Archive for the Equipment Category

Equipment: FlyGA Diversion Plotter (Review)

Friday, April 14th, 2017 | Permalink

Let’s be clear right from the off, the item reviewed here was kindly provided at no cost to me by FlyGA.  Beyond that, it’s not a paid for product placement and what follows is my personal experiences with the product. 

MR-1 Diversion Plotter

I currently fly with a Pooleys RNP-1 Plotter it lives in my kneeboard and I probably use it far more then you might expect, they’re great if you need to quickly come up with a Plan B – not just because of weather, sometimes the cafe is unexpectedly closed at your original destination and that bacon bap is now 20nm away on a 137 heading.  Not an emergency, well, maybe a PAN…  🙂

The other reason I like plotters is they have a ruler and protractor combined, while probably only accurate to +/-2.5 degrees they’re handy for error checking original plans (you can get some interesting headings if you accidently put a protractor on a chart the wrong way round).

Fly GA: MR-1 Plotter

Fly GA: MR-1 Plotter

Planning a Flight with the MR-1 on hand

So is this one any good?   Well to figure that out I decided to use it while flight planning a trip to Turweston.   As you can see, even for a relatively straight forward flight from Cambridge with only a couple of small turns, I’m keen on spending some time at the kitchen table with all the manual driven toys planning out the flight.

Planning Turweston Flight

Planning Turweston Flight

You can see the MR-1 augmented with all the normal tools and I wanted to see how much I used things like the 6″ ruler or whether I found myself just using the MR-1.

Here I found I really liked the clarity of the MR-1 ruler, the 1:500,000 scale markers for each mile, five mile and ten mile markings are really clear.   On smaller rulers, 4 miles and 5 miles are differentiated by about 1mm of extra print on the line markings and you find yourself double checking if it’s 14nm or 15nm.   The MR-1 marks every 5nm in a bolder black ink.   I also like that the ruler doesn’t waste space with empty plastic at the edges.

MR-1: 1:500,000 Ruler

MR-1: 1:500,000 Ruler

One thing that will annoy and possibly make it unusable for helicopter pilots though is that there’s no 1:250,000 scale.   Now this can be a bit of a religious war topic, but as I understand it helicopter pilots have to use a 1:250,000 scale chart during their skills test and those I’ve spoken to tend to lean on the 1:250,000 charts much more then fixed wing pilots do (they generally fly lower and slower).   So if you use 1:250,000 charts then this plotter is a no go for you.   Personally I find planning tools that try to be all things to all people a pathway to mistakes and human error.   “Oh I had the ruler on the wrong scale……that’s why my ETA was wrong.”   That sort of thing.   I do think FlyGA should address this gap because even I’ve recently got a 1:250,000 map and seriously contemplating switching (post on why to follow), but I actually would encourage them to fix this with a 1:250,000 version of the product and not try and bung on different scales.  Look at the Pooleys RNP-1 as an example, it’s all scales to all users and get it out of your kneeboard the wrong way round and bang you’re on the wrong scale.    For every argument, there’s normally a counter argument though, what if you swap charts mid-flight.   Personally I ponder if anyone does this!  But again, maybe helicopter pilots do – but as I say for my usage, I’d much rather there be a 1:500,000 version and a separate 1:250,000 version rather than a mash of ‘how many scales can we squeeze on a bit of plastic’.

There are striking resemblances between this plotter and the Digital Innovations DP-1.   The best I can tell this is the thinking behind the layout of their protractor.

Protractor / Diverting

Kings Lynn Outwell

RNP1: Divert

To understand why I really don’t like the protractor layout on the MR-1, I need to first show you a typical in flight diversion (but equally a rough ground planning exercise).

Let’s say you’re plotting a route from Kings Lynn to Outwell near Wisbeach.

