I’ve finally finished purchasing all of the gear required for the program and want to share with you the items that I ultimately decided to go with and why. A lot of research went into my purchases, and I found the posts and advice on this website very helpful in my decision-making process. There are a TON of different options for pilot gear, and what works best for you will ultimately come down to your own preferences. Hopefully, this helps you in your search too!
Headset: David Clark DC ONE-X
When I started looking for a headset, I knew I wanted to buy a high-end model with ANR and a good mic so that I can hear my instructor/radio transmissions/ATC clearly. I narrowed my choices down to the Bose A20, Lightspeed Zulu 3, or David Clark One-X.
I went to my local airport’s pilot shop to try on the headsets and immediately ruled out the Lightspeed Zulu 3’s due to comfort. The headset felt heavy and bulky compared to the other two, and there was more a bit more clamping than I’d like. I could see it getting uncomfortable when wearing for long periods of time.
I didn’t have high expectations out of the David Clark One-X’s and was immediately surprised by how comfortable and well-made the headset was, especially when compared to the Bose A20’s. The Bose A20’s had a bit of a cheap plastic feel and felt loose on my head. When I turned my head from side to side, I could feel the headset moving from their fixed position and the ear seals breaking and letting in background noise. Comparably, the DC One-X’s felt sturdier and better made and were extremely comfortable. There was minimal clamping, but they felt sturdy and stayed fixed when I moved my head from side to side. The DC One X’s were the most compact of the 3, and could be folded down for storage to about a 30% smaller size than the A20’s.
I tested the ANR on each headset and was really impressed with all 3. I couldn’t hear any background noise at all when the ANR was on with the Bose A20’s or the Lightspeed Zulu 3’s. The ANR on the DC One-X was also great, but not quite as good as the other two headsets. I considered this to be a pro, because I don’t want the ANR on my headset to be so good that it drowns out vital noises in the plane (like if there was an issue with the engine/propeller/etc.).
All of these things considered, I still had a hard time deciding between the Bose A20 and the DC One-X. The A20 is the gold standard and considered the best of the best, and while my gut said that I didn’t like them as much as the David Clarks, they were still an excellent choice. The A20 has a much more sleek/professional look, while the One-X has a more vintage look. The One-X is also $200 less than the Bose A20’s.
Ultimately, I decided to go with the One-X because of comfort, quality material, compact size, and the right level of ANR for me. Also, I’m one of the people that like DC’s vintage green look.
iPad- Apple iPad Pro (9.7in, 128GB, LTE)
iPad, iPad Mini, iPad Air, or iPad Pro? I ruled out the regular iPad and iPad Air models early on due to the slower processing speeds and potential resulting ForeFlight lag. The iPad Air was easy to rule out because I didn’t see the value of it when compared to the iPad Pro. They’re similarly priced, but the Pro is simply much more powerful than the Air and has a better display.
That leaves the iPad Mini and the iPad Pro. The iPad mini has a processor that’s comparably powerful to the Pro, a smaller screen, and a facory anti-glare screen. My decision ultimately came down to the size of the screen. While the Mini is more compact and easier to fit in the cockpit, I went with the full-size screen because I want the larger display for ForeFlight and taking notes. I didn’t want the screen to be too big, so I ruled out all iPad models with screens over 10.5 inches. Since the latest iPad Pro model has an 11-inch screen, I decided on the slightly older 9.7 inch iPad Pro. I bought it refurbished off of Amazon for a good deal. I also bought an anti-glare (matte) screen protector to reduce glare in the cockpit and a sturdy/thin protective case. Here are the links for both:
Kneeboard- Custom Kneeboard by MOAgear
Now that I decided on my iPad, I could start looking for kneeboards. There’s a French phrase, “mis-en-place”, that roughly translates to “everything in its place”. I’m big on organization and feel the most prepared when everything is organized, in its place, and easily accessible. I wanted to make sure I bought a kneeboard that organized everything efficiently without being bulky or cumbersome, but I was a bit overwhelmed by all of the different options for cockpit organization. You can use a single kneeboard for all of your materials, two kneeboards (one for your iPad, and the other for a notepad), or a kneeboard/iPad mount combination.
I don’t want to use two kneeboards, so I ruled that set-up out immediately. I like the idea of mounting the iPad, but I don’t want to have to rely on mounting the iPad every time I get in the plane, so I definitely wanted to buy a single kneeboard that could organize an iPad and a paper notepad at the same time. I’m going to see how this set-up works, and then maybe buy a suction cup windscreen mount later on if I decided that I don’t like looking down at the iPad screen and want it mounted at eye-level. I ruled out yoke mounts because I don’t want the iPad to get in the way of the flight controls.
The closest kneeboard I could find to what I wanted was MyGoFlight’s iPad Folio C Kneeboard, but it doesn’t have all of the features I’m looking for. I want to have the ability to easily switch between the iPad and notepad, without having both of them splayed out across my lap and taking up a ton of room. I also want storage for pens, etc.
I started looking for custom kneeboards (is that even a thing? turns out, yes) and found MOAgear, which is a company run by a pilot named Sean who started making custom kneeboards when he found himself in a situation similar to mine, unable to find one that fit his needs. His kneeboard design checked all of the boxes in what I’m looking for, and the price ended up being much less than the Folio C kneeboard. Score! I bought his MKIII kneeboard model.
Why I went with the MKIII- it’s designed to be used with a tablet as your “electronic flight bag” while still maintaining the versatility and function of a traditional kneeboard. Your tablet can be run under or on top of the clipboard, and there is a simple one-handed switch between either. There are velcro slots for pen storage, and I added a 4x7 inch Velvro removable pouch for storing additional items.
Travel Bag- Flight Gear HP Captain’s Bag
Flashlight- Maglite Mini Incandescent 2-Cell AA Flashlight Combo, Black
EDIT: Replaced w/ Smith & Wesson Night Guard Elite Dual-Beam
View Limiting Device- KMD Aero Aviation Flight Training Glasses with Frosted Adjustable Polycarbonate Frames
I also bought the Atlanta VFR sectional chart (I’m going to be attending ATP’s LZU location) and a pair of non-polarized Ray-Bans, because all of my current sunglasses are polarized.