weighing in at just 4.9 ounces, less than half that of the popular A20. For the ProFlight target of professional pilots, Bose ditched the traditional over-ear cups for in-ear plugs that come in a variety of sizes, so pilots can choose the ones that best fit their ears. Not missing, though, is Bose’s world-renowned active noise-canceling capabilities, adjustable between three different levels using a clever tap control on the side of the headset frame. Each tap alters the blend between ambient noise and noise-canceling capabilities.
Custom Tail Number Replica Sign
For pilots who seriously miss every moment they’re separated from their airplane, Sporty’s will create a metal replica that looks like it was cut right off the rear fuselage of an airplane itself, right down to the rivets and the curve of the tin. All that’s needed are a couple of high-quality photos of your actual aircraft, and the Sporty’s folks will work their magic.
Mate X Foldable Electric Bike
The Mate X is a super-cool foldable electric bike with an autolike front and rear suspension system, two disc brakes and an ultracomfortable saddle. Pilots will find the Mate easy to place in almost any baggage compartment. Riders can choose to pedal the seven-speed bike, or use its 350 kW electric motor for pedal-free speeds up to 20 mph on rides between 60 and 80 miles on a single charge.
Montague Navigator 700C Folding Bicycle
Flight Outfitters Centerline Backpack
This is the backpack for pilots who need a versatile carrier to serve both as an airborne and an everyday organizer. The Centerline comes standard with a dedicated headset slot and a padded tablet/computer pocket. Just inside the top flap, pilots will find plenty of elastic pockets for cords and other electronic accessories. Shoulder straps are padded for extra comfort. The Centerline also offers a pass-through cable port to allow device charging outside the backpack.
GoPro Hero 6 Black
AN-J-3 Leather Flight Jacket
This World War II-era AN-J-3 flight jacket, first introduced in 1943, was often a pilot’s prize possession. With dark-brown leather, the jacket features a bi-wing back and underarm gusset for comfort, as well as double-entry pockets with side hand-warmer slots and button-down storage pockets. Oversize YKK zippers are easy to use even with gloved hands. Made exclusively for Sporty’s by Taylor Leatherwear, the jacket is guaranteed for five years.
Pilot Weather: From Solo to the Airlines
Pilots familiar with the WeatherSpork smartphone app will recognize research meteorologist Scott Dennstaedt. This new book, co-authored with meteorologist and airline pilot Doug Morris, offers practical weather training where primary flight training left off. Topics include all the words pilots have heard before, such as lapse rates, air masses, upper winds and altimetry, but Pilot Weather explains them in depth and with clarity, including a section on surface, upper air and significant weather charts.
FlyThisSim Flight Simulator
FlyThisSim’s VX TouchTrainer not only brings the realism of flying to your office or den on three 24-inch HD screens and two smaller screens for the avionics and system inputs, but it also offers 125 different aircraft to choose from. Don’t worry though, FlyThisSim can easily be switched back to fly as a steam-gauge airplane if you miss the round dials. Flight time on the VX sim can be logged toward IFR currency, as well as training requirements for an instrument rating, including actual ATC communications thanks to a link with PilotEdge, adding to the realism.
Garmin G5 Panel Upgrade
With a Garmin G5, even a 30-year-old airplane can trade those steam gauges for a glass panel of sorts and take advantage of the latest in navigation technology. When configured as an attitude indicator, the G5 uses a solid-state AHRS to support display of airspeed, altitude, vertical speed, slip/skid, turn rate, configurable V-speed references, barometric setting and selected altitude, as well as visual altitude alerts. The G5 includes a four-hour battery backup for emergency situations that demand more than the traditional 30-minute standard.
David Clark DC Pro-X Headset
The DC PRO-X, from David Clark Co., offers the best-in-class hybrid electronic noise-cancellation technology pilots demand today. The Pro-X Bluetooth will operate even when the headset is not plugged in, allowing the MP3 feature and phone feature to be used outside of the aircraft while paired with a smartphone. Pro-X digital signal processing provides high-fidelity audio. Plush leatherette ear seals and head pad are attached to a feather-light magnesium alloy headband for increased comfort.
APS Upset Prevention and Recovery Course
A number of training companies now focus on upset prevention and recovery training. From its primary base at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, Aviation Performance Solutions offers comprehensive UPRT for VFR-only as well as professional pilots in a variety of aircraft, such as the Extra 300 and the Marchetti S.211. The course includes extensive ground instruction, as well as high-fidelity advanced simulation training to create the bedrock of knowledge needed to avoid future loss-of-control incidents or accidents. Basic UPRT initial course: $4,995. Jet-pilot integrated upset training program:
Breitling Exospace B55 Watch
IWC Top Gun Automatic Chronograph Men’s Pilot’s Watch
First produced in the 1930s for civil aviation, IWC’s pilot’s watches are capable of precise timekeeping, even at high altitudes. The watch uses a 68-hour power reserve, with a soft-iron inner case to protect against magnetic fields. The fly-back function and an anti-reflective sapphire glass lens are secured against any displacement caused by a sudden drop in air pressure. The watch fastens with a black textured calfskin strap, which adds to the sport-inspired look.