The traditional flight bag is still an important part of the general aviation cockpit despite the rise of the EFB. Redback Aviation's guide to flight bags features some of the best around.
In today's cockpit, where the electronic flight bag (EFB) is rapidly gaining popularity, it is a fair question to ask if the faithful old physical flight bag still has a place.
We've carried them for years stuffed with charts, protractors, ERSA, whiz wheels, checklists, pens that don't work, pens that do work, pencils, erasers, DAPS, ADDGMs and bits and pieces of the AIP. But nowadays, all of that information and capability is contained within a small electronic tablet.
Although FAA and Airservices have approved EFBs like AvPlan and USRunways as suppliers of charts and other aeronautical publications, the developers of these apps will tell you not to rely on an EFB alone.
Although their products are sound, the iPads and other tablet devices that deliver them are not.
And then there are the students. The training syllabus currently doesn't allow student pilots to use EFBs as sole-source of navigation materials, meaning they still need something to carry their tools of trade.
Yes, contrary to rumors, the flight bag is alive and well and living in the back seat, but they look very different now to what some of us were used to when we started out in aviation.
In days gone, the flight bag was basically a three-dimensional oblong with a handle on top with three length-wise dividers on the inside. The more up-market varieties might have a zipper on the outside and a combination lock.
The 21st Century flight bag is tailored specifically to aviation, taking into account the shapes and sizes of everything we're likely to carry. They're stylish, multi functional, ballistic, waterproof, fully-compartmentalized storage machines that, if anything, are more important in a general aviation cockpit than they were before because of the number of gadgets that now accompany us in flight.
It would seem that the proliferation of the EFB has not killed off the flight bag... it's just given us one more thing to put in it!
Redback Aviation now presents a selection of the best flight bags available on the market. This is by no means everything; there are many different brands and combinations out there that each present their own benefits and features.
With the great global village making everything available over the internet now, you may find some of these aren't stocked at pilot shops in America.
Whatever you do, don't stop with just this guide when hunting for your ideal flight bag; there are many more out there! Ask your flying instructors, fellow pilots and your local pilot shop to get some great ideas.
This guide has been compiled from pilot shop, manufacturer and pilot input. Redback Aviation was not able to test every bag presented here.
Aerocoast's Pro Crew I is basically a large main compartment surrounded by smaller compartments that make for a very functional design. The main compartment has a zippered cover and is perfect for larger items like manuals, AIP, ERSA or even a couple of headsets.
Alternatively, it's great for a change of clothes for the weekend fly-away. Within is also a padded laptop/tablet pocket. The lid itself has another pocket for small accessories that you don't want to be fishing for, such as a torch, sunglasses, small camera and mobile phone.
The Pro Crew I has two compartments on the front, two on the sides and a document pocket on the rear; very handy for carrying the latest issue of your favorite flying magazine. Similar to the Pro Jet III, the Pro Crew I is made of durable, waterproof material and is carrying via a wrap-around straps with an interlocking snap handle.
Dimensions (mm): 406 x 279 x 241
Indicative price: US$89.95
Aerocoast's Pro Jet III flight bag is made from composite sheeting with riveted steel frames for strength and durability. Although at first glance it resembles the traditional three-dimensional oblong, the reality is very different.
The case has two wrap-around handles that clamp together in the middle to distribute weight better and two combination lock clips to secure the contents. The opening flaps are hinged with stainless steel piano hinge, so they're not going to wear out in a hurry.
The Pro Jet III has interior torch and accessories compartments, as well as a protective compartment for a laptop or tablet device. On the outside are attachment points for pens, crew cards and embroidered patches.
The corners are all reinforced with metal brackets. Effectively, the Pro Jet III is the traditional flight bag, but with all the traditional defects engineered out of it.
Dimensions (mm): 457 x 330 x 203
Indicative price: US$184.95
When it comes to cockpit accessories, there is probably no brand more comprehensive that ASA. Flight computers, plotters, headsets, kneeboards, folders and more all carry the ASA brand. It makes sense, then, that they also do high-quality flight bags as well.
ASA's AirClassics Flight Bag is made from durable 600D nylon and is comprised of one main compartment, two headset compartments and an accessory pocket on the side. The main compartment is divided and the lid secured via a single zipper.
The handle is a double-strap design that forms a handle at the top via a Velcro wrap. There is also provision for a shoulder strap and pen sleeves on the outside. There's sturdy feet on the bottom and a roller bag attachment to boot.
