It’s in the Bag

Every pilot carries a bag. Some big, stuffed. Others small, concise. As an instructor, I carried headset, ear plugs, sun glasses, local chart, lesson plan, small paper tablet, and pen. As an air taxi pilot, I ditched the lesson plan, but added more charts, a flashlight, flight calculator, Bible, and lunch. For the Forest Service, I added topo charts and “relief” bottle (we raced to fires at top speed, then orbited for hours …).

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MAF pilots in Kenya. Photo by Dave Forney.

In MAF, each aircraft’s standard equipment included a survival kit, local charts, and airstrip directory. So, my bag changed. I carried my helmet (doubled as a headset), ear plugs, Leatherman combination tool, sun screen, insect repellant, hiker’s compass, an inclinometer (measure runway slopes, or angles necessary to clear takeoff obstacles), mechanical flight calculator, electronic calculator, notebook, two pens, chart plotter (measure course heading and distance), sun glasses, hat, first aid kit, flashlight, canteen of water, matches, handkerchief, Bible, and my lunch (larger than normal ‘cause I often shared). Some pilots carried other things, but each took what he or she deemed necessary to complete a normal day aloft—or abnormal day on the ground.

My helmet hanging, and flight bag under the seat. Photo by Jim Manley.

My helmet hanging, and flight bag under the seat. Photo by Jim Manley.

The downside of flight bags? Where do you put them? Cockpits limit a pilot’s personal space. After all, the pilot only drives. Passengers and cargo occupy most of the space. Every morning I hung my helmet on the cross brace over the panel (regs said we couldn’t wear it until after engine start), put the Leatherman and flashlight in a belt holster, stuck mechanical calculator and chart plotter in a small tray below the left corner of the windscreen, and put sunglasses and ear plugs in the helmet. Then, I’d wedge my hat in an upholstery side pocket by my left knee. The rest stayed in the bag under the seat—if everything went as planned, or until lunch time. But despite filling nooks and crannies, keeping essentials within reach during flight always challenged me.

Fortunately, the Lord designed a better cockpit for my life’s flight and threw in the perfect bag, too. First, he provided everything I require for life and godliness. Then he stowed it all in heavenly places. The trick? Remember to take my assigned seat—with Christ at the right hand of the Father—and then to ask for whatever I need. It’s all there.

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