It’s Common Sense: If You Borrow It, Return It

Whether it’s headsets, tools, or teaching supplies, always get permission first and make sure to give them back.

I just replaced my push-to-talk switch—again I keep it and the portable intercom I bought many years ago in a special bag within  my flight bag. The portable intercom runs on 9-volt batteries or via a cable connected to the cigarette lighter. It and the PTT have saved many flights when the yoke-mounted PTT failed. If the learner can’t hear the CFI or vice-versa, the flight doesn’t happen.

Headsets are another item that can fail and create communication issues. After the mic on my David Clarks failed, I invested in a backup headset. Acquisition was easy. Hang around at a general aviation airport, and you will likely find someone or someone who knows someone who has an old pair of (insert brand here) that they are no longer using because they have upgraded or are hanging up their wings. The spare headset can become the one you provide to your passenger. They can often be acquired for low cost or no cost. It might need a little cleanup, such as new ear seals, but that is a relatively easy thing to do. Test the headset before you need it, either in the aircraft with the master on or take it to the avionics shop if there is one on the field. 

Make sure you put your name on your headset using a label maker or ink but never engrave it, as this can void a warranty. If you borrow a headset, or anything else from another pilot, make sure you know who it belongs to and that you have permission to use it. Warning (parent voice is being deployed): This is something you should have learned in kindergarten. Don’t be that person who keeps it until the owner of the object catches you with it and then tries to talk your way out of it. 

“They told me I could use it” translates to “I took it without permission” or “I found it and kept it even though I know it wasn’t mine” because there is no “they.”

When Borrowing Tools

I am uncomfortable doing this without express permission. Aviation mechanics I have worked with have told me stories about someone borrowing a tool and the awful feeling of discovering it is missing and wondering if you left it in an airplane. 

At a Part 141 school, only designated persons are permitted to work on an airplane—even tighten a screw—so don’t go borrowing a tool. Get an authorized maintenance person to do the adjustment. 

Under Part 61, talk to the individual mechanics. Some will tell you hands off, no matter what. Others will ask you to leave the tool on top of the box with a note stating you borrowed it and what it was used for.

Borrowing Teaching Supplies

The borrowing of teaching supplies happens a lot. When I was teaching my first ground school, I had to borrow the FAR/AIM from the chief ground instructor’s office. When I went to put it back after class, the door was locked and I didn’t have the key. I wrote him a note explaining I had borrowed the book and where I hid it in the classroom. I slid the note under the office door. I apologized for not asking permission first—this was before Google, so I could not look up the regulation online.

The chief sent me an email thanking me for the signed note, saying that apparently people saw “please take” signs all over his office. This, I learned, is part of the culture of some flight schools as it is not uncommon for CFIs to share a desk or for there to be communal briefing rooms, tables, and desks for the learners and renter pilots to use. 

If you find something in these communal spaces—a headset, a PTT, flashlight, yoke clip, etc.—it’s not yours to keep. Please turn it over to the front desk, let the CFIs know, or leave a note on the whiteboard in the classroom as to what you found and where, so the wayward object can find its way home. 

This goes for car keys too. One of my learners was two hours late for work—his wife had to come get him—because when his keys were found in a briefing room, the dispatch person put them in their desk and didn’t tell anyone she had found them. They weren’t discovered until the next morning when the morning desk person opened the draw to put her purse away.

If you misplace something and your name is on it, you have a better chance of getting it back. But it’s not a guarantee. I had the awkward experience of having a flight review candidate return a headset to me that I had lost 10 years prior. The flight review candidate told me the CFI he trained with at a now-defunct flight school had given him the headset. I had worked there as well, and the headset was the spare I kept in my desk. Apparently my former coworker borrowed it without telling me. I had been looking for it all these years. It still had my name on it. Most annoying is that he knew where to find me as our paths had crossed over the years.

Renting Equipment from the Flight School

There are some flight schools that have headsets as well as intercoms and PTT for rent. If you rent one of these items, make sure it gets back to the school. If you accidentally walk off with it, let the school know you’ve got it and will be returning it. It will be most appreciative.


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