USAF UPT Student Flight Gear 2023: Guide

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Overview of student pilot gear guide

Congratulations, If you are reading this then most likely you received your pilot slot and now doing some homework on what your next step is! If you are just visiting and looking to become a pilot in the United States Air Force, check out our guide here on how to do just that! 

In this guide we will get into some items that have proven to be helpful to students during their time at UPT, SUPT, UPT 2.5, UPT Next, or whatever iteration you may be in. We hope to provide insight to those who just received their pilot slot, finished Initial Flight Training, or just began their ground training for the T-6. This will be geared *pun* towards those who are in this category, because once you are finishing up with T-6’s you will have a better grasp on the gear you will need for your follow on trainer.

It is important to note, a lot of the equipment will be provided such as your helmet, G-suit, gloves. We are going to focus on the items that are not provided that may prove to be helpful. Some items that the Air Force provide aren’t the best, so we will also throw in recommendations for these items. The extras if you will.

Word of caution, do not be that person who is strapped up with every piece of flight gear that you can get your hands on. Having a hand pen holder and that aviator watch will not help you on your formation solo. Find out what may assist you and what may make pilot training a little smoother.

The T-6 is a completely different beast from the Cessna or DA-20 you may be used to. It is faster, more agile, and yes it has an ejection seat.

The whole goal of learning on it is to go further into the basics while also grooming you to be able to handle a more powerful plane on your own. In this guide we are going to start from the feet and work our way up.

UPT Student Pilot Gear Guide

Student Pilot guide: Feet

 The Air Force gives you some pretty thick boots that feel clunky in the cockpit. Some students stay with these, but know that there are other approved options.


Do not be caught slipping in outdated or unauthorized boots.


Stay updated with current approved flight boots here. 


If you look around at the instructor pilot’s feet, you’ll probably see the same boots.


The current favorite right now would be the Rocky S2Vs. These boots are great. 

They are breathable, very comfortable, and flight line approved. 

There is a reason the reviews are amazing for these things. 

If you’d like a pair make sure to get the coyote brown color.

Student Pilot Guide: Legs

The cockpit does not offer the best surfaces to write upon. Your legs will already be occupied with the G-suit which has a strap on it to hold checklists/publications/gouge, but it doesn’t always do the best job holding items or providing a suitable writing surface. 

Both are important. You must keep things strapped down to avoid FODing out a jet, and you need to be able to write things down to help you remember clearances, frequencies, etc.

Mapstrap: A Map strap is a simple way to keep things in front of you.

It is essentially another strap that you are able to control how tight things are strapped down which would decrease the chance of losing a checklist while doing a barrel roll.

Pilot kneeboard: A kneeboard is a convenient place to place checklists, Inflight guides, notepads, and writing gear all in one location. We found two great options. The first is the cheaper option, the second is the Flyboys option which is geared to military style flying.

Student Pilot Guide: Hands

As a student you are provided with Nomex Gloves to keep your hands protected, so there is no need to get any other type. When you are flying with the single seat mentality, it is expected of you to do everything by yourself. 

Flying, communication, navigating, and writing can be a difficult thing to do when you are doing it all at the same time. Reaching for your writing utensil every time you need to write something down increases your risk of FODing the jet out and it takes a little time. This is where the Pen loop comes in. Though certainly not required, a lot of pilots find it very helpful.

Pilot Pen Loop

The Pen loop provides instant access to your pen or pencil. This one is adjustable for both lefties and righties. It also features an adjustable style to allow you to keep it out of the way when you do not want it to get in the way. You can also adjust the tension, which helps with its overall goal of making the pilot more efficient in the air.

Pilot Writing Gear

This next one is often overlooked. Writing utensil. Will you survive with your BIC? Will you be able to copy down clearances with your #2 Ticonderoga? Absolutely. 

Would having a pen/pencil that was made for the aviation world make your life easier? Absolutely.

You’ll probably notice quite a few Instructor Pilots with this bad boy. It offers a quality pencil and 2 pens. One black, and one red that is useful for writing in the aircraft forms. It is also very durable and will not break when it gets thrown against the canopy from ET-level FAIP.

Student Pilot Guide: Head

Your head houses all of your money makers. Your brain, eyes, and ears.

You will be receiving a complete helmet with a visor, so you will not have to worry about those.

The only time you will really be able to wear your glasses is when you are walking to and from the jet.

Granted, if you are heading out to your initial solo, pictures are given and if that is the case, wear your finest pit vipers or randolphs.

You will be able to grab some cheap ear protection each time you step to fly, but it will be a good idea to get some quality ear protection that will allow you hear when you are trying to talk with ATC or your IP and protect your hearing at the same time.

Student Pilot Guide: Carryables

Pubs Bag

Though the entire world is transitioning to electronic publications (E-Pubs) on tablets, pilot training is still requiring paper pubs. Each flight you have will require the proper pubs for where you are going and extra for emergency situations. 

To keep these pubs from blowing everywhere a bag is used. A lot of flights have their own pubs bags that can be borrowed, but some do not meaning you will need your own. Since the T-6 does not have loads of room you will need a smaller one such as this one:

The Regular PubsBag was designed to keep your things colocated when you are flying and mission planning.

It hosts multiple pockets for all of your carrying needs.

Nothing is cooler than slinging this bad boy over your shoulder connected to your helmet bag.

Just look at any T-38 student and their Instagram, they can’t help themselves.

It is great for holding not only paper pubs but also extras such as glasses, ear protection, and those precious snacks. The velcro will ensure the contents don’t go flying everywhere. 


One thing you should get used to carrying around if you are flying is a flashlight. This is very apparent when you have your first night flight. It is not a bad idea to carry multiple for different tasks.

For example, when you are during your walk around pre-flight, you’ll open up the multiple compartments that may be hard to actually check without illumination.

Secondly, you’ll want one that you can attach to your flight suit for when you are actively flying. This is to avoid dropping it when you are trying to read your checklists. Here are a couple of decent ones.

Student Pilot Guide: Post Flight

Pilot Log

The Air Force can be really good at losing records. At the end of the day, you are the only person that really cares about your flight hours. It is good practice to get into the habit pattern of keeping a record of your hours. This will be handy if you decide to pursue the airlines. It brakes down your hours so you can easily present evidence for your future applications.

Check out our post on logging flight hours and their importance here!

It also is satisfying to see your hours in a physical form especially when you get off the first page! Here is a good one! 

Final Thoughts

Hopefully this guide provides some insight. By no means is it complete, but more of a starter pack. Tailor your gear to what works for you. UPT is a challenging program but one you will always remember. Soak up as much as you can and be open! Help your classmates out, don’t play secret, and make sure to give yourself a break on Friday and Saturday nights.

Good luck



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