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Gear GuideGear Guide

The right fit for how you fly

This year’s AOPA PILOT Gear Guide combines new and old, well-proven and futuristic.
Gear Guide

New avionics technology and creative apps that enhance flight safety and enjoyment are included, as are some thoroughly old-school items such as aircraft covers and batteries that have proven themselves in harsh conditions. Whether you’re a gadget freak or a Luddite, there’s something for you in this collection.

There’s also an unavoidable subjectivity to our choices. AOPA Pilot editors are shown with the products they like, trust, and recommend from personal experience. Sometimes—as in the choice of headsets—that comes down to personal taste.

General aviation is in a period of rapid change, and some of these items reflect our hope and expectation that a few of these products may someday make the jump from purely Experimental use to the wider GA fleet. We hope you enjoy these products as much as we do.

Gear Guide

Editor’s pick

Garmin Flight Stream 510: Business flying often means landing at busy airports, and many come with complex arrival and departure procedures. Flight Stream 510 makes it easy to plan routes on a tablet and wirelessly upload them to the panel. In return, I get traffic, weather, and back-up attitude information from the panel to the tablet. A win all the way around on a dynamic travel day, $1,495, www.garmin.com —Thomas B. Haines, Editor in Chief

Tom Haines wears: Stretch Pique Polo – Navy, $39, www.aopapilotgear.com

Business Flier

  • Business Flier
    Plug and Jump: Don’t worry about a dead battery far from home. Small and lightweight enough to toss in the baggage compartment, this handy adapter can be used to jump-start common general aviation aircraft models from a car. $82.95 www.aircraftspruce.com
  • Business Flier
    Garmin GDL 51 XM Receiver: Music has an uncanny ability to calm nervous passengers, set a positive tone for a flight, and heighten the sense of a shared experience. Satellite weather is simply better than the ADS-B alternative. Garmin’s GDL 51 brings both SiriusXM products to the cockpit in a package that’s easy to install and easy to use. $699, www.garmin.com
  • Business Flier
    Lightspeed Zulu 3: Lightweight, comfortable, rugged, with Bluetooth and an industry-leading seven-year warranty, the Zulu 3 takes the best features of Lightspeed'€™s product line and leaves the audiophile stuff alone. An excellent value that will have you saying, "€œSay again,"€ far less often. $850. www.lightspeedaviation.com
  • Business Flier
    Scheyden C–130 sunglasses: With a light, durable titanium frame and slim temples that fit under a headset, Scheyden’s C–130 model delivers comfort in the cockpit. $314 www.scheyden.com. Also consider: Method Seven M7 Sky sunglasses, $240www.methodseven.com
  • Business Flier
    SD-8 Alternator: Competition aerobatic pilots who obsess about aircraft weight have tested the SD-8 alternator by B&C Specialty Products in extreme conditions. The rest of us just like the simplicity and reliability of this little dynamo, built for Experimental aircraft, that consists of two spinning magnets. Now that more aircraft are saying goodbye to vacuum pumps, we hope the SD-8 can take their place on the vacuum pad in certified aircraft and act as a primary or standby alternator. $545. www.bandc.aero
Gear Guide

Editor’s pick

Ray-Ban RB3025 sunglasses: There are a lot of great sunglasses out there, so choosing one really comes down to personal preference. I like the classic aviator look, and Ray-Bans come in a variety of sizes, making it easy to find the right fit for a narrow face. The 55-millimeter, nonpolarized model suits me just right. $153, www.ray-ban.com —Sarah Deener, Managing Editor
Also consider: Dual Eyewear AV2, $99.95, www.dualeyewear.com