On an RNP-1, you put the plotter on the chart, turn it to where you want to go.  You can now draw a line in the centre gap with pen if you want (but critically, we don’t have to!), then read off the distance of 11nm and at the top of the RNP-1 is your heading to fly, due to the size of the protractor we can tell the heading is a bit less than 220 degrees, 217 something like that.   You don’t want to do long distance on this approximate heading but the error over 10nm will be negligible.

Now let’s look what happens with the MR-1 if we were to use it for a similar sort of in flight diversion.

What we find is that because the protractor is in a “North Up” orientation, the same trick doesn’t work.   Firstly rather obviously, we cannot see where we intend to go because it’s covered up on the map by the speed/distance table.

MR-1 Divert

MR-1 Divert

The “North Up” orientation means the heading cannot be read off the protractor while it is held in this orientation.  Look at the top and it’ll indicate ~60 degrees, if you read off the heading from the direction you want to go, obviously this will also be wrong.

MR-1 Correct Heading Use

MR-1 Correct Heading Use

So to do a diversion with this plotter you’re forced to get a pen out, draw a line between your two points.   Then you can use the protractor in its normal orientation to read off a heading.   Now you might think “well that’s not too bad”, but what if this is not a diversion you’re trying to do, for getting a position fix with a VOR/DME the MR-1 is going to be problematic to use.

However it’s worth mentioning that if you are using it to plan a diversion and it’s a proper diversion whereby you know where you’re going to divert to, can draw it on the chart and then work out a heading.   Then the increased size of the protractor over smaller plotters such as the RNP-1 means that you’ll get a more accurate heading.  So worst case instead of being +/-5 degrees, you’ll be more like +/-2.5.

It’s not found a place in my kneeboard because while I can see it being useful for the diversion part of your skills test or any proper diversion you intend to do.  I can’t help feel you’ll be reaching for another tool for the position fix aspects of the test and that’s perhaps one too many tools to be carrying around.   On the ground I like its larger protractor and found it a handy tool to have on the table.

Speed/Distance Tables

The very keen eyed reader might notice that on my PLOG sheets in the red coloured folder, there’s a speed/distance table printed.   It’s something I’ve put in since early days of my flight training.

These days I rarely use it because my Torgoen T07302 watch has an E6B flight computer on it and this is quicker for Speed/Distance calculations.   However, if you don’t have such a watch then such Speed/Distance tables are very useful things to have.

It has a wide range of airspeeds (70 – 140 knots), so applicable to anything from a slow 152 to a Tecnam P2010 and will allow you to quickly look up how long it’ll take to cover any distance up to 40nm at any airspeeds in 10 knot intervals.

MR-1: 1:500,000 Ruler

MR-1: 1:500,000 Ruler

I really like how the times are accurately lined up with the distance measurements on the ruler, so there’s no other scales to be faffing with (I suspect this also explains why the ruler doesn’t have a 1:250,000 scale)

Here I personally think less might be more.

At 100 knots the time required to cover 20 nm (about the maximum distance you want per leg of a VFR route) is 12 minutes, but at 90 knots it’s 13 minutes and at 110 it’s 11 minutes.   So do you really need all these airspeeds?   Such tables are really only good for approximation of ETA because if accuracy relative to a true ground speed is your concern then it’s likely that once you’ve corrected for wind you’ll get a speed that requires interpolation (or a CRP-1 Flight Computer) anyway.

It would therefore be arguably better if 70, 100, 130 were the only scales and this might then free up some space in the middle to allow the map to be seen through the middle.   I can of course appreciate that Cessna 152’s cruise at 90 knots and if this is your cruise speed then you’d be complaining it wasn’t on the scale.   Having an ETA that is 60 seconds earlier than the actual ETA isn’t often a problem though because with 60 seconds to run your destination is on the nose, or you’re properly lost!!! 🙂  As discussed earlier, attempting to be all scales and all things, for all aircraft just clutters up such tools.   Simplifying it and making the middle transparent would be an improvement in my opinion.

