Grab Bag

Do you have an emergency "grab bag" of battery-powered backups? It can actually be fun to practice what you would do if the lights went out.

Most pilots have a backup handheld comm radio, and perhaps a handheld GPS receiver. Some go further, organizing emergency equipment in a "grab bag" and occasionally reaching for it when all is calm, just to rehearse their act.

One good idea is to relegate a retired headset (or one you can buy cheap on eBay) to emergency backup duty. Besides the hands-free element, which can be vital in an emergency, it's all but impossible to hear that handheld in a loud cockpit. It's a lot easier to slip off the primary and slip on the already-plugged-in backup than it is to switch plugs around when tensions are high. If you fly at night, add a headset-mounted mini-flashlight in your arsenal (duct tape works fine).

Another good idea is to install a plug in the cockpit that allows you to access the aircraft antenna with the handheld. Your reception and transmission power will be greatly enhanced. This could be a second-tier process to be accomplished after first making contact with ATC using the "rubber ducky" antenna.

A small GPS in the bag can be a godsend, especially if you have a spot on the glareshield reserved for it where the antenna can "see" the satellites through the windshield. Just be sure to review your unit's functions every so often so the Direct-to and Nearest-airport functions, at least, are fresh in your mind. It's also a good idea to tape a note to the unit, itself, with a brief reminder of how to make it work (Do the same with the handheld radio). An emergency is no time to be thumbing through the manual. Today's battery-powered handhelds have some remarkable capability, but all that can be wasted if you've forgotten which buttons to push to access the magic.

Finally, keeping the units charged and/or having extra batteries ought to go without saying, but I'll say it anyway.