Dimensions (mm): 457 x 279 x 178
Indicative price: $131.00
Avcomm Duffel Flight Bag could be what you're looking for if you're perpetually stuffing more into your nav bag that it can theoretically carry. Roomy as you like with six main compartments, the P3-002 will carry everything from a headset to ERSA and AIPs, charts, protractors, tablets and flight computers.
There's even enough space to get in a change of clothes. The main compartment has a double-zippered flap with a Velcro patch at one end, which makes it a lot easier to close when the sides are bulging. There are several storage pockets and pouches around the outside, with the main ones being a large zippered compartment on one end and the customary headset pocket at the other.
There is a zippered document compartment on one side, and a smaller pocket and open pouch on the other. The handle is a double-strap variety that meets in the middle and is secured with a wrap-around Velcro strap. They're made from tough, water-resistant polycanvas to resist scuffing and tearing.
Dimensions (mm): 409 x 254 x 190
Indicative price: US$32.50
The AirClassics Pro Flight Bag is the big brother of the AirClassics Flight Bag. Made using the same waterproof and durable 600D nylon as the smaller version, the Pro is longer and deeper with larger side pockets.
There are headset pockets at each end of the bag and two large side pockets provide easy access to other items in-flight. One side ha s pockets for items such as charts, AIP, logbooks and kneeboards, as well as a padded pocket for a tablet device.
The other side pocket is for flight accessories such as flight computers, torches and spare glasses. A detachable chart wallet feature helps organise charts in the cockpit. The large central pocket at the center of the Pro Flight Bag can be used for large items like ERSA or even clothes.
Dimensions (mm): 508 x 305 x 254
Indicative price: $219.00
The deluxe version of Avcomm duffel flight bag has seven main compartments all lined with shock-resistant padding. The main compartments has a double-zippered flap and is book-ended with two headset pockets at either end.
Inside, the main storage has a Velcro partition and separate pouch to easily contain things like transceivers, tablets and flight computers securely. Along one side of the exterior is a pocket large enough for a knee board, whilst the other side carries two pouches for all sorts of accoutrements and accessories.
Like the smaller version, the deluxe version is made of tough poly canvas with PVC backing that resists water leakage, scuffs and abrasion. There are also bottom feet to protect the bag from wear and tear.
Dimensions (mm): 457 x 266 x 228
Indicative price: US$59.95
Brightline has taken a completely different approach to what makes up a good flight bag. Knowing that not everything has to go with us on every flight, they've devised a modular system that enables a flight bag to grow or shrink as needed.
Called the Flex System, Brightline's concept works by zipping together center sections of varying width between two end caps, one with pockets and one flat. The center sections range from 50 mm up to 275 mm in storage width, with the larger ones also having attachment points for side pockets.
Alternatively, the two end caps can be zipped together to form a wafer-thin bag when your kit is at a minimum. You can also buy them pre-configured as the BO Slim, B2 Compute, B4 Swift, B7 Flight and B18 Hangar, where the number indicates the total storage width of the center sections. A clip-in handle and shoulder strap connect to the center section. The bags are made from flexible nylon and held together by a strong zipper system.
With five different sizes of interchangeable modules available, a front and rear end cap and a collection of four interchangeable external pockets, pilots can create a customized bag that is the appropriate size and has the exact functionality desired, according to the needs for a particular flight.
"A basic truth in aviation is that every pilot flies different types of missions in different types of conditions and therefore has constantly changing flight-gear needs on an almost daily basis," said Brightline Bags President Ross Bishop.
"We designed this system of modules and pockets to allow every pilot to once and for all have a bag that actually works to control and organize their flight gear, no matter the nature of their next flight."
Dimensions (mm): 360 x 330 x whatever you want
Indicative price: See website or pilot shop.
If pockets are your thing, you will love the Flightline large deluxe FL-FB-10 flight bag. Including all compartments and pockets, this bag has an incredible 21 pockets, many tailored for storing pens, headsets, flight computers, hand-held radios and just about every aviation accessory you can imagine!
The main interior compartment has Velcro dividers, which enable you to customize the compartment to meet your needs. On one side of the exterior is a zippered pocket that opens flat to reveal more storage pockets, and on the other side are two pockets large enough to be of good utility value.
There's more storage on each end, with compartments of a size needed to carry headsets or the ever-growing ERSA. The bag is made of durable nylon and the carry handle is sewn into the case for extra toughness. This b a g might just be capable of carrying more load than your shoulder can.