General Design

The MR-1 is made of a semi-flexible transparent plastic, it’s more rigid then an RNP-1 plotter, but more flexible then an AS-2 or your typical planning ruler.   It feels like it’ll last you easily long enough to forget how much it cost (£11.49).   The markings are slightly raised on the underside, which gives a good feel and a sense that the markings aren’t going to fade any time soon.

On the version I got the edges are a little bit rough as you run your fingers off the edges and because of the MR-1 is approx. 1.6mm thick the square edges can at times feel a bit sharp.   It’d be nice if the edges could be rounded off just slightly in a future version, nothing serious just to take the points off (similar to what you’d find on an AS-1 or AS-2 type ruler for example).

The length, being less than 6″ means it does fit in the pockets of flight bags (especially my relatively small Flight Gear bag) really nicely.


As a ruler it’s brilliant, better than an AS-2 because it quickly lets you see approximate timing data and isn’t as cluttered with different scales (this assumes you need a 1:500,000 scale).   That said, it does for me have too many airspeeds in the middle.

I personally wouldn’t use it as my ‘go to’ in-flight diversion / position fix tool of choice and this means I suspect it’ll never find a home in my kneeboard.

The RNP-1 drives me a bit crazy with constantly spinning it round to do rough planning on the ground though so I think I’ll definitely carry this in my flight bag for those days when there’s a change of plan on an land away and the route back needs a quick re-think without getting all the toys out and spending an hour planning it out.

The price is the wrong side of ten pounds if it was my money, but it’s mostly a psychological thing.   The cost of this plotter is in the noise relative to an hours flying, but logistically it’s a bit of a logistical grumble you can’t buy it from the major stockists and so can’t chuck it in with an order of new pens or when you buy your next chart etc.   Hopefully though that will come in time.

Fly GA have been kind enough to send me samples of their other kit, so over the coming days look out for my reviews of that and also a review of their new exam practice website.

Equipment: What do you need? (And When)

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015 | Permalink

On starting to train for a Private Pilots Licence (PPL), or even a National Private Pilots Licence (NPPL), you’ll quickly start assembling a list of stuff you might/probably/feel you need to get.  Something along the lines of:

  1. Headset
  2. Kneeboard
  3. Chart
  4. Checklist(s)
  5. Hi-Viz Jacket
  6. Books/Guides
  7. Flight Computer
  8. Ruler/Pens

How to get all this stuff to/from the club and aeroplane???

Better add a Flight Bag to the above list then….

The truth, that possibly nobody will actually tell you directly, is this:

  • When you’re first starting out, you actually need very little!!


Sennheiser HME-110 Special Edition Top View

Sennheiser HME-110 Top View

For your first lesson you probably borrowed one off an instructor/club, you can do that for a little bit – but realistically, there’s no avoiding you need a headset.

Borrowed headsets are ok, but they tend to be well used, a bit battered the microphone pick-up often fussy and gets every other word etc.

You don’t need to spend mega money (relative to the cost of flying!), but my advice would be buy a headset as soon as you can – the 2nd or 3rd lesson ideally.  £225-300 depending on what you go for will do the job nicely for the whole of your PPL (and beyond).

Like everyone, I debated long and hard between Sennheiser HME-110 Vs David Clark H10-13.4 and in the end the Sennheiser HME-110 won the day

I’ve had my Sennheiser HME-110’s now for about 4 years, they still look as good as the day I bought them and have never given me any grief.   I’ve since bought a second pair for friends/passengers.  If I could do it all again and I had the same budget, I’d buy the HME-110’s every time.   This isn’t an advert and I’m not being paid, others I’m sure love their David Clarks – this is just my experience with my headset.




Your mileage might differ, but I didn’t use a kneeboard until I started navigation.  As you might also experience, friends and family may ‘support’ your new found flying hobby, by buying you reasonably priced gifts like kneeboards/charts etc. for birthday/Christmas presents.   So you can end up with this stuff whether you wanted it or not!

I found that because nobody said “Right get your kneeboad out and write X down….”  my kneeboard stayed in my flight bag until I started Navigation.

