2012 Flying Gift Guide

Check out what tops our holiday wish list.

Shopping for pilots can be tricky at best. There is so much aviation gear on the market, and, without trying things out, it’s hard to know what products work well and which ones don’t. Here is a collection of some of our favorites — gift ideas for all budgets that are sure to put a smile on the faces of your beloved flying friends.

Pipistrel Panthera
When Pipistrel unveiled the prototype of its new, ultra-efficient Panthera this spring, we – like so many in the aviation community – were more than a little impressed. With the claimed ability to cruise at 200 knots while burning just 10 gallons per hour, as well as the legs to go 1,000 nm – with all four seats taken – the composite airplane with retractable landing gear brings the meaning of innovation to a whole new level. With a price tag beneath $500,000, as well as hybrid and purely electric versions that also are in the works, the Panthera is definitely near the top of our airplane wish list.

inReach Satellite Communicator
If your loved one is flying and landing in areas without cell-phone coverage, an inReach Satellite Communicator, produced by Yarmouth, Maine-based DeLorme, can help keep you connected. The device doesn't provide calling capability, but this lightweight, pocket-sized satellite communication unit can be paired wirelessly to an iPhone, iPad or Android device to enable communication via Facebook or Twitter, or text messaging up to 160 characters per message. inReach also provides two-way emergency messaging to GEOS International Emergency Response Coordination Center, which will coordinate a search-and-rescue mission should it become necessary. And the GPS locating feature also allows you to track your loved one's flight path. Various levels of subscription are available, starting at $9.95 per month, and the unit itself costs $249.95.

Hamilton Khaki Flight Timer
Pilots searching for an advanced watch that doesn't sacrifice style for function can count on the Khaki Flight Timer. Hamilton's newest innovation offers a host of features sure to please pilots, such as the ability to record details of up to 20 flights and nearly 100 landings, as well as a display that presents ISA temperature at different altitudes. Encased in stainless-steel casting, the watch seamlessly integrates its analog and digital displays in a sleek but durable design — one that avoids the clunky look common to some feature-heavy watches. The Khaki Flight Timer, unveiled earlier this year, is priced at $1,445.

X-Plane 10
For pilots and pilot hopefuls who would like to spend a little more time perfecting their skills without leaving the comfort of their living room, X-Plane 10 is an excellent choice. As its makers contend, X-Plane is less a game and more an engineering tool, one that emulates flight characteristics with a realism unmatched by other PC sims. That authentic feel stems from the fact that X-Plane essentially predicts an aircraft's handling in real time through a constant analysis of aerodynamic forces, as opposed to the static computational methods traditionally used by other PC sims. Priced at $69.99, X-Plane 10 also offers extensive versatility, enabling users to fly in various weather conditions and respond to a variety of systems failures. Although the scenery in X-Plane 10 might not match that of FSX, its delivery of challenging situations with such realism more than makes up for it.

Stratus Portable Receiver
For pilots looking for hassle-free in-flight weather without a subscription, it doesn't get much better than the new Stratus portable receiver from Appareo, Sporty's and ForeFlight. The compact product connects wirelessly to the iPad, providing GPS and ADS-B weather straight to a pilot's fingertips. With the unit, pilots get access to a host of features, including Nexrad, metars, winds aloft, pireps and textual weather, among others. And although the ADS-B data isn't as encompassing as XM weather, the lack of cords and a monthly subscription fee make the new Stratus receiver a game-changer. Add in Stratus' seamless integration with the popular flight app ForeFlight, and the $799 unit is a worthy investment for any pilot looking for a simple in-flight weather solution.

The Jay by Redbird
For pilots and nonpilots alike who are looking for a flight simulator that is more fun than hassle, the Jay by Redbird is the ticket. This all-in-one device represents the first in a new line of products from the flight training provider, aimed chiefly at bringing entertainment into the realm of simulators. With simple controls and a user-friendly interface, the Jay makes it easy for aviation enthusiasts to enjoy simulated flight without the hassle of endless wires and components. Just fire it up and go flying. The Jay — available from King Schools — is priced at $1,999.

Aviation: A Filmed History
Culled from the National Archives and the vaults of talented filmmakers, this large collection of aviation history is available in a boxed set featuring historical newsreel footage, documentary featurettes and rare scenes. Much of the content is narrated by some of Hollywood's greatest names, and the 24-DVD set includes everything from early footage of short hops across farm fields to hypersonic flight at the edge of space. World War II footage from Europe and the Pacific is especially dramatic, with intense bombing missions, dogfights and hair-raising takeoffs and landings. The boxed set is available for $79.99 from Sporty's.

Zero-Gravity Flight Experience
Here's a gift idea for the aviation lover who is up for anything. The Zero-G Experience involves a three-hour ride in a modified Boeing 727 performing a series of zero-gravity pushovers, allowing passengers to experience the thrill of weightlessness. After leveling off at 24,000 feet, the pilots initiate an aggressive 1.8 G climb, followed immediately by a zero-G pushover. For the next 20 to 30 seconds, passengers can float around the cabin in a weightless environment. The maneuvers, known as parabolas, are repeated 12 to 15 times. Priced at $4,950, the Zero-G Experience flights depart from a variety of cities throughout the year.

Sporty's iPad Briefcase
If your pilot friend is using an iPad for flying, consider giving him or her an iPad Briefcase from Sporty's. With padded sides and soft cloth material lining the main compartment, this bag provides good protection for the iPad. A zippered pocket on the front keeps other valuables safe, and an open pocket on the back has slots for pens, notepads and other items that need to be accessible. The handles can be tucked into the sides whenever the shoulder strap is used. You can order the iPad Briefcase from Sporty's for $39.95.

King Schools CRM Course
Although King Schools' Crew Resource Management (CRM) Online Course was brought to the market to satisfy the regulatory needs of professional pilots, any pilots flying together can benefit from the information provided in the course. Developed by John and Martha King, who have been flying together for decades, King Schools' CRM course can help you and your loved one develop a less-stressful environment in the cockpit. The use of CRM can minimize potential conflicts and make cockpit communication more efficient. The cost for the course is $199.

D1 Pocket Panel
With Dynon's D1 pocket panel, an affordable and reliable backup attitude indicator is within reach for all pilots. Based on the same attitude and heading reference system technology that informs Dynon's panel-mount displays, the new portable unit provides a true artificial horizon with a level of accuracy and dependability that doesn't exist with smartphone and tablet apps. Add to that the system's built-in GPS receiver — which displays groundspeed, altitude and course data — as well as the four-hour battery life, and the unit – priced at $1,425 – could be a lifesaver if something were to go wrong in the soup.

BrightLine B10 Classic
For anyone in need of a versatile bag to use for flying, BrightLine has many answers. BrightLine offers what the company calls the Flex System, which boasts a slew of options that can be used in their separate forms or connected to create larger bags. One solution called B10 Classic, the company's most popular bag system, comes with two main sections, each with several pockets that can fit specific flying-related items such as headsets, iPad, GPS, sunglasses, fuel tester and E6B. The B10 Classic also comes with exterior attachments — side pocket Alpha for a handheld radio and side pocket Charlie for pens. The price for the B10 Classic is $143.