In this article I’m going to share some of the best gifts for pilots I can find (and some I’ve even gifted).
For someone outside of aviation, shopping for the pilot in your life might seem a bit of a challenge. But here’s a secret—they like flying machines!
So while most gift buyers aren’t whipping out the latest edition of Trade-a-Plane to shop for their loved ones, there are all sorts of fabulous gifts available online that feature aircraft of every description.
You can roughly break down pilot gifts into a few categories. For one, there are technology items and gadgets that they can use in the cockpit and crew lounge.
These range from the most expensive high-end aviation headsets to simple things like battery chargers.
Then there are things that make their home life more aeronautically themed. Bar sets, wall art, and even airplane ties if your aviation bud is inclined to dress well.
Here are 21 aviation gifts that any pilot will love, including the best picks for tech lovers, pilot home decor, and lifestyle gadgets they can’t live without.
And if you’re looking for flight school graduation gift ideas, this list has some great recommendations as well.
7 High-Tech Gifts Pilots Will Love
Very few pilots aren’t gadget nerds at heart. But shopping for tech gifts requires knowing your pilot’s cockpit habits well.
Many pilots buy what they need to fill their flight bags, so it’s possible that these things may already be in there!
Device Backup Battery
One of the handiest things a pilot can carry in their
These batteries come in any shape and size you can imagine.
A few cool features that might interest your pilot friends are those units that feature built-in power adapters for any device, like this tiny 12,000mAh model. Or, there are rugged models like this one with a built-in solar panel and waterproof case (that one also has a nice 20% off coupon). But if your pilot likes to keep it simple, this high-capacity slim-line model has no frills and gets the job done.
Airpods are simple Bluetooth headphones. They’re just like the old earphones but without the annoying twist of cables. This set comes with a wireless charging case and has everything your pilot needs to use with any phone. They do work best with Apple devices, though.
Some small plane pilots might be tempted to use Airpods under their headsets on long cross-country flights, but it’s the exception rather than the rule.
More accurately, pilots simply love the functionality of these Airpods for use during their downtime, hanging out in pilot lounges waiting for passengers to arrive or weather to clear up!
If you’re buying for a brand-new student pilot an iPad is an excellent gift. They’ll use it extensively throughout their flight training.
There are countless helpful apps for flying (one mentioned below) as well as study aids that are all used best on the iPad.
The two biggest things to consider when purchasing an iPad for a pilot in training is the size of the iPad and cellular connection. The vast majority of pilots prefer the iPad Mini because it’s easier to use in the cockpit. We’ve surveyed our students and about 70% of them use the Mini.
The other thing to remember is that they’ll need the cellular-equipped iPad. You don’t need to have a cellular plan for the iPad, you just needs to be cellular equipped to work with the apps they’ll use in training.
If you’re considering an iPad as a gift, be sure to read through our guide on the best iPad for pilots.
One of the most popular apps among pilots is Foreflight. This is the go to app for flight planning and weather. As a pilot in training they’ll probably open this app every single day.
If you’re looking for a gift they’ll use constantly, this is it.
You can purchase either a Foreflight Basic Plus plan or Pro Plus plan. Most of the students at our school go with the Pro Plus plan but the Basic plan will work as well.
Icom Handheld NAV/COM
Ok, enough of the generic tech toys—let’s talk handy pilot gadgets! This is seriously a fantastic gift for pilots, but especially a new pilot. Every pilot should have a handheld aviation radio in their pilot bag. They are relatively inexpensive and can be used in critical situations when things on the plane start failing.
But they’re great for day-to-day pilot life, too. Instructors love to use these so they can listen in on their students during those stressful solo flights.
In addition, they can usually receive the ATIS and weather broadcast a few miles from the airport, so pilots can tune into local conditions on the way to work.
Garmin D2 Air or Delta Smartwatch
Smartwatches are still catching on, but there are certainly some activities in life where these wearables are super handy. Of course, we’re all pretty familiar with how they’ve improved health and fitness. But some brands are making great strides in things like aviation, too.
This Garmin is the perfect example. These GPS-enabled watches have a host of great aviation apps that will make any pilot swoon.
The pulse oxygen sensor and barometric altimeter are especially welcome features on such a device. One word of warning, though—Garmin watches work best for pilots who already use Garmin products and the Garmin Pilot app on their mobile devices.
Garmin sells two aviation-themed smartwatches. The D2 Air is smaller and slightly less expensive while still having GPS and great tools for flight planning. The D2 Delta is their feature-loaded high-end model. It can pair with appropriately networked Garmin flight decks.
A New Headset
If you’re looking for a great pilot gift, upgrade their headset. Many pilots start out their training with a fairly basic, low-budget headset. So if you want to give them an extra special gift you could get them one of these high-end headsets. The Bose A20 is one of the most coveted headsets at our flight school. It works incredibly well and Bose’s warranty and service is top-notch.
