For general aviation (GA) pilots, a headset can feel like an extension of the aviator himself. Many pilots have a preferred brand or model of headset they wouldn’t consider flying without. If you fall into this category, you still might want to consider acquiring a new model for your flying activities.
Sure, your trusted model might have served you well. Perhaps you’ve had it for years and have never experienced the slightest problem. Even if your proven earphones will probably soldier on for decades, consider the following reasons to add a backup headset for pilots.
1. Take Advantage of New Technology: Like anything electronic, aviation headphones continue to evolve to reflect advances in technology. Modern headset models contain a variety of convenient features, including cell phone & audio connections, Bluetooth compatibility, and even wireless headsets. Depending on the type of flying you do, one or more of these features can make a new headset worth a look. Do you frequently use uncontrolled airports that require phone calls to flight service and/or ATC? Are your typical flight legs long and monotonous? Constantly getting tangled up in your headset’s cords? If any of these situations apply to you, take a look at some of the market’s current offerings.
2. You Fly Different Types of Aircraft: Different aircraft can require different headsets. If you fly more than one type of aircraft, make sure your ears are adequately protected in all cases. Do you fly charter as well as flight instruct? If so, you’re well aware of the noise differences between a 100-horsepower piston single and the powerful twin turboprop you pilot. Maybe your passive earphones work well in your CFI job, but leave your ears ringing after long charter hauls. If that’s the case, perhaps you should add an ANR model to your flight bag. If you frequently operate just one aircraft in each job, you may want to consider leaving a pair of headphones in each plane. Not only will your ears be better protected, but you’ll save yourself the hassle of transporting your single headset between the two aircraft every time you fly.
3. Occasional Companion/Copilot: If you sometimes have company in the cockpit, make sure to offer them sufficient hearing protection. Though most pilots will have earphones of their own, non-flyers aren’t likely to be prepared for the cockpit noise level. A spare set of headphones is a great way to make their flight more enjoyable. Sure, you could always just pass them a pair of earplugs, but that will notably limit the intensity of their experience. Being able to hear air traffic control and your interactions with the airspace system will be both enjoyable and memorable. Besides, a headset will allow you to converse with your passenger(s), making it easier for you to answer their questions. If you flight instruct, a spare set of earphones is a must. The last thing you want is to give someone a negative first impression of GA. With earphones, a student’s introduction to aviation will be much more enjoyable than a flight in a noisy cockpit. Ensure that new students will return by lending them your extra headset.
4. Primary Headset Needs Repair: Though most aviation headsets are remarkably reliable, the possibility exists that your trusted earset will eventually need maintenance. Maybe the headband breaks, the ANR stops working, or a cord gets caught in a seat rail. Whatever the problem, you’ll need to send it off for repair. Though not a big deal for the weekend flier, an everyday pilot will be at a loss without his favorite headset. Sure, you could probably borrow a model from the FBO, but most FBO loaner models tend to be in pretty rough shape. Considering flying with earplugs and speaker/hand mic your next time out? While that might be okay for a VFR flight in largely uncontrolled airspace, low IFR is not the time to make such a drastic change to your flying routine. Consider a backup headset as an additional form of insurance should your primary model require an unscheduled tune-up.
5. Take Advantage of Sales: Like everyone else, pilots enjoy bargain purchases. At times, high-caliber headsets can be found at greatly discounted prices. When manufacturers debut new models, older versions are sometimes marked down to move the excess inventory. Think of this as reverse upgrading your headset. Though not the latest and greatest, these quality models are still perfectly functional for most flying needs. A great time to look for discounts is around big airshows and aviation events. Aviation manufacturers often release new products in conjunction with EAA Airventure, held the last week of July/beginning of August every year. Keep an eye on the headset market around this time and see if existing models are offered at discounts. You might be able to score a top-notch model for an incredible price.
If you fly frequently, a backup headset for pilots is a worthy investment. For a variety of reasons, you might occasionally need to provide ear protection to passengers or deal with unexpected changes to your flying routine. Take a look at your current headset and assess any benefits an additional model could provide. Then look for ways to obtain a suitable model at a reasonable price.