Learn-to-fly Shopping List

Must have


An Active Noise Reduction (ANR) headset is highly recommanded.

If cost is a big concern, a passive one should also work.

If you are taking lessons in a Cessna 152/172, Piper PA-28 or similar aircraft, you will need a headset with twin plugs. Other plugs you may encounter when shopping for the headset:

  • Twin plug: for general aviation.
  • U174 Plug: helicopter, single plug, shorter and fatter than a GA Plug. General Aviation Plug, Twin Plug or a Dual Plug
  • Panel Power Plug: a.k.a. Aircraft Power Plugs, Redel Plugs, LEMO Plugs, or even 6 Pin. Panel Power is becoming more common in newer aircraft. A major benefit of a Panel Power Plug is that your aircraft will provide power to ALL aspects of your headset for you. ANR, Bluetooth, audio to your ear cups and microphone will ALL be powered by your aircraft!
  • XLR Plug: also referred to as an Airbus Plug or occasionally a 5 Pin.


Either a paper logbook or a digital one:

  • Paper: any hard cover logbook should work, e.g. Pilot Log Book
  • Digital: e.g. ForeFlight has the logbook feature, and will draft an entry and prefill the numbers if you use ForeFlight during your flight; another example is LogTen.


There are many different types.

  • At the beginning you may just need a very basic one (example) for holding checklists and taking notes (ATIS, squawk code, etc)
  • Later you may need a fancier one (example), to better organize your items.
  • If you want to use the iPad as the scratchpad you can find a kneeboard that holds iPads (example); iPads can also be mounted to the plane in another way, more details below.


E6B calculator is required for the written tests and the checkride; you can use either a mechanical one, or an electronic equivalent.

Chart Plotter

Some are fixed and some are rotating, I would recommend a rotating plotter, like this one

Sectional Chart and Terminal Area Chart

Charts expire every 56 days. Personally I use ForeFlight, however for learning and for checkride you should be buy the latest paper charts. You can buy them from Amazon or a local pilot store, but make sure you buy the correct one for your region, like San Francisco Sectional

Mobile Devices and Electronic Flight Bag (EFB)

Yes they are must-haves.

For mobile devices, phone is ok but a bigger screen is much useful for monitoring traffic.

For EFB I would recommend ForeFlight on iPad, since I'm very happy with it and I haven't used any other applications.


In case you need to charge your iPad / phone during or before the flight.

Flight Bag

You need a bag to hold all your stuff, any bag can do the job. I do not have any recommendation at this time ...


Portable ADS-B receiver

ADS-B Out is required in many cases but not every plane has ADS-B In. ADS-B In can provide realtime traffic and near realtime weather (can be displayed on ForeFlight). Even if the plane has ADS-B In, it is a good idea to bring a backup.

The most common ones are Sentry and Stratus. For lower cost, consider do-it-yourself Stratux.

Some also includes a CO detector.

CO Detector

If your ADS-B receiver does not include a CO detector, you can find a standalone device.

Online Ground School

You can find plenty of ground school vidoes on YouTube, but it is still a good idea to buy an online course. Ground school is not just for watching vidoes, more importantly you can prepare for the written tests, and they can endorse you when you can consistently pass the mock tests; if you do not use the online ground school, you would need your CFI's endorsement, and your CFI may want to talk to you to make sure you are ready, depending on your location and CFI rate, a 2-3 hours ground session with your CFI may be enough to buy a lifetime access of an online ground school.

Sporty's private pilot ground school is good enough to help you pass the written tests; the questions you see in practices are very close to the real ones. For Instrument Rating and later, Sheppard Air (https://www.sheppardair.com/) is often considered as a good place to practice for written tests.

Action Cameras and audio recording adaptor

Even if you are not interested in posting videos to YouTube or any social media, I think it is still worth buying a DJI Action or GoPro to record your lessons. It greatly helped me to review the flights afterwards.

Phone / iPad Mount

There are many sizes and types, and it also depends on the aircraft you use.

Headlight or Bitelight

For night flights. A headlight can free your hands.


  • ForeFlight: needs subscription
  • FlightRadar
  • LiveATC: practice radio communication; a low one time fee.
  • G1000 simulator or use MSFS/XPlane
  • Flight Simulator: Microsoft Flight Simulator or XPlane, very useful to get familiar with avionics AND the scenery for VFR cross country flights.

Books / Docs

Free PDFs are available, either online or in EFB; paper copies may be handy:

  • Pilots’ Operating Handbook (POH) for aircraft used for training
  • Aeronautical Chart User’s Guide
  • Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge
  • Airplane Flying Handbook
  • Risk Management Handbook
  • Airman Certification Standard (ACS) for Private Pilot Airplane
  • Chart Supplement (by region)
  • FAA’s Student Pilot Guide

Not free:

  • Knowledge Test prep (e.g. Sporty’s, Jeppesen, King Schools, etc). Honestly I think online ground school is enough, but if you prefer reading physical books, there are many good options.
  • For G1000: Max Trescott’s "G1000 and Perspective Glass Cockpit Handbook".
  • Stick and Rudder by Wolfgang Langewiesche.

Rechargeable Batteries

If your headset requires AA batteries, it is better to use rechargeable batteries. You can recharge the batteries periodically (every X days) so you can make sure it always has enough juice for your flight.s

Survival and Safety Gears

You probably would not need these at the beginning, but when you start to fly solo to mountains or deserts, you should always carry the emergency pack:

Consider joining AOPA and/or EAA

For info, services, and magazines.

Where to buy

  • Amazon
  • Sportys.com
  • Mypilotstore.com
  • Chiefaircraft.com
  • Aircraftspruce.com
  • REI

In the backpack

Logbook, iPad, Headset, Kneeboard, pen, rubber gloves (for preflight check), sunglasses

flash light for night flight