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Mark everything

I’ve always considered myself a careful person, maybe a bit too much of a “worst-case scenario planner” at times. But, this has paid off more than it hasn’t. With respect to being a pilot, especially for the airlines, it comes in handy. Because so many airlines require the same basic tools, and because so many of them are the same color (black), it’s easy to lose something (especially at night) or confuse it with someone else’s item in a rush.

Most pilots use the same brand of luggage—LuggageWorks, once known as Purdy Neat Things—because it is rugged, durable, and black. The company also sells personalized handles to make luggage easy to identify. Most folks use a first initial/last name combination, while others will use a word or phrase unique to them. Either way, it works, and prevents mistakes when all the bags look and weigh pretty close to the same.

I learned a long time ago to ID everything. Because the BrightLine pilot bag has become so popular, especially in a certain configuration, it is easy to confuse one with another. One of the pockets is designed to be easily removed to have it embroidered. I’m probably the only one who has done it, but at least I know that I won’t be taking anyone else’s by mistake from the crew room or the stack of bags in the hotel van.

My David Clarks also have a small carry case, and the DC One-X series has become the headset of choice among a lot of airline pilots trying to save what is left of their hearing. It would be easy to get confused and grab the wrong headset in the last-minute scramble of packing up after a flight while trying to make a commuting flight home. Solution: embroider my name on the bag for $10.

I’ve also marked my flashlight, Kindle, and Bose headset that I use for watching Netflix downloads. For these items, I use a strip of paper that has my name, phone number, and an email address. The paper is secured with a strip of packing tape. This came in handy recently when I inadvertently left a flashlight on an airplane after using it in a pre-dawn walk-around. It was later found in another hub by one of the mechanics, who called me to let me know he’d found it. He then used our company mail system to send it to me, saving me the cost of a new flashlight.

I also have two iPads, one that is owned by the company and one for personal use. With these, I used the camera on the iPads to take a picture of a piece of paper with my name, phone number and email address, then set the picture as the lock screen so the information appears when the home button is pushed. For my work iPad, I also included a picture of my company ID. This is common practice among the pilots of my airline, and makes it much easier to track down the pilot who may have left it behind.

Mark everything. Some way, somehow, mark everything that is yours—especially items of value. The few times I’ve left something behind that was marked, I’ve gotten it back. When I don’t mark it, it almost never gets returned. Ask me how I’ve learned this.

Chip Wright

Chip Wright is an airline pilot and frequent contributor to AOPA publications.

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