Sarah Deener wears: Ladies Knit Funnelneck, $45, www.aopapilotgear.com

Personal Flier

  • Personal Flier
    Scout ADS-B Receiver: For ForeFlight users who want a bare-bones, inexpensive receiver, this is it. Scout is tiny, light, and it works extremely well. UAvionix designed this pioneering unit that is being rapidly adopted by ForeFlight'€™s legion of fans. $199. www.flywithscout.com
  • Personal Flier
    FlyQ InSight: This free "€œaugmented reality"€ app converts your iPhone into an all-seeing airport finder. Move it around the horizon and airports show up, clearly marked, with all the information a pilot could hope to know about them. It works astonishingly well, and your passengers will enjoy it, too. Free. www.seattleavionics.com
  • Personal Flier
    Flight Outfitters pilot knife: In an emergency, a knife is one of the most useful tools a pilot can keep handy. This knife takes versatility to another level with a serrated blade, seat belt cutter, LED flashlight, magnesium alloy fire starter, and window breaker that works on tempered glass. $29.95 www.flightoutfitters.com
  • Personal Flier
    Silvertone Yes Equilibrium watch: This Indiegogo-funded project shows times for twilight, sunrise, and sunset, as well as lunar cycles. The watch also comes with an option for a titanium bracelet. $995 www.yeswatch.com
  • Personal Flier
    DeLorme Satellite Messenger: Pilots in remote regions use satellite messengers the way teens use cellphones—€”to text their friends, share information, and let others know when they'€™ll be home. DeLorme popularized the technology, and Garmin bought the company and is taking their InReach product mainstream. Look for improvements that make it more user-friendly and broaden its appeal. $449. https://inreach.garmin.com
Gear Guide

Editor’s pick

Bonehead Composite Pilot-X Flight Helmet: Bonehead Composites makes helmets specifically designed for general aviation. Unlike military varieties made for jet cockpits, these lightweight, low-profile helmets are made for the high noise and tight confines of aerobatic, agricultural, or sport airplanes. Bonehead founder Chris Frisella is a GA pilot, and it shows in his company’s products. $1,095, www.boneheadcomposites.com —Dave Hirschman, Editor at Large

Dave Hirschman wears: Pounce Puma Polo, $69, www.aopapilotgear.com

Experimental Aircraft Owner

  • Experimental Aircraft Owner
    Catto Propeller: Craig Catto builds propellers for some of the most unique and demanding aircraft imaginable. They go on record-setting racers, extreme STOL bushplanes, and aerobats that are made to tumble like punted footballs. Each one is a thing of beauty that'€™s also built to stand up to powerful forces and extreme punishment. These are functional works of art. $2,950, www.cattoprops.com
  • Experimental Aircraft Owner
    Levil Beacon: This 978-MHz universal access transceiver mounts on the belly of an aircraft, eliminating the need for avionics upgrades to meet the 2020 ADS-B Out mandate. $1,885 http://aviation.levil.com
  • Experimental Aircraft Owner
    Levil BOM: This brilliant, all-in-one sensor package resides outside the airplane and runs on its own wind-driven generator. It connects wirelessly to a tablet computer and can show the airplane's speed, ground track, altitude, and attitude. A terrific, self-contained Experimental system. $1,595, http://aviation.levil.com
  • Experimental Aircraft Owner
    GRT Mini-X EFIS: GRT Avionics packs a lot of capability into a very small package. It’s a full-featured, self-contained EFIS that shows GPS-derived synthetic vision, and it can provide highway-in-the-sky guidance to every runway in the United States. The Mini can be used as a primary attitude indicator in Experimental airplanes, or it can be installed as a portable backup instrument in FAA-certified ones. $1,395 http://grtavionics.com
  • Experimental Aircraft Owner
    E-Mag P114-L4: Electronic ignition systems make engines start easier; run smoother; and allow huge improvements in speed, range, and reliability. E-Mags act like traditional magnetos because they have tiny, built-in alternators that allow them to run on their own power in case the aircraft electrical system fails. They also have a similar form factor and fit in the same location on the engine. $1,395 www.emagair.com
Gear Guide

