Kneeboards are a personal subject for many aviators that I have met in my short career. Some people swear by them and others swear when talking about them. It seems to be a love-hate relationship. You either love them and use them for every flight, or you hate them and have no need for them in your plane.
I’m in the camp of I use one for most phases of flight, but I will ditch mine when I’m established in the pattern so I can focus on landing safely and not have to worry about the kneeboard getting in the way.
Now, if you are still on the fence or you’ve never flown with a kneeboard, here are 13 practical uses for a kneeboard in the cockpit.
Keeps Charts/iPad in place
This is one of the main reasons I use the kneeboard. A good one will have a strap that can wrap around your leg and will keep your paper charts or your iPad right where you need it to be.
Provides a quick place to store important flight information
Need to keep your checklist handy while you start your plane? What about your paper flight plan? Maybe you want to keep your E6B either analog or digital close to you should you need to make quick calculations. Having a kneeboard that has pockets, or a clip is a very convenient way to have your important information close at hand.
If you are used to flying with all your important flight info in the passenger seat things can get buried. Also, you may find you are out of sorts if you fly with a passenger.
Quick Reminder of Basic Flight Information
If you’re flying VFR do you remember what the light signals mean when you are on the ground? Or in the air for that matter? Can you remember what the proper altitude you should be flying based on your direction?
Most kneeboards have either important VFR or IFR information screen printed directly on them. It’s a good way to have the data close at hand without having to rack your brain for it or go looking for the information in your flight bag while you are in the air.
Frees your Hands for Flying
When I was going on my pre-check checkride with a different instructor, to make sure I was ready for my checkride, I was fumbling with charts and other tools. I remember juggling my local chart, my flight plan, the protractor and the checklist all freely sitting on my lap. This worked fine until my focus moved from flying and controlling the plane to trying to keep all this junk in my lap instead of down at my feet.
As most of us pilots learned to drive first, the cardinal rule of driving is don’t let things fall down by your feet. And that followed me into the cockpit. Unfortunately during that flight I was more focused on what the papers were doing in my lap than on flying the plane.
The good news was that while I found a flaw in my design, I also learned that I can hand all that crap to my passenger if I needed to.
Assists with Organization In the Cockpit
All flight has flow. You need certain information at certain times of flight. If your papers, or EFB or whatever you use is ordered and on your knee you can easily find what you are looking for when you need it. However, the pile of papers in the passenger seat next to you means you waste valuable time searching for what you need.
Picture this, you’re finishing up your IFR flight and you are going to run the ILS into KABQ. You know you need that plate handy. However, it’s sitting on the seat next to you under the chart you placed there from finishing your cruise portion. Now you have to go digging for the plate before you can brief it. Once you find it you’re already behind the plane and the rest of the approach feels rushed.
While this scenario may only apply to new instrument pilots, knowing exactly where your plate is and easily being able to flip to in on your kneeboard ensures you don’t have to deal with that additional adrenaline.
OK, this one is for all you kneeboard haters. You can always see how aerodynamic your kneeboards really are. Do you need to kill a few minutes with your other pilot friends as you wait for the fuel truck to show up? What about a moment of play for any furry friends you brought with you on your flight? If you find that a kneeboard is causing you more chaos in the plane you can always send it for it’s own maiden voyage. If you do, I want pictures!
For you non EFB fliers this doesn’t really apply to you. However, if you do have an iPad or other electronic flight bag a good kneeboard will double as a protector for your investment. I keep my iPad in my kneeboard all the time. It helps me ensure that I can find my board and my iPad when I need them. As well as keeps that additional layer of protection when my 3 year old gets into my stuff.
Keeps Pencils and Pens close at hand
Let me start out by saying that I’m left handed. So, all those great shirts with the pen pockets are useless for me. And trying to keep a pen hooked to my shirt collar only works for so long. I end up fighting with the stupid clip on the pen before I try and stuff it under my leg so I don’t lose it.
My kneeboard has a nice place for a pen/pencil or, more regularly, I end up putting it under the clip. That way it is where I last placed it. I didn’t have to fight to get it there. And even when I move my kneebaord from my leg to the passenger seat for landing I don’t have to find my pen for writing down my taxi clearance.
If you’ve ever had to ‘remember a clearance’ because your last pen/pencil has rolled under your seat you’ll appreciate having such a handy location.
Serves as a Pilot Desk
GA planes are small and cramped. There is very little room to add a flat surface that you can easily write on for recording your clearances. Kneeboards solve this problem. Most boards have a two flat parts that fold together for easy storage while giving you two flat surfaces across your knee to write on.
I don’t know about you, but everytime I try to write on a piece of paper using my leg as the ‘hard surface’ results in papers being ripped or writing that I can’t read when I need to.
Stores Printed Diagrams Easily
Much like charts, your printed taxi diagrams and approach plates are easily held by the clip on your kneeboard. I tend to print out the taxi diagrams of each airport I intend to land at. This give me a large, readable version at my fingertips. Even when using an EFB I choose to print out this information. It helps me to know exactly where I am on the airport. Keeping this additional paperwork accessible is another reason I like my kneeboard.
Yeah I know, this one is a stretch. However, if you are at a remote airstrip or in a field you may want something that can keep your wheels in place. Simply open the kneeboard in an ‘A’ style and place it in front of one of your main gears. Suggested use: 1 time only and don’t rely on the ability of the ‘chock’ to actually hold your plane. Actually, file this under bad ideas…
Love them or hate them there are valid reasons to use an aviation kneeboard in the cockpit. Even if it’s to hold all the old charts you’ll never pull out. I’m sure you can find something to do with a kneeboard if a family member gets you one.
Do you have any other practical uses for a kneeboard? Did I hit all the uses that you’ve tried or found helpful? What were some of the ways you disposed of kneeboards you either didn’t like or just plain didn’t want?