The Mechanics of Giving from an A&P’s Wishbook

Richard Scarbrough offers some holiday gift suggestions for your friendly neighborhood aircraft mechanic.

A Yeti mug and Snap-on tools are some of the essential equipment often found in an aircraft mechanic’s arsenal. [Credit: Richard Scarbrough]

Greetings and salutations from Castile de Scarbrough. Although we are quite a ways from the North Pole, that should not deter us from striving to bring some Christmas cheer this holiday season and play Santa for your favorite aircraft mechanic. Of course, the best part of this time of year is not the practice of capitalism but the gathering of friends and family to reflect on the past year and join in good food, fellowship, and Festivus.

All right, enough of all that. All the significant celebrations include giving and receiving gifts. So, please pay close attention, and let’s get to it. It doesn’t matter if you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or Winter Solstice; there might be the perfect little something to wrap up, stuff in a stocking, or shove under the tree. I hear tell that Harbor Freight has a BOGO on ax handles for those of you celebrating Yule.

Do you remember our discussion on the Illustrated Parts Catalog (IPC) in which we spoke of the arrival of the annual Sears Wishbook? Well, I teased you guys a little, but now I can do my best, Paul Harvey, and let you know the rest of the story. That Christmas in 1979, I received a basketball goal, Captain America pajamas, and the big Boba Fett action figure, complete with his EE-3 carbine rifle, rocket pack, and range finder. Not a bad haul for a nine-year-old. 

I low-key wish I would get some Captain America PJs this year. Other than superhero sleepwear, what gifts would one get for their friendly neighborhood aircraft mechanic?

Maintainers are indeed truly hard to buy for. I personally like the way Men’s Health takes a stab at it here, but in my opinion, they only scratched the surface. I mean, $65 for an Urban Outfitters cargo pant cutoff is ridiculous. Just do like the gang and me at the engine shop, Army Navy surplus store for nine bucks and some sheers. Done. Besides, their creeper is creepy, and the Garage Screwdriver Keychain is suspect. I see stripped screws in the future.

What do you get an A&P that they do not already have? Every mechanic I know already has every tool known three times over in their arsenal. Besides, picking out a tool for a mechanic is like setting them up on a blind date. Nothing good can come from that. 

Here is a baker’s dozen of holiday gift ideas for your favorite A&P mechanic.

I am a gadget guy, and when I saw the list of Grommet 30+ Unique Gift Ideas For The Person Who Has Everything, I saw some fantastic gift ideas. The first of which came from that list and topped our list of great gifts for mechanics:

  1. StaySafe 5-in-1 Fire Extinguisher puts out five different types of fire. As one can imagine, aircraft are very susceptible to fire. Fire is even more dangerous if they maintain dope and fabric aircraft. Fuel, oil, hydraulic fluid, solvents, and electrical components are disasters waiting for an opportunity.
  2. Snap-on 14.4 V ⅜-inch MicroLithium Cordless In-line Drill. For those old-school Amish types that shun modern devices, go with 3/8-inch Drive 17-27/32-inch Speeder Drive Handle. Ok, come on, who doesn’t want Snap-on for Christmas? File this one under no-brainer, and let’s move on.
  3. Certain iconic brands need no introduction; mention their name, and visions of toughness dance in your head. One such name is Carhartt. The Carhartt Ball proves how necessary solid clothing items are for working folks. Can I get an amen from the bush pilots and backcountry mechanics? See above for further clarification on selecting someone’s tools; outerwear is a tool. Let’s play it safe and have fun; go with the knit pom-pom cuffed logo beanie, and pair it with a union suit. It gets cold on the flightline, but these thoughtful gifts keep your loved one nice and toasty. Remember this public service announcement: If you are cold, they are cold. Launch the bird and get them inside already.
  4. Despite the Navy’s devastating loss on Saturday, I still bleed true blue. It’s a shame about Coach Niumatalolo. You don’t have to be a Navy veteran to enjoy the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola. Talk about an incredible display of hardware. Hit the website, plan a trip, and surprise your mech with a chance to see some cool fighters and vintage warbirds. To be fair and balanced, you could visit the Museum of Aviation Foundation supporting the USAF if you must.
  5. As for Aircraft Mechanics Shirts (A.M.S.), they are just fun. Kudos to this proprietor for creating something unique for aircraft mechanics. They have other great products like stickers and banners too.
  6. Yeti Rambler 20 oz. travel mug. My buddy Grant worked the flightline and told a story of how his Yeti was too hot to touch after being in the sun, but ice remained inside his mug and kept the water cold. That, my friends, is performance. I have one gifted to me by Parker Hannifin, and I never leave home without it. It keeps java hot too, and you know all about “mechs” and their joe. Don’t leave home without it. 
  7. Spare parts are essential but do not dare let “them” find them in your rollaway. You know who “they” are: QA, the boss, the Feds, etc. Play it safe with AkroBin Metal Cabinet. Make sure everything is clearly labeled “serviceable” or “unserviceable.” Procure it at Uline, and also get free swag. 
  8. What is more boss than walking around a vintage warbird? Flying in a vintage warbird! CAF Airbase Georgia will gladly take you for a ride in its P-51 Mustang. This gift may be the one you keep for yourself. 
  9. Now the AeroCreeper is the real deal and comes standard with 10 adjustable heights. Never underestimate the toll working on airplanes can have on your body. These specialty products were not around back in the day. Oh no, I am starting to sound like I walked to the hangar uphill both ways in a blinding snowstorm.
  10. FLYING Magazine gave us a head start for the tenth gift with Best Aviation Books, and these are all fine works of literature. I will add one more to the list for the mechanics, and that is "Charles E. Taylor: 1868-1956 The Wright Brothers Mechanician" by H.R. DuFour. Stay tuned, folks. There is more to come on this.
  11. "A gentleman’s choice of timepiece says as much about him as does his Saville Row suit," Ian Fleming reportedly said.. Ladies and gentlemen need to evoke a sense of style when not crawling around an airplane. Founded in the 1880s, Breitling became world-renowned for its chronographs. The Endurance Pro wristwatch evokes confidence and style. For the ladies, Breitling Superocean Automatic 36 shows that precision is mission-critical, and she means business. While I would indeed keep these iconic timepieces safe in a locker when working on airplanes, there are times when one must meet with a potential client, give estimates when bidding business, and meet with accountants, bankers, and even the FAA. Show them that quality matters. 
  12. While watches can add flair and style to your brand, writing journals and pens can also help one differentiate themselves from the crowd. Moleskine journals make an excellent gift for your maintenance professional. The Classic Notebook and Kaweco Rollerball Pen Set not only allows you to keep a historical record of work, but it will also look right at home on your bookshelf next to a first edition of The Right Stuff.
  13. We have reviewed some excellent gifts here. What if they already have a Carhartt beanie and a killer timepiece? If the holidays are genuinely about giving rather than receiving, we should look to doing something for others. A charitable act may be in order. One excellent way to donate is to support the Association for Women in Aircraft Maintenance and help them to provide tools for the aviation maintenance community to thrive by staying engaged and connected. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University will let you Find a Fund and tailor it to fit your specific wish. Another charity is SouthWings, which partners with conservation groups, community groups, media, and decision-makers to provide a unique perspective to understand better and solve pressing environmental issues in the Southeast. Whatever you choose, try to support a movement close to you. There is nothing quite like building up the locals.

And there you have it, folks—a great way to give love and show support to your favorite A&P mechanic. What do you guys think? Did I nail it, or should I log off the shopping sites and go back to talking about camshafts? Drop me a line at and let me know your wishlist this holiday season.

Oh, and if you run into my wife, Lisa, please drop the hint that I could use a new watch. The Breitling Aerospace Evo would do nicely.

Richard is a US Navy Veteran, A&P Mechanic, and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University alumni. His experience ranges from general and corporate aviation to helicopters, business jets, and commercial airliners. Former owner of a 145 repair station, he currently has an aerospace product management role and is a member of the T-C-Alliance. Follow him on X (Twitter) at @RScarCo.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Get the latest FLYING stories delivered directly to your inbox

Subscribe to our newsletter