What Is the Best Pilot Knife?

Best knives for pilots

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Editor’s note: The following article is not intended to be a ranking, but is only to serve as a list of possible options. As the saying goes, your mileage may vary.

Do you carry a pocket knife in your flight kit? You should. Be it a survival knife, a multi-tool, a rescue knife or a Swiss Army Knife, you’d be surprised how often you need a knife in aviation.

Quicklook: Best Pilot Knife

5 Best Pilot Knife Options

One of the perks of flying a small aircraft is that you don’t have to worry about the TSA confiscating your knife. For a pilot, a knife is a necessary tool – and there are options when it comes to design – it’s a matter of what kind of flying you do, and your needs.

The Rescue Knife

Rescue Knives have a glass breaker and seatbelt cutter to aid with emergency egress from the aircraft. Some Rescue Knives are identical to the ones issued to the military, others have a much slimmer profile.

Best For: Being prepared for the worst

Construction: The Rescue Knife is made of steel

Blade Length: The blade of the Rescue Knife is 3.5 inches long

Weight: The weight of the Rescue Knife is about 10.4 ounces

Fold or Fixed: The Rescue Knife has a fixed blade

LED Flashlight: The Rescue Knife does not have an LED flashlight light

Special Features

  • Sharpening stone included
  • Seatbelt cutter
  • Hard surface at the base of the handle that can be used as a window breaker if needed


The Multi-tool is the best knife option for the pilot who needs extra tools for their aircraft, but doesn’t want to carry around extra pliers or screw drivers in their flight bag.

Best For: Extra tools

Construction: The Multi-tool is made from stainless steel

Blade Length: The Multi-tool blade varies from two to four inches

Weight: .33 pounds

Fold or Fixed: The Multi-tool has a folding blade

LED Flashlight:  The Multi-tool does not have an LED Flashlight

Special Features:

  •  Some Multi-tools come with extra screwdriver bits for all size jobs
  •  The Multi-tool has a ruler built into the device.
  •  The Multi-tool pliers are designed to be sturdy

Swiss Army Knife

The Swiss Army knife is synonymous with versatility – the downside is that there are so many models to choose from, it can be confusing. You don’t want to get something too small to be useful, or too large to fit in your flight bag. The Victorinox Swiss Champ is a good compromise.

The pilot who seeks to have every tool from the corkscrew to the flathead and Phillips head screwdriver cannot go wrong with Victorinox Swiss Champ, This pilot knife is a tool kit in your pocket.

Best For: Versatility

Construction: Stainless Steel encased in ABS scales

Blade Length: 3.6 inches

Weight: 6.5 oz.

Fold or Fixed: Fold

LED Flashlight: No

Special Features:

  • Three screw drivers: flathead
  • Phillips and miniature flathead
  • Saw and file
  • A magnifying glass

The Survival Knife

The survival knife is a rescue knife on steroids. It is high quality stainless steel with a black finished coating. It is sharp, durable, and wear resistant. This knife will come in handy in a number of situations and is made to last.

Best For: Survival

Construction: Steel

Blade Length: Approximately 3.5 inches

Weight: 6 ounces

Fold or Fixed: Fold

LED Flashlight: Yes

Special Features:

  • LED Flashlight
  • Seatbelt cutter
  • Window breaker
  • Spring-assisted
  • Magnesium Alloy Fire Starter 
  • Includes belt clip and sheath.

Multi-function Survival Hammer

The multi-function survival hammer is designed for the pilot who is very serious about being able to escape from an aircraft. It is ideal for pilots who fly in remote areas, where the pilot is on his or her own if something goes wrong and can’t wait for someone to rescue them.

Best For: Dedicated escape tool

Construction: Stainless Steel encased in ABS scales

Blade Length: 3 inches

Weight: .75 ounces

Fold or Fixed: Fold

LED Flashlight: No

Special Features:

  • Seatbelt cutter
  • Window breaker
  • Multiple hex wrenches

Are Pilots Allowed To Carry Knives?

TSA does not allow pilots to carry knives aboard aircraft on their persons or in  their carry-on luggage. Pilots who fly their own aircraft are not under the jurisdiction of the TSA so they may carry knives on their persons or in their flight kit.

Why Do Pilots Need a Knife?

A knife, especially a multi-tool should be part of a pilot’s flight gear because a knife is a useful tool as it can be used to open bottles of oil, tighten loose screws on the cowling, etc.

What to Consider With a Pilot Knife

When considering a pilot knife, consider the type of flying you do. In and out of the pattern a multi-tool or Swiss Army Knife. For backcountry flying, a Rescue or Tactical knife would likely be more appropriate.


Knives are made from stainless steel, non-stainless, and carbon steel.

Stainless steel knives are ideal when you just need a knife to do its job when called upon and do not require much maintenance.

Non-stainless steel knives can provide better edge stability, and sharpening response.

Carbon knives are the easiest to sharpen. They are also better at generating a spark when struck with a hard rock to start a fire.

Folding or Non-Folding 

Folding knives are more compact so they are easier to carry. They often come with many additional features such as screwdrivers and saws or scissors.

A fixed blade has more cutting power than a folding knife.


Fixed blade knives are larger and heavier. Length may be an issue as in some states having a blade over 5 inches is illegal.


The heavier the knife is, the more force it will have when cutting.


Fixed blade knives are stronger because they do not have the hinge that folding knives have.

Additional Features

A seatbelt cutter is designed to cut through seatbelts quickly and efficiently. A regular knife blade will take longer to do the job.

A knife with a window breaker, also known as the “hammer of urgency” is designed to break out the Plexiglas windows to allow the pilot to egress. These window breakers have a hard point to facilitate the process.

A knife with a LED flashlight is two required pilot tools in one – if you are in a situation that requires the use of the knife in the dark, the LED flashlight will free up your other hand.

A Pilot Needs a Knife

You don’t have to break the bank when it comes to obtaining a pilot knife, but make sure you find a knife that can perform the functions you need.

If you like this content and would like to stay up to date on the latest news about aviation and pilot training, subscribe to FLYING Magazine.



What Knife Do Pilots Use?

Multi-tools and Tactical Knives

Can Pilots Carry Knives?

Yes, as long as they are aboard an aircraft that does not require TSA screening.

What Knife Is Issued to the Air Force?

Tactical Knives are issued to all members of the armed forces.

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