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One of the things that really p**sed me off about PPL flight training equipment during my zero to ATPL modular training is that it always felt like there was always more PPL equipment to buy ALL THE TIME (and by the way, it is never cheap)!!
If you read on, I’ll share what flight equipment worked for me and I’ll do my best to provide some tips to hopefully save you cash on your PPL flight training equipment.
What equipment do I need to buy for my PPL training (Private Pilot Licence)?
There continues to be a lot of discussion in the general aviation pilot forums about what PPL equipment is needed. Some people prefer Pooley’s flight equipment, whereas others prefer private pilot ground school materials from AFE PPL books for example.
This is meant to be a guide sharing openly what worked for me. I felt I achieved a cheap PPL licence (is that even possible??) yet had the best PPL flight bag for me. Read on to see what you actually need to buy vs what can wait or is not really necessary.
PPL Equipment: Aviation Headset
If this had been pre-COVID-19, I would have said straight away that an aviation headset is an optional extra. During your PPL course, you could previously borrow one from the flight school or flying club. Post-COVID 19, I don’t think I would be comfortable wearing a shared/pool headset.
For this reason, I would say a headset is now a must-have. Whilst doing your PPL there is no need to buy a top of the range headset. I bought a budget David Clark headset like the one below.
Budget David Clark Aviation Headset
It was only after deciding that I was going to undertake commercial pilot training that I went ahead and purchased a Bose A20 aviation noise cancelling headset. Was the David Clark headset a wasted purchase once I had a Bose A20? No, it was not, as it is advisable to carry a spare headset anyway.
The reason being, if your primary headset were to fail, all you would need to do is swap out with your spare and your flight could continue! During hour building, it was also useful having a spare headset for the times that I had passengers.
Bose A20 Aviation Headset (budget alternative)
I did not realise this at the time when I was doing my PPL but, if you have a set of personal everyday noise-cancelling headphones for music for e.g. Bose QC30 – they can be turned into an aviation headset. This is achieved by purchasing an aviation microphone.
An aviation microphone costs around £200. Therefore, if you have a Bose QC15, QC25 etc, this can be an economical way of achieving a ‘budget Bose A20 noise-cancelling headset’ level for a fraction of the cost.
Whilst this combination will not entirely replicate a Bose A20 in terms of cockpit noise reduction – it is not a bad place to start.
What books do I need for Private Pilot Licence?
I used the Pooleys PPL books & flight manuals as my private pilot ground school materials. The PPL ground school study books from Pooleys worked well and got through the 9 exams with no issues.
There are other alternatives to Pooleys and purchasing the PPL training books second hand on eBay or the various pilot training forums on Facebook can save you a lot of cash.
Which are the best PPL Books – well every pilot will argue that they have the best books so find what works best for you in terms of the format.
AFE PPL books or Oxford PPL Books or perhaps you prefer having the material electronically on your iPad – Pooleys ebooks etc! Even after your PPL, you will want to keep your books and refer back as the years go on.
I continued to use mine even on my CPL course. If you have not already, there is an excellent Facebook group worth subscribing to for PPL ground school – (EASA PPL Ground school – Tips, Tricks & Secrets). The PPL study books I used were:
- Flying Training: Volume 1 (Air Pilots Manual 01) – See it on Amazon!
- Air Law & Meteorology: Volume 2 (Air Pilots Manual 02) – See it on Amazon!
- Navigation: Volume 3 – See it on Amazon!
- Aeroplane Technical – Principles of Flight, Aircraft General, Flight Planning & Performance: Volume 4 (Air Pilots Manual 04) – See it on Amazon!
- Radio Navigation & Instrument Flying: Volume 5 – See it on Amazon!
- Human Performance & Limitations and Operational Procedures: Volume 6 (The Air Pilot’s Manual) – See it on Amazon!
- Communications: Volume 7 – See it on Amazon!
Anyone wanting to make a start on their PPL theory, the first subject to attack is Air law. You will need this before going solo.
The Pooleys flight manuals can normally be purchased via a pack and this typically works out to be more economical.
I recommend getting a flight case to have somewhere to organize and keep your PPL flight equipment safe. One tip I would give is never unpacking your flight case. That way you know that everything you need is always there. To this day, I rarely take anything out of my flight case.
When it is time to go flying, I just pick up my bag and don’t have to think – have I forgotten this or have I forgotten that etc. This is the flight case I used for my PPL and that worked well. Feel free to shop around for alternatives to find the best flight bag for you.
