Staying organized is so very important in the cockpit of a small plane. The organized pilot lives by the old Boy Scout motto—be prepared.
What is a Kneeboard? And Why Should You Have One?
Kneeboards take many different forms these days, which is good because pilots use them differently.
The most basic form of a kneeboard is nothing more than a small clipboard that straps to your thigh. You can put a notepad there and jot down the ATIS or clearances.
The clip will hold a folded sectional chart making it easy to see on a cross country. Or, you could attach your checklist to it, so it’s always right in front of you.
The simplest kneeboards might seem too basic—but it’s incredible how much they can help.
Of course, there are all sorts of add-ons you might like. Do you fly with a tablet? The kneeboard might be just to the place to keep it. What about spare pencils or pens?
Think about what you want to have near-at-hand when flying, and then figure out where you want to keep it. Some things can be left in your
VFR Pilots and Students
- Preflight planning sheets
- Notepad and pencil for ATIS
- Sectional chart
- Airport diagram
- Cross country planning sheets
- E6B and plotter for cross country training
IFR Pilots and Students
- Preflight planning sheets
- Notepad and pencil for ATIS and clearances
- Cross country planning sheets
- Low-enroute IFR chart
- Airport diagrams
- Departure, arrival, and approach procedure charts you know you’ll need
How you use your kneeboard and what you put on it is entirely a personal choice. A pilot who owns their plane and never flies anything else may put permanent storage pockets all around the cockpit. But a student or renter who goes between planes needs a quick and easy way to organize their stuff anywhere.
Having it all in a kneeboard and
If you’re starting your aviation adventure, take a note from your flight instructor and ask how they use their kneeboard when they’re flying alone. Follow their advice to get started, and then modify it as necessary to meet your needs.
[Wondering what else to carry in your flight bag? Check out our list of flight bag essentials.]
Features to Look for in Pilot Kneeboards
So now you know why you need a kneeboard, but how do you pick one? Here are a few of the biggest criteria you’ll want to think about.
iPad or Tablet Compatibility
First off, not everyone flies with an iPad, so not everyone needs a kneeboard with the ability to hold one. Further, you might opt to keep your tablet in a yoke or window-mounted holder instead of on your kneeboard.
So before you go any further in your shopping, you need to figure out if you want your iPad to fit in the kneeboard, and if so, what size boards are available for your model iPad.
If you use an iPad in the cockpit, then you know that it replaces almost everything you’d want to carry on a kneeboard anyway.
Foreflight or similar apps will have all the charts, approach plates, and planning documents you’d ever need—so long as you have backups kept in your
So what’s left? If your answer is “nothing,” you might want to look at the simplest options available. These are just straps that hold the iPad on your thigh, like the MyClip iPad Kneeboard Strap.
On the other hand, you might want to also have a traditional notepad or pockets for other stuff.
IFR vs VFR Kneeboards
You’ll notice that many kneeboards are branded as either VFR or IFR. In reality, this doesn’t matter too much. For the most part, this refers to the information printed onto the clipboard. They often include helpful notes and regulation reminders, and those notes will be the most significant difference between a VFR and an IFR kneeboard.
There might be a few other differences. For example, it’s common for an IFR kneeboard to have ring binder holders to fit approach plates.
We all have tons of little things we want to store. Maybe it’s our phone, a spare pencil, or our micro-E6B for those tough check rides. Pockets on a kneeboard can help you keep organized, but there is an art to finding a balance between perfect organization and overloaded.
Clipboard and Notepad
The most basic function of a kneeboard is the clipboard. On many elaborate models with folding pockets, the clipboard will come out and can be used alone. That’s a nice feature that adds some versatility.
All clipboards are sized for a half-sheet of paper. You can buy notepads at any office store that will fit.
Finally, a ring binder is handier than you might think. Its original intent was to hold Jeppesen approach plates. You could pop the ones out of the Jeppesen binder that you used every flight (like your home airport) and leave those in your kneeboard.
But you can also buy plastic page protectors that fit in the same ring pattern. With those, you can load a few pages of other always-needed items. You can mount your checklist in one, for example. This way, everything is always at hand and easy to get to.
6 of the Best Pilot Kneeboards
Here are a few great options for popular kneeboards. If you plan to use a tablet in your kneeboard, double-check that it fits before you order!
Flight Outfitters Slimline iPad Kneeboards
If you use an EFB (electronic
Flyboys IFR/VFR Pilot Reversible Kneeboard
Flyboys makes pretty much the coolest looking kneeboard around. It’s slim and fits close to your thigh to reduce bulk. It’s simple—but it can carry a lot. It has a built-in clipboard, plus a plastic strap for quickly holding charts. There’s a ring binder attachment that you can remove when not in use. On the side, there is a small pocket and some pen holders.
The classic model is most popular, but the reversible model might be the better bet if you are left-handed. Tablet users will want to look into their PIVOT case for using an iPad with their kneeboard. Another interesting product they make is the super-simple Mapstrap, which is just as useful as it sounds.
MyGoFlight iPad Universal Kneeboard
Here is a versatile kneeboard and iPad case for the Mini tablets. This kneeboard is modular, so you can keep all of the parts in your bag and set it up each day as needed. Included is a high-quality iPad Mini leather case. You can use a removable velcro strap to attach it to your leg.
There’s also a metal clipboard, which can be mounted outside the iPad and used as a screen protector, or it can be flipped to be used like a dual-fold kneeboard. When not in “flight mode,” the case serves as a stand and can hold the iPad horizontally or vertically.
MyClip iPad Kneeboard Strap
For tablet-only flyers, here’s a simple solution. It’s nothing more than a velcro strap that will grab the edges of your tablet and hold it on your leg. It can work with nearly any other iPad case, but it includes nothing else—no place for pens, no notepad, just a strap to hold your tablet.
ASA VFR Tri-Fold Kneeboard
Before tablets entered the cockpit, this was the Cadillac of kneeboards. It’s made of sturdy canvas and is practically indestructible. The tri-fold design capitalizes on pockets. One side will hold the large ASA E6B, while the other side has a window for charts. The middle is occupied by a metal clipboard, which is removable. It’s simple and very versatile.
Jeppesen IFR Tri-Fold with Ring Binder
The Jeppesen Tri-Fold is one step up from the ASA, including a ring binder for IFR charts. It’s a nice upgrade, especially if you use the space to hold checklists or other documents.