Dimensions (mm): 560 x 305 x 305
Indicative price: $112.00
If the size and number of pockets in the FL-FB-10 is a bit overwhelming for your needs, the FL-FB-20 medium deluxe flight bag might be more your style. Still boasting a high utility value, this bag has 12 pockets including four zippered compartments.
The main storage area has a removable bottom insert and one Velcro divider to create compartments as you see fit. There are three large outer compartments, including one on each side and a headset pocket on one end. The side compartments open flat to reveal several pouches and pockets for storing accessories and charts.
The end opposite the headset pocket is dedicated to a smaller zippered pocket and a mesh pouch for holding things you need to get to quickly and easily. Like the FL-FB-10, the EL-FB-20 is made of durable nylon with a wrap-around handle sewn into the case.
Dimensions (mm): 317 x 254 x 171
Indicative price: $99.00
Like all things Jeppesen, the Aviator flight bag is convenient, functional and well made. Constructed of water-resistant ballistic nylon, the Aviator resists abrasion and is remarkably durable and is padded inside to protect your gear. It consists of a large interior pocket and detachable transceiver/GPS and headset bags.
In addition to the main storage, there is also an zippered outside compartment for charts and the myriad of bits and pieces we need in the cockpit like pens, pencils, protractors and whiz wheels. The Aviator is a basic flight bag that would do well for pilots at just about any level.
Dimensions (mm): 380 x 305 x 280
Indicative price: $155.00
The Jeppesen Navigator bag is built of the same tough stuff as the Aviator, but is larger and more functional, designed for pilots whose cockpit management is a bit more complex.
The main compartment is large enough to store six 50 mm Jeppesen folders and has a four-way adjustable divider inside. The Navigator comes with two detachable headset bag s that can also be attached together to form one dual headset bag, and a transceiver/GPS bag as well.
There's a large zippered exterior pocket designed for laptop or iPad storage, and other utility pocket for all the smaller bits and pieces you may need in flight. The dual straps are secured via a press-stud wrap that forms a handle.
The shoulder strap is wide and cushioned to make it more comfortable when carrying it out to the flight line. Jeppesen also makes a Captain version of this bag, which has an extra outside compartment and is available in Royal Blue.
Dimensions (mm): 610 x 330 x 305
Indicative price: $185.00
If there is one characteristic common to all Lightspeed products, it is style. In that respect, the Lightspeed Gann flight bag has not let down the brand. Made from oiled South American cow hide, the Lightspeed flight bags look like something that would be right at home in the cockpit of a Lockheed Vega or Beech 18. The Gann is named after aviator and author Ernest K. Gann.
It features a large main compartment that is zippered and opens like an old-style carpenter's bag to reveal a separate tablet compartment within. The Gann also has two compartments on the front and rear, with the front one ideal for the smaller accessories like whiz wheels, phones and so forth, and the rear one designed for larger flat items such as charts and kneeboards.
The front also contains a pocket for a hand-held transceiver with a cut-out flap that means you don't have to disconnect the antenna to store it. If style is just as important to you as substance, the Gann will catch your eye.
Dimensions (mm): 406 x 342 x 152
Indicative price: $349.00
Lightspeed's Markham bag is named after aviator and author Beryl Markham, the first woman to fly the Atlantic from east to west solo. The zippered top opens out into a roomy main compartment large enough to carry headsets, AIPs and ERSA.
On the front is an expanding organizer pocket for the smaller accoutrements needed in flight, and on the rear a document pocket that also doubles as tablet and device storage.
The bag is book-ended with a water bottle pocket and an open transceiver pocket with a tag for securing the antenna. The Markham is made from similar material as the Gann is every bit as stylish.
Dimensions (mm): 305 x 240 x 140
Indicative price: $299.00
Noral's Mach 1 flight bag is a simple unit made of ballistic water-repellent material that consists of five large storage areas with four outer pockets arrayed around the large main compartment. The inside is padded and lined with taffeta to protect your kit when the bag slides off the wing.
The front pocket runs the length of the main compartment and is secured with a zipper, whilst the rear of the bag has a smaller pocket and a rear pouch for carrying a hand-held radio. The shoulder strap is padded not only for comfort, but also to stop it sliding off your shoulder.
Noral manufactures quite a range of bags for pilots, so a good look around their website might reveal something else that would suit your needs. Also available in colors other than the basic black.
Dimensions (mm): 444 x 275 x 267
Indicative price: $US115.50