On the ground, even at a big airport like Cambridge you’ll only need to remember typically 4 pieces of information:

  • Pressure setting to set your Altimeter to (QNH/QFE)
  • ATIS Information Identifier (“On first contact report Information Zulu received” etc. – small airfields won’t have this).
  • Taxi instructions (again small airfields it’ll be obvious and 1 way etc.)
  • Surface Wind

You don’t need to write the pressure setting down, you’ve just set your altimeter to whatever it is (so read it back off that) – this has the added safety bonus that what you set on your altimeter, is what you read back.

If you can’t remember 1 word for the ATIS Information ID, are you sure you have the correct medical to go flying?

Taxi Instructions:   Even at a big airport, it won’t be that complicated and at your base airfield you’ll soon find yourself always taxing one of 2-3 ways:  Via Alpha or Charlie or the Grass etc.

Surface Wind:  In the early lessons this won’t matter to you.

I fly with an AFE VB3 Kneeboard, it’s A5 sized and does the job.


You have to carry a valid and up to date chart by law, so you should have a chart before you first solo – but the law says you have to carry a chart, it doesn’t say it has to be yours.   So you could always borrow the instructors at a pinch.

This means you don’t need a chart until ~10-15 hours into your training.

Be careful here, charts expire every year, if you’re flying every other weekend etc. then buying a chart on day one is likely to mean you’re going to be buying another before you ever get to use it.


At my aero club the checklist was just given to me and I assume is covered by the ground training fees the club charges students on starting training.   Your club policies may be different…….there’s no escape from this, you need one.

Hi-Viz Jacket

A much debated topic, are they a good thing or a bad thing?

If your airfield requires one, you’ll find the above question is irrelevant and you need one and that’s the end of the discussion if you want to go flying!  🙂

Most clubs have spares, they’re cheap to buy (~£3-10) so when you get round to it I’d just buy your own, at least you’ll know it fits you etc.


Principles of Flight / Flight Planning & Performance: PPL 4

Principles of Flight / Flight Planning & Performance: PPL 4

The PPL Guide books you’re going to need, there isn’t much avoiding that. However, unless you’re on some super intensive course, you’re not going to need them all at once so don’t rush out and buy them all in one big hit or as part of some “all in one study pack” you’ll be wasting your money.

You risk having spent £160 on books and the syllabus changing or if nothing else the shear vastness of all the books stacked up might put you off reading any of them.

Buy the ones you need for the immediate exams and maybe one or two at most more.  Pass those exams and then get the next ones etc.

It can be fun to browse through the airfields near you in a VFR Flight Guide, but seriously you don’t need your own copy, at least not in training, as all licensed airfield charts are on the NATS website and your club/instructor will be able to provide you with the information for where you’ll go as part of your training etc.

I used to carry a VFR Flight Guide, just in case, it never came out of the bag – except at home on a rainy day.  Post PPL, I still don’t carry a flight guide – though post PPL having a copy around is a good thing, so perhaps a skills test pass reward!

You won’t be landing anywhere except your base airfield until just before your Qualifying Cross Country (QXC) any way, so save the £26+, put the savings towards flying lessons 🙂

Flight Computer

CRP-1 Flight Computer

CRP-1 Flight Computer

I’d recommend you buy one of these earlier then you need it, not massively earlier, but maybe 5-7 hours into your training.

They’re good to have a play with early and on a rainy day when a lesson gets cancelled due to weather you can always then ask an instructor to run you through how to solve a certain problem you’re having.   They don’t have anything else to do once your lesson is cancelled and in this scenario ground tuition is typically free – and you never know the weather might clear up while you calculate 🙂

Seriously though a lot of people struggle to get their heads around these archaic circular slide rules.   This is the one bit of kit worth having earlier, rather then just in time for when you really require to use it.

Ruler/Pens, etc. etc.

However you carry it all, you’re going to need at least a pencil and pen to update your log book after each flight, general notes etc.  any old pen that works will do but for pencils I strongly recommend you use a mechanical pencil (the last thing you need is the lead to break in the plane and be looking for a pencil sharpener!)