The A20 is one of the best aviation headsets on the market. It’s comfortable to wear for those long flights, has excellent active noise reduction, and incredibly clear audio.
A more affordable option that’s incredibly popular with students is the David Clark H10 headset. It’s basically the Honda Civic of the pilot headset world. This headset has been tested extensively and simply works. There’s nothing complicated about it. It’s just a dependable headset that will handle the abuse a student pilot will probably put it through.
This is one of the most popular headsets for new pilots. Its lower price point and reliable performance make it an excellent option for any student pilot just getting started.
If you want more headsets to choose from be sure to read our article on the best pilot headsets.
If your buying a gift for a pilot who has been flying for a long time a new
If they need a more robust
If you’re looking for a
6 Gift Ideas for an Epic Pilot Crashpad
While those tech gadgets are all useful and cool, they lack the whim of a heartfelt gift for the home. Something is reassuring about receiving a gift that isn’t just about your job but is instead about making your life more fun and more comfortable.
Airplane Spotter Print
Help them decorate their hanger or home with these one-of-a-kind vintage airplane spotter prints. These posters are designed to look like the cards passed out during WWII to help people identify what airplanes were flying overhead. They’re popular gifts for pilots and make for a great gallery wall. Check out all of the prints here.
Model of “Their” Plane
Every pilot needs a few models in their life. There are two routes a gift-giver can take.
First, you could opt to gift them a model of the plane they currently fly. Or, you could get them a model of their dream plane—the one they wish they were flying.
Whether they’re into military fighters, vintage flying machines, or state-of-the-art airliners, there are tasteful models carved from wood or realistic painted models available online.
Here’s a gift with a grown-up twist. This liquor decanter is beautiful, classy, and undoubtedly aeronautical. So if your pilot friend keeps a bar at home, this will look smashing on it.
Some are available with matching glasses, and there are multiple aircraft available inside the globe.
Replica Wood Prop
Go into any pilot’s home and you’re almost guaranteed to find a propeller, which makes it a great gift for pilots. This is a replica of a World War I propeller. It’s the perfect home decor item for a pilot, and it is a beautiful addition to any home. It could be wall-mounted or propped up—or it could be included in other parts of the home like tables or bars.
World Map and Scratch-Off Travel Poster
Many pilots became pilots because they love to travel. If you know someone who uses their standby privileges religiously totally up drool-worthy trips around the globe, they’ve got to have a world map at home. This one allows them to scratch off the countries or states that they visit.
Wall Art Airplane Blueprint Poster
You can’t go wrong with airplane wall art. Again, try to pick their favorite plane! For example, here are blueprint posters of an F-16 fighter, and here’s a beautiful Boeing 777.
5 Best Gifts for the Pilot Lifestyle
Finally, here are some gifts for the lifestyles of the FAA certificated. These gifts are less expensive and are both practical and thoughtful.
Yeti Insulated Water Bottle
Staying hydrated during a flight is no joke. In hot environments, small planes are notoriously hot. When you get to altitude, the air is cool but much drier. Hydration is a safety issue for pilots.
Make it a little easier on them by hooking your pilot buds up with an insulated stainless steel water bottle. It’s unbreakable, will last forever, is easily cleaned, spill-proof, and will keep cold things cold and hot things hot for hours.
Ray-Ban Aviator Sunglasses
Sunglasses make an excellent gift for pilots. Like the water bottle, they’re an item that every pilot needs. Like buying shoes, many pilots are fickle about precisely which styles and lenses they use during flight.
As a baseline, pilots generally avoid polarized lenses. You can’t go wrong with the original aviators from Ray-Ban.
Fisher Space Pen
Pilots take a lot of notes, and while electronics have filled new cockpits, many pilots still resort to the old-school pen and paper. But pilots often write in cramped spaces and at awkward angles.
These pens were first designed for use by NASA’s first astronauts. The pen is pressurized so that it will write at any angle and at any temperature.
TRX Exercise Kit
Unfortunately, many pilots find themselves living a more sedentary lifestyle than they’d like.
With all the long hours in small cockpits, fast meals on the go, and quick turns in strange cities, pilots can have difficulty finding time to work out. So packable workout kits are great gifts for pilots.
This suspension training system fits in a small pouch and can be used anywhere—even in tiny hotel rooms.
I’m also a huge fan of the “Signal” model.
Personalized Airplane Ornament or Stocking
Give them something unique to decorate their tree this Christmas with a personalized aviation ornament. These ceramic ornaments are the perfect gift for a new pilot or pilot to be. You could also give them one of these fun personalized airplane stockings to fill with other small aviation gifts.
Books for Pilots
If you’re shopping for a pilot with a little free time on their hands you could pick up a few aviation books for them to read. Personally, books are one of my favorite gifts for pilots. This post includes a number of aviation books they’re sure to enjoy. If they are just getting started with their flight training, here are the best private pilot books to help them get ready for their checkride and FAA written test.
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