Five essential products for instrument flying

Flying IFR can be stressful for some pilots. For many of us, the IFR muscle is one that we don’t exercise too often. But just like in any stressful activity, having the right gear can help alleviate some of the pressure. These are the five items that I don’t get an IFR clearance without. 

1. iPad

Embrace technology. The iPad has changed the way we fly, and for the better. Flipping through a massive book of paper to find the right approach plate is a thing of the past. The iPad makes flying with current charts easy and at a fraction of the price that it used to be. The most common iPads among Sporty’s flight crew are iPad Mini 6 and iPad Pro 11”.  

2. ADS-B Receiver

Sentry Plus and iPadReal time weather, traffic, GPS, ARHS… the list goes on and on. Subscription-free ADS-B data greatly improves situational awareness. Before ADS-B, we spent thousands of dollars on in-flight weather. Now it’s in the palm of our hands, along with a real time traffic map.

3. Bluetooth-enabled headset

Alerts have changed the way I fly. The iPad is really a digital copilot and it can talk to you. Runway identification, altitude reminders, even reading the checklist for you—all are tasks that can be accomplished by an iPad and sent to your headset wirelessly. A couple of my favorites: the Bose A30 and Lightspeed Zulu 3

4. Kneeboard

A good kneeboard is worth its weight in gold. My lap is where charts once resided, so it makes sense for the chart replacement to occupy that same space. In addition to the iPad, I like to keep my phone nearby as a backup. Pro tip: choose a kneeboard that can hold all the gear you need, and don’t be afraid to get creative with velcro if needed. 

5. Backup radio

When all else fails, being able to call ATC when you're in the soup is a must. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when you have an electrical failure. Practice this with a safety pilot. Unplug your headset and try to use your backup radio. You’ll quickly find what is important in a backup radio. I’m a big fan of the PJ2+ for this role: standard aviation jacks means no searching for an adapter and it’s super easy to use. 

I’ve incorporated these five products into my preflight routine. Prior to turning the key, I make sure everything is set up and ready to go. It has made flying IFR less stressful and more enjoyable.

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