Mechanical pencils aren’t expensive, but I’d encourage you to not go super cheap, they’ll do your head in because you’ll find when the lead breaks you’re clicking like crazy to get the next batch of lead to load etc.

It sounds a bit daft to recommend a pencil, but I really like these from Staedtler (same company that make chart pens).  They’re about £4-5, not going to break the bank and will probably last you the the whole PPL and beyond if you don’t lose it 🙂

Chart Pens

Chart Pens

When you need to draw on a chart (Navigation), so don’t rush out and buy a set on hour one or they’ll sit in your bag for quite some time!, then get yourself a set of Staedtler chart pens.  Get the permanent ones, they’re not really permanent you just need a special eraser or spray to remove it, but they won’t easily rub off your chart on the move etc. – you only need 4 colours.  Fine or Medium is a school of thought debate, I prefer the Fine nibs but other instructors I’ve flown with prefer medium because it gives you a thicker and arguably easier to see/harder to rub off line.   My preference is to be able to see as much of the features/landmarks I can around my track – but at the cost that sometimes you do have to patch up the markings.

For what it’s worth I use the following colours

  • Green :  My route/track
  • Blue :  Wind direction/speeds (anything wind related)
  • Black :  General Information / Radio Frequencies and on a trickier Nav I use this to mark ’10 degrees off course’ marker lines.
  • Red :  I never use red – it can look too much like road features and other markings.

As I suggested above, with these pens, you’re going to need an eraser.


I started with a full size ruler, when it wouldn’t fit in to my newer flight bag (see below), I bought a ‘short’ ruler to replace it.   The shorter ruler is good for 60 nautical miles, you’ll never in a PPL fly in a straight line for more then 60 nautical miles unless your QXC is something mad and is 1 way out and then returning (but most people fly a triangle type route and so each leg will be something like 50nm and even then they might include turns).   You don’t need one until you get towards navigation, but when you do, consider the shorter version – I certainly prefer it.

I’ve found a square protector to do the job nicely and have had no reason to change it.

Flight Bag

Sporty's Mission Bag

Sporty’s Mission Bag

When I started to learn to fly I read through some other PPL blogs and one of them, which I wish I could find again so I could give credit, said they hadn’t spent any money on a flight bag an instead just went to their local supermarket and bought a cheap laptop bag – it seemed to do the job.

So I did the same and sure enough, your typical laptop bag will easily carry a headset, pens, rulers and as you begin to require the other bits (Charts, Kneeboard etc.) this stuff will all reasonably fit in there too, including  a VFR Flight guide I didn’t really need to be carrying.

You can spend anything you like on flight bags, from a £15 laptop bag to £150+ on a customizable purpose designed for aviation Brightline Flight bag (and anything in between).

Today (Post-PPL), I fly with a  Sporty’s Mission Bag, it’s a bit of a love/hate flight bag.   I’ll cover the pro’s and con’s of this bag in another post.  In summary though, I wouldn’t really recommend it for someone starting a PPL – it’s good for a very specific flight type user, as a bag to carry everything for the duration of a course, it’s not really ideal.   I’d recommend just going with a laptop bag for the course of a PPL, it’ll do the job nicely enough.

Other kit you might consider

‘Diversion Ruler’

Diversion Ruler

Diversion Ruler

In my training, diversions were one of my weaker areas, an instructor showed me a diversion ruler (not their official name, but you generally wouldn’t use them for on-ground planning) in flight and how much easier they make calculating a new track and distance even while flying.   I kept meaning to get one, but never did.    Today though I have one in my kneeboard and generally don’t leave the ground without it.   In hindsight, I should have bought one earlier, once you’ve done your first or second dual-navigation and are beginning to think about learning/training for diverting is about the time to consider getting one of these.


