Finding the perfect gift for a pilot or aviation enthusiast can be challenging. So we have compiled a list of seven awesome aviation-themed gifts that are as special as they are unique. We've listed these in no particular order and will provide updates as new ideas come along.
- Aviation Art – (Of course) Aviation art is a timeless, classic gift for the
flight enthusiast – especially for pilots and history geeks. And a high-quality
fine art print can become a treasured heirloom for generations.
Aviation art can be very personal since it can match the recipients interests and personality. A print that is also co-signed by a history making airman has a way of making the print come alive; connecting the imagery with the personalized signature of aviators who accomplished lived the imagery depicted and made history. Co-signatures also add significant long-term value to the print. This is more true with each passing year as more of these aviators pass away making each surviving autographed print that much rarer. Imagine today’s value of a print depicting the WWI Flying Circus in combat – signed by the Red Baron himself? Or how about the Baron’s signature countersigned by the English airman who survived the encounter. Autographed prints of those specific pilots and aces don’t exist. But if they did, their value would be astronomical.
So while all quality aviation art is a good investments and is a thoughtful gift that can bring a smile to their recipient for many years. One that also …appreciates in value is never a bad idea. Today, you can buy prints signed by Eric Hartmann, the highest-scoring ace in the history of the world (352 kills), Chuck Yeager, Adolph Galland, Jimmy Doolittle, Pappy Boyington, and many others, including veterans of most major historical aviation events from WW2 and after. Pearl Harbor, Midway, Flying Tigers, Battle of Britain, Enola Gay, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War… the list goes on if you are willing to look. Many of these pilots have already passed on, making such prints increasingly limited opportunities for giving a truly timeless gift.
- Pilot's Watch – One of the first gifts I bought my Dad after I
started earning regular paychecks was a pilot’s watch. He was a pilot wearing a pedestrian watch so
I found him a pilots watch that matched his personality and needs. But any
flight enthusiast can appreciate a cool pilots watch since they provide the
necessity of telling time. But they do so with a aviators’ swagger! A good
watch can last year’s and its timeless design so kit never goes out of style. A
good pilots watch usually starts at over $100 and goes well into the multiple
thousands of dollars.
- Aviation Jewelry – Jewelry is always a welcome gift for men and
woman, young or old. Aviation-themed jewelry may seem like a novelty, but there
is a wide selection available that is unique, tasteful and classic. A subtle aviation necklace or bracelet marks
their interests while staying attractive and classy. For men, sophisticated
cufflinks or a perhaps an industrial piece like jewelry made from authentic aircraft parts. Each is unique and excellent conversation starters.
- Flying Experience – Not the cheapest, but certainly the most
memorable, the gift of an authentic flying experience can make a life-long
impression. These can range from a ride
in a B-17 or AT6 at the local airshow to something more exciting, like
dogfighting in real warbirds with lasers instead of bullets. I’ve done a few of
these myself and they are cherished memories.
One experience was an amazing afternoon spent flying formation and dogfighting
against my dad in a couple of T-34s. He’s a former Navy flight instructor, so I
lost - every time. But I made him work for it! Another was in a pair of sleek Marchettis with Air Combat USA. I can vouch for this group’s professionalism,
but there others to choose from.
Warbird flights are available that offer a more in-depth and immersive experience than a quick airshow ride as well. Stallion 51 based in Kissimmee, FL offers exhilarating performance flights and actual flight training in their tandem seat P-51 Mustangs, Crazy Horse and Crazy Horse 2. I did some work with this group in a previous life and they inspire confidence with your excitement. If the Mustang is too slow, you can experience the same thrills at a faster pace in their Czech-made J-39 jets.
of Immortality – Many aviation museums and monuments offer naming recognition in
exchange for a donation. One example is
the Wall of Honor which is a permanent
memorial at the Smithsonian’s Air & Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA. It is open to recognize anyone with a
passion for flight. You can add a name
to the wall for as little as $100. This
is a thoughtful way to honor an aviator or flight enthusiast that will last in
- Day at the Airshow – Few things get the blood racing in an
aviation fan more than an entire day spent smelling AV gas and listening to the
song of a Merlin! If you go this route, pick a special air show. A big one. And
it MUST feature the Blue Angels or Thunderbirds. No disrespect to any of the
many wonderful smaller airshows out there, but for a memorable gift, make it a
top-shelf show! For a list of upcoming airshows, check out this link.
- Heirloom Quality Décor – this is a little different than a fine aviation art piece and you might need to look around a little to find one that is perfect for your gift recipient. We carry some, but these are usually décor pieces or furniture made from rare authentic aircraft parts. They can be warbird propellers or pistons crafted into clocks and watch holders. They are unique, attention-getting and industrial sophisticated. These can be a bit pricey, but they last forever. And like fine art, they can be passed down for generations.