“You pilots like your trinkets,” remarked a friend I spotted flicking through a well-known flying shop catalogue. This neatly summed up the need for a good, serviceable flight bag. My own flight bag is in its 20s now, but still faithfully does its work, the only giveaway to its age being scuffed plastic trim and a few separating seams.
That makes me one of those people who caused the Classic Flight Bag’s creator, Paul Lemley, to wonder why pilots, from students to professionals, transport their kit around in variations of a multi-pocketed, zip-festooned nylon/polyester theme. A crime of mediocrity in an exciting sport? He decided we needed a more stylish option.
Made from ‘Crazy Horse’ leather – that’s the name given to the particular way of oiling and waxing this type of hide during the tanning process – this hand-stitched satchel-bag has a very robust appearance. It is intended to ‘meet the high standards of any sartorially conscious aviator’. No zips, fastening is courtesy of three old-school buckles which would look right at home on a deHavilland Moth. A carrying handle and an adjustable, padded shoulder strap that can be detached, complete the look. Weight is 2.5kg. The leather looks heavy but it’s really no heavier than my own, typical flight bag.
Despite its slim appearance, the bag expands generously to accommodate all the usual flight bag kit. Our particular test saw it loaded for the weekend with a pair of headsets, a couple of flight guides, map, kneeboard, spare glasses and other flotsam. The interior is divided into front and rear compartments, both cotton-lined, with the front having two smaller pockets perfectly sized for licences or logbooks. There’s a couple of small exterior pockets on the sides and one at the back but these have no way of closing them so I wouldn’t use them for things I might worry about losing.
In use, there’s not much to say as it does the job of containing things very well but really just like any other bag. It’s comfortable to carry, either in hand or on the shoulder, and it surely achieves its goal of being more stylish than a typical flight bag. Don a pair of Ray-Bans and throw this over your shoulder and you’d probably be your airfield’s sharpest-looking aviator.
However, it comes at a fairly high cost: $495 (£309 at the current exchange rate), making it more than five times as expensive as equivalent-sized bags you might buy to do the same job. Lemley does offer free delivery to the UK, (at which point, the good people of HMRC will probably want to charge VAT on the bag’s ticket price), plus there’s the offer of a 110% value refund if you’re not totally convinced it fits with your pilot wardrobe choices.
Are pilots looking to spend more on something artisan-crafted from natural materials? I’m not so sure, especially in today’s times of being more cost-conscious. I’m sure in 20 years time this bag will have aged more elegantly than my own but I can’t see it doing the job any better. It does look good though. – Ed Hicks