The other point to mention is rather than purchasing items for your PPL flight training equipment individually, it may be worth considering purchasing one of the many PPL Pilot kits available from the various aviation shops.
Permanent Markers / Chinagraph Pencil
You will need permanent makers/chinagraph pencils to draw on your map. Don’t make the same mistake I made by carrying nail varnish remover in your bag to clean charts.
Nail varnish or nail polish remover reacts negatively with composite aircraft structures. As such, it is best not to have it with you. A much more convenient alternative is to use a whiteboard marker and simply draw over any lines on your map. The lines drawn with your permanent marker will then wipe off easily.
Flight Navigation Set
The main elements of the flight navigation set consist of:
- Diversion ruler – This will be needed on your diversion legs to work out ETAs, and re-draw new track lines. They are an amazing tool to re-calculate distances and corrections to be made to your route/ track
- Square Protractor – a basic map drawing tool
- Nautical Mile Ruler – Essential for measuring your distances on the map
- VFR Plog – for planning your flights writing down clearances, frequencies, updates to your ETAs and fuel plans etc.
You will need a flight navigation set for your PPL.
Flight Navigation Computer
Depending on how far you want to take your flying, you will need a CRP 1 flight computer or equivalent (for PPL) or CRP 5 or equivalent (for CPL and beyond).
Check you my How to become a pilot blog post if you are considering taking your PPL further to see how I got my fATPL. You will not need your flight computer until you come to the navigation part of PPL training.
Feel free to take your time and research accordingly before making your purchase – I used the Pooleys flight computer for my PPL training.
For PPL, an A5 kneeboard is perfect. Ideally, the kneeboard should have space for you to store and organize your plog, pens, stopwatch and any airfield charts. During my PPL I used to keep my diversion airfield information plates in my kneeboard.
The distances covered during PPL are not great, so your alternates tend to be the same most of the time. Cockpit organization goes a long way towards managing those stressful or high workload moments. This is the kneeboard that I used for PPL. Feel free to research your own alternatives to find what works best.
There is no need to go out and purchase a 4 figure Breitling! Despite my huge appetite for aviation gadgets, I just used a £4.99 stopwatch stuck onto my kneeboard and that worked fine.
Most training aircraft will have a stopwatch in them, but it is always a good idea to have a spare. During my PPL, the stopwatch was on the radio panel and was accessed through the DME box. I found this too complicated so I just used my cheap and cheerful stopwatch for my navigation and diversion legs.
Aeronautical Maps and Airfield Charts
Unfortunately, private pilot GPS navigation is not permitted during your PPL skills test, so you will need a CAA Map – either 1:250,000 or 1:500,000 scale. If you are close to the FIR boundaries, make sure you have a map to cover you for all the areas you will be flying in.
VFR Flight Guide
The Pooleys flight guide provides you with VFR information for UK airfields. This is not a must-have as you can get the information from other sources. I found the Pooleys United Kingdom Flight Guide (Loose-leaf with Binder) to be very useful.
With the Pooleys plates can take the charts of the airfield you need easily out of the binder and place them in your kneeboard. All the airfield information you need is also contained on the plate. This includes phone numbers for PPR, opening times, facilities available etc.
This is a great tool.
EASA Pilot Logbook
This is by far one of the most important items you need to record your progress and log all your hours. For my PPL, I used the Pooleys logbook and found that worked well.
Hi vis jacket
You will need a Hi vis jacket/vest when on the airfield or visiting other airfields. Although you may be able to borrow one for your flying school or club, I recommend getting one for yourself as they are cheap enough!
Pilot Checklist & Calculator
See what your instructor says about a checklist. You may need to purchase one if your flying school do not have their own approved checklist.
Aircraft checklists can easily be found online at most flight stores. It is worth carrying a basic scientific calculator in your bag too. However, with most people having smartphones with a calculator facility, you may find that is sufficient for your needs.
Good luck getting your PPL equipment and please leave a comment in the section below if I missed anything or you have any tips on how to save cash on PPL flight training equipment!
Kudzi Chikohora is a B737 pilot with over 2,500 hours of flying in Europe. He holds a Master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering, is a chartered engineer, and is a member of the Royal Aeronautical Society.
Kudzi completed his pilot training via the self-funded modular pilot training route and created kcthepilot.com to share pilot training and aviation content.