A Pilot's Perspective.

By Barry Meek.

December 2008

ORGANIZING THE COCKPIT

      There’s always something to learn about flying, whether in your student pilot days or sitting there with several thousand hours in the log book.  At this point in time, I’m somewhere between the student and the guy with all the hours, and probably half way to knowing enough about flying to keep me safe. 

       Every flight is still a learning experience.  Flying the right seat with much more experienced pilots can be a great learning tool, if I keep my mind open to it.  Some guys will point out little tricks they’ve learned over the years while others go about the business of flying the plane.  From those fellows, I learn about their hobbies, investments, medical problems, girlfriends, holidays, and fishing vests.

        I mention fishing vests, because early on in my career when keeping the airplane on track, right side up close to the altitude I was supposed to be at, took a lot of concentration.  Throw in other things that tested my organizational skills and the workload went way off the scale.  My home, office and my car are usually tidy.  But in the airplane, it was a constant battle for me to store tools and items where they were easily accessible and always there.  As a pilot, you have to know what I’m talking about.  Pens, sunglasses, notepads, calculators, and whatever else you’ve collected as mandatory items never seem to have a place all their own.  Pens fall off the panel, or roll up against the windshield out of reach.  Glasses get crushed by the seatbelt while tucked in a shirt pocket.  The camera, cell phone and snacks end up under a seat.  Spare batteries, because they roll around can only be found when you land.  Anything in pockets in your jeans is unavailable anyway, given the problems of moving out of the seat in a small airplane.

         That’s where the fishing vest comes in.  A pilot I was flying with once, a fellow with several thousand hours who could simultaneously fly and talk about other things, told me about them. They’re full of pockets, compartments and little spaces that can handle anything a pilot stuffs in.  Mine has been modified a bit for personal requirements and yours can be too. 

          The vest works well when you fly any airplane, but their true value shines in an open-cockpit biplane and in ultralights.  Everything is safely and neatly stored, yet easily accessible. 

It’s really such a simple solution to a universal problem, I don’t know why it hasn’t been used by more pilots.  In a quick internet search I was unable to find a pilots vest, however fishing and photography outlets sell them.

           As a working pilot, my vest is the answer to my clutter in the cockpit.  Check out this list and see if there’s a better answer.  Cell phone, digital camera, two pens, a pencil, glasses, sun glasses, notebook, calculator, a couple of work-related checklists, glass cleaner cloth, aspirins, lip chapstick, several spare AA batteries (for GPS, AFF transmitter & digital camera), granola bars and a trash pocket.  There was even room for a sandwich.  This was all stuff I used daily on every flight.  Another advantage of using a vest is that everything stays in one place when you’re finished for the day and is right there when required in the morning.  Just put the vest back on.

           Most pilots have a system that works for them to keep things organized in the cockpit.  But it doesn’t hurt to be open to new ideas.  A fishing vest will cost anywhere from $40 to $100.  Similar vests are available for photographers, and I’ve seen much higher prices.  I’d suggest you assemble everything you utilize while flying your aircraft, lay it all out, then shop for an appropriate vest.  You could also put it on your Christmas or birthday wish list.   

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