Not sure what to get the pilot on your Christmas list this year? We don’t blame you—between ANR and ADS-B, the acronyms can get pretty confusing. Fortunately, the pilots at Sporty’s can help. We’ve combed through thousands of customer reviews, run the math on best-selling products, and debated what 2021’s hottest new products are. The result is this list of the 10 most wanted gifts for pilots.
A good book is still one of the best gifts for any enthusiast, and aviation has some classics that should be on any pilot’s shelf. Whether it’s learning the finer points of flying or enjoying some great stories from the past, Sporty’s has something for everyone.
Top pick: The Next Hour, by Richard Collins
Runner up: Stick and Rudder, by Wolfgang Langewiesche
Yes, the pilot watch is still a thing—in fact, we believe it’s a defining characteristic of those who take to the skies. Some prefer the traditional approach, with analog hands and nothing smart except the styling. For tech savvy pilots, the latest generation of GPS-enabled smartwatches are more powerful and useful than ever.
Top pick: Garmin D2 Air Smartwatch
Runner up: DC-3 Chronograph
Most pilots we know have at least a dozen flashlights, and for good reason. With a reliable flashlight that’s made for aviation, you can light the way to your hangar, inspect the engine compartment, or find that pen you dropped in the cockpit. Just make sure it has a red or green light, multiple light levels, and rugged construction.
Top pick: Flight Outfitters Bush Pilot Flashlight
Runner up: Flight Gear LED Flashlight
The right flight jacket isn’t just about looks; it should also keep the pilot warm and comfortable in flight, while standing up to daily abuse. That means you should probably avoid a lot of the “bomber jackets” you see online and choose one made for pilots. We have a wide selection, including leather, cotton, and even custom-embroidered jackets. All of them are tested by pilots.
Top pick: Classic Leather A-2 Bomber Jacket
Runner up: Flight Outfitters Bush Pilot Jacket
Pilots like to have backup options, and a portable radio is a central part of staying safe in the air. In the event of an electrical emergency, a handheld COM radio is a reliable way to stay in touch with air traffic control. Even if you don’t face an emergency, a radio makes it easy to listen to weather reports before takeoff or simply monitor air traffic at your house.
Top pick: PJ2 COM Radio
Runner up: SP-400 NAV/COM Radio
Organizing all your expensive aviation gear takes more than a cheap backpack or a drawstring bag you got as a free gift. A proper flight bag should be small enough to stay out of the way in the cockpit, but have enough organization options to keep essential tools close at hand. Light weight and rugged construction are must-have features.
Top pick: Flight Outfitters Lift Bag
Runner up: Original Flight Gear Bag
These all-in-one devices can transform an iPad into a powerful in-flight navigation tool. The latest generation ADS-B receivers provide subscription-free weather, traffic, GPS position, backup attitude information from a built-in AHRS, and even a carbon monoxide detector. Many pilots consider a Sentry to be required equipment for flight beyond the local area.
Top pick: ForeFlight Sentry
Runner up: ForeFlight Sentry Mini
One of the hottest categories at Sporty’s right now, flight simulators have gone from niche product to top of the list for thousands of pilots. Microsoft’s reintroduction of their popular Flight Simulator program last year started the latest boom, but this was quickly followed by a slew of exciting new hardware options. There has never been a better time to build your own home flight simulator.
Top pick: Honeycomb Bravo Throttle Quadrant
Runner up: Logitech G Yoke and Throttle System
It may seem impossible to believe, but pilots once flew without the protection of active noise reduction (ANR) headsets. In 2021, there’s no reason to make this mistake: the latest models from Bose and Lightspeed offer incredible noise reduction, improved comfort, and all the latest Bluetooth features. If your headset is looking a little tired, treat yourself to an upgrade and make your next flight more comfortable.
Top pick: Bose A20 Aviation Headset
Runner up: Lightspeed Zulu 3 Headset
You may have heard the phrase “a good pilot is always learning,” and it’s absolutely true. Whether the pilot on your list has 10 hours of flight time or 1000, there is always something new to learn, and an online course is an easy way to take on that next goal. Sporty’s Pilot Training app is available on almost any device—including smartphones, tablets, laptops, and even smart TVs—and offers over 25 aviation courses, from primary training to aerobatics.
Top pick: Learn to Fly Course
Runner up: Flight Review Course
Still undecided? Don’t worry—a Sporty’s gift card is always a hit, and allows the pilot to choose for themself. Our feelings won’t be hurt… much.