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a pilot and a stewardess

Many experience a sense of glamor and intrigue when they see a pilot rushing to and from the airport. Thanks to popular media and movies like Catch Me If You Can, pilots are often perceived as worldly, debonair avant-gardes who carry novel items inside their flight bags.

The truth, however, is somewhat less exciting. Regardless of whether you’re seeing a cadet from a highly trusted local flight school or a pilot who’s a seasoned veteran, chances are, they’re likely carrying the same key items in their bags, and all of these are related to the simple notion of being able to do their job.

It’s important to note that different pilots have different needs and preferences, and no two travel suitcases may contain exactly the same things. All the same, there are some baseline items that all pilots must carry.

What are the most common items you’ll find in a pilot’s flight bag, and what purpose do they serve? This article will illustrate the particulars.

Pilot Certificate and Medical Clearance

The pilot certificate and medical clearance are two mainstay documents that you’ll always find in a pilot’s bag. They also go hand in hand, as neither will be accepted without the other. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which is the largest transportation agency in the United States, requires all pilots entering America to have a valid pilot certificate and updated medical clearance. This is because even if a pilot has the technical skills to fly an aircraft, they must also be fit to travel anywhere.

In the Philippines, all pilots must be certified to fly an aircraft by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP). This certification can fall into four categories: the Student Pilot License (SPL), Private Pilot License (PPL), Commercial Pilot License (CPL), and Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL). Regardless of which license a pilot receives from the CAAP, they must carry it anywhere they go, as they will not be able to enter any territory legally by air without one.

Considering their importance, some pilots prefer to keep their pilot certificates and medical clearance in their wallets instead of inside a compartment in their bags. This decreases the chances of either item being lost or stolen. It’s up to the pilot to choose the most appropriate method of safeguarding their license and medical clearance and ensuring that these are always within reach, whether they’re flying locally or internationally.

A Valid Passport

Pilots need their passports too, despite the popular misconception that they can fly anywhere without one. Just like it does for an ordinary citizen, a valid passport serves the purpose of verifying the pilot’s identity and nationality. Governments around the world require global citizens to have a passport to leave and re-enter their respective countries, and pilots are no exception.

Entry Visa and Aviation Security Pass

International pilots, especially those en route to countries like the US and China, must secure an entry visa before their flight and entry into that territory. These entry visas are the same as what most people need to apply for, but pilots usually have their airline reimburse them for any expenses. Most pilots apply for their entry visas online, but some prefer a consulate visit or, in some cases, receive their visas on arrival.

On top of their entry visas, it’s a best practice for all pilots to receive requisite aviation security passes like the Aviation Security Identification Card (ASIC), especially if they are flying to Australia. The ASIC verifies that the said individual has undergone a thorough background check and has not been legally or criminally charged in their home country or any other country they’ve visited or flown to. Though the ASIC is limited to Australia, other countries may have their own form of aviation security pass that pilots must secure before flying there.

A High Visibility Jacket

You can always tell who’s a pilot from the way they dress, and there’s a purpose for that. It’s not so that they can look “cool” in front of the general public; it’s so that other people they encounter in the field of aviation, especially airport security personnel, can easily identify them should there be any problems with a flight.

A pilot typically wears a classic high visibility jacket or tri-coat with the airline logo clearly embossed on the lapel for even quicker identification. Most pilots are encouraged to wear their jackets when outside their aircraft, especially when roaming around the apron area. If they’re not wearing their jacket, a pilot will usually keep it close by in their flight bag.

As you can see, most of the items in a pilot’s flight bag have to do with verifying who they are and certifying their credibility for the job. Because of the nature of their duties, it’s crucial that they can enter and leave a country with little fuss. If you yourself dream of being a pilot, remember that the things in your flight bag are what will allow you to do your job and to safely and confidently travel the world.