What’s Really in an Airline Pilot’s Flight Bag?

A FLYING Magazine reader asks a question plenty of us outside the airline industry have wondered about.

So, what’s in that bag, anyway? [File Photo: Adobe Stock]

What's Really in an Airline Pilot's Flight Bag?

In my career, the two most-prominent labels used when referring to the piece of airline pilot luggage that, at one time, kept chiropractors in business was either “brain bag” or “kit bag.” Distinguished by stickers and decals, the outside of the bag reflected a pilot’s personality and told a story.

The good-quality bags were leather, and real pilots schlepped them by hand—wheels were for sissies. We stuffed them with

  • Jepp binders
  • High and low en route charts
  • Company manuals
  • Airplane manuals
  • Minimum equipment lists
  • Emergency checklists
  • E6Bs
  • Plotters
  • Pens
  • Highlighters
  • Headsets
  • Cannon-size flashlights

Any first officer worth their salt would carry both a bottle of Caribbean-quality hot sauce for the in-flight omelet and reading material for the wait at the gate."

My father asked that I carry a small laminated version of the Traveler’s Prayer. Fortunately, the electronic flight bag (i.e. iPad) has eliminated the majority of paper content, so a laptop bag is sufficient, but that doesn’t discourage good old-fashioned airline-pilot ingenuity.

Do you have a question about aviation that's been bugging you? Ask us anything you've ever wanted to know about aviation. Our experts in general aviation, training, aircraft, avionics, and more may attempt to answer your question in a future article.

Les Abend
Les AbendAuthor
Les Abend is a retired, 34-year veteran of American Airlines, attempting to readjust his passion for flying airplanes in the lower flight levels—without the assistance of a copilot.
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