You don’t need one, you can’t technically use it on the PPL and certainly can’t on the Skills Test.   There’s an argument to say having one in the bag, just in case, is a good thing.  Before I did my first local areas solo, I’d have agreed.    But if you use it on your solo nav’s to recover your uncertainty of position (or to remove any risk of becoming uncertain), you might be setting yourself up for a shock when you cannot fall back on to it in your skills test.

Post PPL I still don’t carry a GPS, I enjoy getting from A to B by myself and the reward it brings for getting there without blindly following a route that ensures you can’t be caught out by wind etc. to much.

Cameras / Voice Recorders etc.

I started to fly with cameras & voice recorder in the plane around my first solo navigation, I still use them today as my flying has got more and more specific to short strips and I find watching and listening back to previous flights helps me spot bits I could have done sooner and checklist items I might keep missing etc.    As a training aid, you’ll get back what you put into this sort of kit, but it can also take quite a lot of effort to reap the value (e.g. putting the video all together, syncing up the audio etc.).

During your training instructors may or may not want to be filmed, I never recorded a flight with an instructor as it seemed a bit strange to ask and if you’re learning, you probably couldn’t spot the errors you’ve made in the video anyway 😐

And the rest…..

There’s really no end to the kit you can buy:   Life jackets, radio transceivers, watches, flight suits etc. etc.    But I don’t think you’ll find any of that absolutely essential during your training and add up just the essentials above and you’ll have spent around £500.   Hopefully this post has briefly discussed the major bits of kit to consider and perhaps given some recommendations you find useful.

Equipment: Torch

Thursday, December 25th, 2014 | Permalink

As you progress along the Private Pilot License (PPL) course, you will inevitably accumulate equipment:  Bag, headset, flight computer etc.  In coming weeks I’ll be doing some posts on the equipment that I’ve accumulated, when it became useful and what has found a permanent home in my flight bag.

For the PPL course, a torch is unlikely to feature on your ‘things to buy’ list, but if you decide to do a Night Rating, then for obvious reasons I suspect like me you’ll start looking around for which one to buy.

Beam Colour

The text books will tell you that night vision (which can take up to 30 minutes to fully develop) is best preserved with red light, while even a few seconds of bright white light can destroy it and set you back to feeling like you’re in total darkness.   There’s an argument that subject to the intensity of the light, that green is better for your night vision then red, but I’m not going to get into all that – lets stick with the text book answer (the exam question does not start “discuss…”).

Torches Considered

It’s actually harder then you might imagine to find torches that put out red light, but of the ones I could find, I considered:

  • Gerber Recon Task Light Torch (~£20-30)
  • Coast PX20 (~£25)
  • LED Lenser V2 Aviator Torch (~£30)
  • LED Lenser P7.2 (~£40-60) – but would need a Red Filter kit (+£8)
  • LED Lenser P7QC (~£60-80)

The Gerber Recon came pretty close to being bought, I liked the fact you had options on colour (e.g. White to check the plane as the sun goes down, red for when you’re up at 2,000ft and the electrics fail etc.).  While the Coast PX20 and Lenser V2 could both be argued as capable of doing this, what I didn’t like about their approach was that they use separate ON/OFF buttons to achieve it – in the heat of the moment when you want red light, I very much suspect you’ll grab the torch, press the wrong button and be blinded in a sea of bright white light 🙁    Moments later you’ll be cursing why didn’t you buy the other torch.  Oh that’s right, it was more expensive… mumble to yourself while burning £3/min @ 2,500ft 😐

The P7.2 also got pretty close, what lost it the sale for me was:  First you’d have to buy the filters which bumps its total cost up, but more critically while this would then let you do the whole swapping of colours – without the risk of hitting the wrong button.  The idea of having to swap little filter caps around in the twilight before dark, it seemed inevitable that sooner or later I’d lose the little red filter cap and would have to shell out another £10 for a setup that’s already consumed £50-70 🙁

So in the end, even though at first glance the price seems pretty extreme for a torch, I went with the LED Lenser P7QC

LED Lenser P7QC

LED Lenser P7QC Horizontal

LED Lenser P7QC

As you’d expect from the price tag, the build quality is top end, aluminum with all the switches and colour rotary dial feeling engineered – nothing loose or ‘clicky’ anywhere to be found.   The case it comes with is quite a snug fit, I’ll admit I didn’t like this in the moments immediately following taking it out of the box but with a bit of usage, I now think I wouldn’t have it any other way.  It does ensure the torch can’t escape its case or leave you worrying it might do, which in turn has meant it goes very nicely into the flight bag.

