The first time I crossed the country I wrote up a detailed list of what we carried in the plane. And four years later when I was trying to gather all of my advice for How To Fly Across the country, I took another stab at it.
This page is more specific to the new plane. When we took delivery the ferry pilot was really helpful and went through a bunch of things I would probably want to have in the plane. And the chief pilot down at Angel City Flyers also walked through some with me. It is a very complex machine and carrying the right things to address issues you might have is important to keeping frustration at a minimum.
So, figuring there are other new DA42 pilot owners out there, here is my exhaustive list, as of January 2017, of what’s in there.
A nose baggage area is a great thing. All the things you don’t need in the plane while you are flying can go up there. In particular, things that are messy, like oil filler funnels and cleaning supplies, can go up here and you never have to deal with them in the passenger cabin. When I arrive at the plane for a trip the first thing I do is open the nose baggage door and put in the cowl plugs, the wheel chocks and the pitot cover. Those are all nicely red so that as I stroll up to the plane I am reminded of them and they feel “of a set.”
The advice I got was to grab a few Tupperware containers and fill them up, so that I didn’t have just a bunch of things floating around up there. Good advice. Most importantly, the advice was that the fuel tester should be in a Tupperware container and sealed in a Ziplock bag.
That sounds like overkill, but the nose baggage has a connection to the cabin so that if you have a few drops of fuel in that nice grey carpet it would be “the gift that keeps on giving.” (I also followed the advice to take all of the carpet pieces out of the baggage area (velcro’d in place), and treat them with two coats of ScotchGuard so that they would resist getting wet or stained.)
So there are four Tupperware boxes. One has the fuel tester in it, in the Ziplock bag. It’s the same box that has the hundred pair of disposable gloves. There’s a roll of mechanics paper towels (I guess they are a little tougher than the white ones) and a little step ladder. When I was training I had to crane my neck, standing on my tippy toes, to see into the engine compartment and grab the oil dipstick. That was fine for a dozen or so flights, but not what I want to be doing the rest of the time I’m flying this type. So I have a little set of steps to check the oil and to clean the windscreen.
Speaking of oil, the second box has a liter of oil, a roll of duct tape, and a funnel to get the oil into the engine. On the other side of the baggage area the third box has three liters of oil in it. I have, so far, only used two liters on a cross-the-country trip. So I can probably adjust the amount I am carrying (especially since I would like to start carrying a couple spare gallons of TKS fluid).
That leaves the last box, which lives sans top up in the nose. I have a Leatherman all-purpose tool, a fancy screwdriver with multiple heads, and a bright LED flashlight. There’s a spare LED headlamp for doing things around the plane in the dark. The rest is cleaning supplies. I have used the orange scent around the fresh air inlet when it seems like we are pulling in a fuel smell. The Pledge is apparently the ideal cleaner for the FIKI screens on the leading edges of the wings, applied with the little yellow scrubbie mitt. There are two kinds of spray cleaners for the plexiglas canopy and windows, the big one is an inexpensive WalMart item but apparently the best thing you can get for cleaning off the plastic windows. The smaller cleaner is more complicated and you are, essentially, waxing your windows. That takes longer and it’s probably just twice a year.
(For a long time the fuel smell was a mystery, then one of my mechanics showed me the path that a single drop of fuel would take when the auxiliary tanks are overfilled. It runs down the engine nacelle and winds up on the lower lip of the fresh air intake. The moment the engine starts the propeller forces that droplet (and any friends it has) into the feed for the air into the cabin. This explains why I kept smelling fuel in the cabin. I was convinced there was a leaking fuel line somewhere under my seat.)
Remaining in the baggage area is the cover for the plane, the tow bar (which is now the version that comes with a DA40 and lets you pull the plane; the one that comes with a DA42 just lets you steer the nose wheel, you have to pull on the luggage area), and a little orange-scent air freshener jar I keep up there. You can see a liter of oil in a Ziplock bag, but there’s a Tupperware box with three more liters under the rolled up cover. The black drawstring bag is what I have always called “line service kit,” and in the DA40 was right behind the boys’ seats. They were responsible for grabbing the chocks and (at night) getting us tied down while I did the rest (and Nell booked our hotel or found our food). Now it lives up front, chocks and enough tie down straps to get the plane secured. The gust lock is up here, but I am conflicted by that piece of hardware since you are not meant to lock the rudder when you leave the plane with an FBO. So it is not often installed unless we are tied down in a self-parking area.