Editor’s pick

Sporty’s Flight Gear HP iPad Flight bag: I’ve tried every combination of flight bag over the years, from some that may have required a checked bag fee to one or two that were barely big enough for a headset. Sporty’s Flight Gear HP iPad Bag is my personal go-to. It perfectly carries an instructor’s essentials—a headset, water, a small writing pad, and an iPad. $69.95, www.sportys.com. —Ian J. Twombly, Editor
Also consider: BrightLine Bags Flex System bags, starting at $107, www.brightlinebags.com

Ian Twombly wears: Eddie Bauer Fishing Shirt, $68, www.aopapilotgear.com

Instructor

  • Instructor
    David Clark H10-13.4 headset: When a student asks which headset to buy, the David Clark H10-13.4 is always near the top of the list. David Clark is known for making extremely durable and reliable products, and the H10-13.4 is the granddaddy of the passive noise-attenuation workhorse headsets. Despite years of abuse, the H10-13.4 works again and again. Although it's not the most comfortable headset on the market, nor the quietest, the H10-13.4 should last decades. $326.43. www.davidclarkcompany.com
  • Instructor
    Top: Garmin VIRB 360 Camera: Garmin'€™s VIRB 360 starts recording 4K images at the touch of a single button. The wrap-around view doesn't miss a thing, and new editing software will allow video editors to show viewers items of interest instead of having them endlessly mouse around the screen. A nascent and fascinating technology. $799.99. www.garmin.com. Bottom: NFlightCam Mount: Nflightcam'€™s aviation-grade mounts are easy to attach and produce rock-steady images from airplanes in flight. Patrick Carter, Nflightcam's founder, is an accomplished pilot and flight instructor, and the company's strut mounts are particularly sturdy, well-designed, and easy to use on airplanes ranging from Cubs to Caravans. $150. www.nflightcam.com
  • Instructor
    ACR Personal locator beacon: This is a device you hold close on flights to remote and rugged areas and hope never to use. But in case of a mechanical issue in an out-of-the-way place, or a forced landing, it could be a lifesaver that both identifies you and your aircraft, and pinpoints your location for rescuers. Cheap insurance. $270 www.acrartex.com
  • Instructor
    Flight Outfitters Pilot Flashlight: Many of Flight Outfitters'€™ products are creative solutions to old problems. The company'€™s Pilot Flashlight has the standard white and red lights. But this newer entrant to the pilot accessory field added a small bite ring around the back to help those of us who would like to keep our hands free for other tasks. $29.95. www.flightoutfitters.com
  • Instructor
    Lift Aviation Air Boss shoes: Lift Aviation's flying shoes are the best aviation accessory you never knew you wanted. They are light, have a soft sole for good rudder pedal control, and are narrow enough to fit in that small gap between a Piper Cub seat and the sidewall. Most impressive is the creative heel slider. Twin parallel plastic pieces on each heel stabilize your feet upright and make for easy sliding on carpet, vinyl, or wood. $139. https://liftaviationusa.com
Gear Guide

Editor’s pick

Bruce’s Custom Covers: Your airplane is your prized possession. If you can’t hangar it, a well-designed aircraft cover is practically the next best thing. Bruce’s Custom Covers are, as the name suggests, made to order, so the fit will be right for your airplane—no matter how many antennas it has. The cover will also help keep the sun from baking the avionics and fading the upholstery. Prices start at $510 for a Piper PA–28, www.aircraftcovers.com —Jill W. Tallman, Technical Editor