Size wise, it’s the length of a closed fist (little finger, to thumb).  This feels about the right size, one thing to consider – especially if your first thought was to look at the “keyring” type sized torches is that most of the time you won’t need a torch in the plane.  You need it to check the compass in a C172 as it’s not illuminated and you might use it if the map light bulb has died etc.   But you’re generally not going to be flying along holding a torch in your right hand.   This means you’re going to have to put the torch somewhere between usage, but more importantly, it means you’re going to have to be able to find it again:  Amongst your chart, kneeboard, headset wires, flight computer and any other paraphernalia you fly with!  In the dark, potentially having just had a full electrical failure – do you really want to be rummaging around for a keyring?

It’s powered by 4x AAA batteries that go into a nice little holder device inside the handle, again someones put some thought into the design rather then just being cheap.  Nothing rattles and the weight doesn’t change as a result of loosely fitting batteries etc.   Batteries are included in the box, which is nice and at least saves you from the disappointment of getting a new toy and not being able to immediately have a play 🙂

Red / Greed / Blue / White :  Rotary Selectable

Independently selectable switches is just asking to go wrong, the Coast PX20 has 5 white LED’s and 1 Red.  So the red button is going to be quite dim, but press the wrong button and you will be assured of blinding white light by comparison.  Much the same story for the Lenser Aviator.

The P7QC solves the problem of switching colours, without using filters, by using an RGB LED and controlling the LED’s colour output via a rotary dial (which is part of the head of the torch).  This is a firm rotary selector, so there’s no chance it’s going to accidentally drift from Red to Green for example.

Set and forget…..

Power Modes and Flashing

So far you might be thinking that I’m a sales rep for this torch.  It has a lot of good things about it, especially compared to the competition – unfortunately for reasons that I suspect come as part of wanting to appeal to a wider sales base then just night pilots of general aviation aircraft, it has a couple of things I wish it did differently.

High Power / Low Power

The torch has 3 modes of operation:

  1. High Power
  2. Low Power
  3. Flash (SOS)

Turning the torch on for the first time it defaults to high power (~120 lumens, colour dependent).   This is my first real gripe as it’s not the default you really want for a confined cockpit.   Oh don’t get me wrong, I very much think having a high power mode is beneficial, I just wish it wasn’t the default – I’d have much preferred it to toggle through:   Low Power, High Power, Flash.   This to me would more naturally let you find the mode that achieves an objective, rather then starting out full wack and if that’s too bright letting you turn it down 🙁

Here’s the torch on its side, set to red light and turned on at High Power:

Red - High Power Mode

Red – High Power Mode

Now compare the strength and throw of the beam, to what it looks like in the same setup but on Low Power:

Red - Low Power

Red – Low Power

Hopefully it’s strikingly obvious which one you’d want to use for reading a chart or compass about a foot in front of you! I’ve purposely shown the beam strengths like this because how far the torch can throw a beam of light might be a requirement for someone looking to do hiking/camping at night, but it really isn’t a major concern for flying.