The easiest place to set up is the storage under the luggage area. That’s difficult to get to (you need to clear the back seat enough that you can tip the two seat backs forward, then you need to clear the luggage area itself and then you can open the cover. So I only have things under there which I don’t think I will need except in some dire emergency. To whit: the Aircraft Flight Manual (AFM), required to be on board by the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs). There is very little in that book that is not in my head (scary), and a lot of it is duplicated on my iPad. I have had more flat tires than any Diamond pilot I know, so I have a spare tube in there for the mains and another for the nose wheel. There’s a funny little device that I could use to measure the fuel quantity in the main tanks. I never touched that during the eleven years we owned the DA40, but it has to be on board. This is where I keep the stick when it has been removed from the right seat, but that’s not a permanent home. I might move it further forward if I find myself wanting to re-install it more often. And there’s a little yellow piece of metal which is “the winter kit” for the DA42. It fits into a custom hole drilled in the fresh air port and blocks most of the airflow. When the heater can’t keep up because it is -10F outside, reducing the fresh air apparently makes it toasty in the cabin. I tried it from the flight from London, Ontario to St. Louis, Missouri, and then removed it because when at altitude the problem is really the reverse. That’s all that is under that cover, but I hope to slip a few more “long term” items in there.
One of the best gifts I have ever gotten: the flight bag Adam gave me when I passed my check ride. It has my home field in red and all of the airports that I visited during my training listed after it. One of the things I liked about moving from renting planes to owning one is that the flight bag just lives in the plane. And it holds a ton of stuff. Maybe too much. Check back in a year and I think this paragraph (and photographs) will be markedly different. There’s a large first aid kit, and a bag of clean rags for cleaning things up. There are some batteries (less necessary now), and a little container of polish for plexiglas windows. There are portable “rest stop” packets, which I think I got in case the boys needed them in a more desperate way than an emergency descent could help with. We have never opened either box. There are brochures that would be useful on a hike out at the Catalina airport, and a big thick book of a thousand great things to see in the country, but I am not sure we’ve ever looked in there, either.
The truth is I think this should probably be packed with some really warm clothes and old rain gear. The first aid kit is good, but it probably needs to be refreshed. A hand-cranked radio might be a good idea. A solar-charger for USB devices. I don’t think we will ever be stuck in the middle of nowhere, but I have read of people getting stuck overnight at tiny airports with no services to speak of. In fact, we landed at one in Pontiac, Illinois. A stuff-sack with a couple warm sleeping bags would be pretty welcome while waiting out the weather.
We have saved the most important for last. All of the other items are usually invisible to the passengers. The basket, though, is seen by most. When I am flying alone, it is in the footwell of the co-pilot. When I have just one passenger it is behind the right seat so that I can reach into it to grab things. When the boys are in the backseat the basket gets pushed all the way into the baggage area behind them and one of them is responsible for fishing things out of it. I never would have bought something so fancy for the plane, but Nell bought the basket when she was writing on The Muppets and wanted to make the office a little more comfortable. It’s where I toss the emergency food (peanut M&Ms, sugar and some protein) and perch my liter of Fiji water. The red mesh bag is filled with little cables and adapters that the boys need for their electronics, There are airsickness bags, the booklet explaining that if you are a passenger you don’t need to worry about dying in N972RD, and a little first aid kit.
For clearing people’s ears there is some gum, and earplugs if they don’t want to wear a headset (true for Dexter for the first eight years he was in the plane). This is a catchall, so there’s a bottle opener, breath mint items, a manicure set, some hand lotion and a clever LED bracelet in case I am wandering the ramp at a really dark airport. The little alcohol swabs are to clean off the ends of the oxygen hoses, since those are re-used and are right in people’s nostrils. Some very-melted Kind bars round out the basket as pretty decent meal replacements when I am on really long legs. (Okay, this basket could be separated into two baskets: a food and a necessities. I haven’t figured that out yet.)
So a typical flight starts with the backseat looking like this, with a pillow and two blankets tucked behind Nell’s seat and our life vests, Kleenex and paper towels behind mind. The snack basket winds up on one of the seats. Our luggage goes into the area just ahead of the flight bag (and additional life vests). But the great thing is having the plane all ready to go, fueled and prepared, waiting on the tie down for us to come release it and guide it into the sky.