Jill Tallman wears: Ladies Sweater Fleece Jacket, $75, www.aopapilotgear.com

New Aircraft Owner

  • New Aircraft Owner
    Garmin aera 660: This robust handheld GPS is intuitive for smartphone users and can communicate with Garmin ADS-B units to display weather, traffic, TFRs, synthetic vision, and more. A six-hour battery, sunlight-readable display, and responsive touchscreen make it a valuable addition to the cockpit. $749 www.garmin.com
  • New Aircraft Owner
    Garmin aera 660: This robust handheld GPS is intuitive for smartphone users and can communicate with Garmin ADS-B units to display weather, traffic, TFRs, synthetic vision, and more. A six-hour battery, sunlight-readable display, and responsive touchscreen make it a valuable addition to the cockpit. $749 www.garmin.com
  • New Aircraft Owner
    Wash Wax All cleaner: Who knows what they put in this stuff that makes it clean so well and cost so much? But it does both exceptionally well. A few swipes with a terry cloth rag and your airplane looks like you’ve polished it with a buffer. Almost magic. $27.95 https://washwax.com
  • New Aircraft Owner
    MGF Products iPad Mount: MGF Products has created an extensive line of well-designed, sturdy, lightweight mounts for iPads and other tablets. As these gadgets become central to flying, mounts that put them in the pilot's field of view gain prominence—and MGF Products has the best. $238 http://mgfproducts.com. Also consider: X-Naut Active Cooling Mount, $199. https://x-naut.com
  • New Aircraft Owner
    Concorde Battery: Concorde batteries won't let you down. A friend had an RG-25 like this one in his Husky for a decade, and he finally replaced it even though it tested fine. These gel-cell batteries won'€™t spill corrosive liquid in your airplane. They're not the lightest, and they don'€™t include the latest lithium-ion technology. They just work. $233. www.concordebattery.com
Gear Guide

Editor’s pick

MGF water bottle: It may seem irrational to “hate” plastic water bottles, but I do. Aside from their obvious need in developing countries where we’ve gone for stories, there’s no reason to use them—especially now that you can carry an MGF Water Bottle inspired by S’well. The owner of S’well and I are simpatico—she created these remarkable bottles because she, too, dislikes plastic water bottles. Plus, this ingenious carry-on keeps both cold water cold and hot stuff hot. Like coffee. Like when your editor says wheels up at 6 a.m. and you know you can’t drink a cup of coffee for the three-hour leg or other personal issues will arise, but you need the ritual of brewing or buying a cup just to start your day. So fill the MGF Water Bottle with hot coffee and when you reach the first fuel stop, voila, coffee’s hot and the day can truly begin. $35, http://mgfproduct.com —Julie Summers Walker, Senior Features Editor

Julie Walker wears: Ladies Puffy Jacket, $129, www.aopapilotgear.com

Passenger

  • Passenger
    Bose A20: The Bose A20 is the gold standard for high-end headsets, and its comfort, light weight, and noise-cancelling qualities are hard to believe. Audio is crisp and clear, and your ears won't be ringing at the end of a long flight. Expensive—but it'€™s a bargain to arrive refreshed and relaxed. $1,095.95. www.bose.com
  • Passenger
    GERBING Heated Jacket Liner: Motorcyclists are masters at staying warm in cold, drafty conditions, and Gerbing'€™s heated jacket liner is standard equipment for them. These light jacket liners can plug into the aircraft electrical system and keep pilots and passengers toasty, even when flying open cockpit airplanes in sub-freezing conditions. $249. www.gerbing.com
  • Passenger
    Flyover Country app: Plot your route on this free app funded by the National Science Foundation, and it will show you interactive geologic maps, fossil locations, and other information about the view out your window. Free Available on Google Play and the Apple App Store
  • Passenger
    TZUMI ENDURANCE Battery Brick: IPads and smartphones are as popular among passengers as they are among pilots. Portable batteries like this mass produced Tzumi Endurance charger can replenish an iPhone battery 11 times before it has to be recharged itself. $42 http://tzumi.com
  • Passenger
    OREGON AERO Portable Seat Cushion: Few things detract from the enjoyment of flying more than being in physical pain—and Oregon Aero seat cushions avoid that. Oregon Aero’s seat cushions keep you from squirming, going numb, or gobbling ibuprofen during long flights, and, in so doing, improve your state of mind. Worth the price. $210-250 www.oregonaero.com
Dave Hirschman

Dave Hirschman

AOPA Pilot Editor at Large
AOPA Pilot Editor at Large Dave Hirschman joined AOPA in 2008. He has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates. Dave flies vintage, historical, and Experimental airplanes and specializes in tailwheel and aerobatic instruction.

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