This “how bright can we make it” issue however is true of almost all torches you’ll find.  The selling point is all about how bright they are or how far they can throw a beam of light, rather then how dim they go 🙁

Having flown a simulated electrical failure with the LED Lenser P7QC, I found the low power (manual says its ~40 lumens) was actually pretty much perfect for what you want.   On low power you can chuck the torch on your seat and it very nicely lights up the Airspeed Indicator, Artificial Horizon, RPM etc. but at the same time. The beam isn’t blinding to the right seat passenger and while it still means you can just about see the flaps lever of a C172, it’s not flood lit, so you’re not inadvertently distracted.   I could have lived with it being a touch dimmer actually, but when it came to landing the plane in simulated electrical failure, I was very glad of the fact I didn’t need to hold the torch in one hand to see the airspeed indicator and could keep my left hand free to fly the plane and right hand on the throttle all the way down to landing.   A torch forcing you to have only intermittent throttle control with no flaps/electrics I feel would be bordering unsafe, because with no flaps the stall speed is increased & you’ll be trying to fly a faster airspeed on approach – you want good airspeed monitoring all the way down and to be able to fly the plane, rather then starting to let it fly you because you’ve ran out of hands 😐

I just wish low power was the default mode.


When you need a torch to flash, you’re having a very different sort of emergency or more to the point you’ve had the emergency, are lucky enough to have survived it and now just want to go home 🙂   So for all those times when you want to work with a torch (i.e. read a chart), rather then hoping it will do something for you (attract attention/rescue), you won’t want the thing to be flashing!

They could therefore have dropped this feature entirely for me.  I can accept that if you’re incredibly unlucky you might find yourself in a situation where you want your only torch to maximize it’s attention grabbing capabilities – but it’s going to be a pretty rare case (or I’d hope it is).

The torch toggles its modes if turned OFF/ON within 2 seconds of turning off, so if you want Low Power you turn the torch ON, then OFF, then reasonably quickly (or very quickly) back ON.   Great, unless you accidentally go past it and then you’re into Flash 🙁   It won’t return to default unless left OFF for 5 seconds, so if you turn it off low power accidentally, more then likely you’ll have to cycle through flash.

If they had to have a flashing mode, I just wish it was accessed through a much harder to activate process rather than as part of toggling through the modes via the ON/OFF switch.


I bought this torch after my 2nd Night Rating lesson, prior to buying it I’d borrowed torches off instructors – which was getting a bit tedious.

It’s heaviest usage to date has come in my second aircraft failures/emergency lesson as I’ve mentioned above, which simulates internal lighting failures, full electrical failures etc.   If I wanted to be convinced it was a good torch to buy, this lesson alone convinced me.   It’s low power is not so bright that it will illuminate the world, but bright enough that you get a nice red hue across all the important instruments, while the torch can just sit on the seat, allowing you to keep flying the plane almost entirely as normal.

LED Lenser P7QC

LED Lenser P7QC

The size and weight are both excellent, making it easy to find amongst charts and kneeboards.

Being able to ‘set and forget’ the light beam colour and have no risk of pressing the wrong button mid-flight was a major feature for me.  Especially as the solution they use doesn’t involve hot-swapping filters.

High Power mode is way too bright for usage in the cockpit, but good for externals checks and/or finding the plane keys should you drop them 🙂

Low Power mode is near perfect, perhaps a little dimmer would have been nice.  It’s a bit of a shame though that this is 2 clicks away to access rather then being the default mode – it’s absolutely fine for when the internal lights fail, but it’s a little bit tedious when you just want to check the Heading Indicator & Compass are aligned.

Flashing mode, it isn’t really needed for 99.9% of GA flying – but perhaps should you ever be unfortunate enough to fall into the 0.1% you’ll be thankful it was there and all the times you’d accidentally clicked past low power mode and on to flash will be forgiven (A lot like wearing a life jacket over water, it’d be more comfortable if you didn’t have it, but if have to land on water you’ll quickly forget about creature comforts 🙂  ).

So given it’s around the top end of the price range for what you can spend on a torch on most flying websites etc.  (I’m sure there are tactical super torches that have bells and whistles that cost much more).    Am I happy with it?  /  Would I buy it again? :    Yes, it’s found a home in my flight bag and I’m not looking to replace it at all, the cost is now lost in the noise of an hours flying etc.

Recommend it to a friend/learning to fly (at night) etc.   Absolutely.