A pen for pilots may not at first seem like the most important cockpit tool but don’t underestimate this humble implement. When you consider the frequent necessity to jot down frequency numbers, carry out calculations, or otherwise write things down the last thing you want is a pen to run out or a broken pencil.
If you’re a pilot, whether private or commercial, you know that even in this digital age, the pen is mightier than the touchscreen.
What Type of Pen for Pilots Are There?
Ballpoint Pens: The Classic Choice
Ballpoint pens are a staple in the cockpit. They are reliable, easy to use, and don’t leak at high altitudes. The ink dries quickly, reducing the risk of smudging important documents like flight logs.
Gel Pens: For the Smooth Operators
Some pilots prefer the smooth writing experience of a gel pen. However, these are less common due to their tendency to smudge if not given enough time to dry.
The Importance of Quick-Drying Ink
Pilots often need to jot down information quickly. Therefore, quick-drying ink is a must-have feature to prevent smudging and ensure legibility.
The Skilcraft B3 Aviator Multi-function Pen
A Pen, Pencil, and More!
The Skilcraft B3 Aviator is the Swiss Army knife of pens for pilots. It features black and red ink options, along with a 0.5mm pencil. This multi-functionality makes it a favourite among pilots.
Designed for the Skies
This pen is designed with aviation in mind. It’s pressure-resistant, ensuring no leaks at high altitudes, and its slender design fits perfectly in a pilot’s hand.
Where to Buy
The Skilcraft B3 Aviator is widely available online and in aviation supply stores. It’s a bit on the pricey side, but its durability and features make it a worthwhile investment.
Fisher Space Pens
Fisher Space Pens are used by astronauts, pilots, and other professionals who need a pen that can write in extreme conditions. They are also popular among collectors and enthusiasts.
The Special Features of a Pilot’s Pen
One of the most critical features of a pilot’s pen is its ability to withstand high pressure. At cruising altitudes, the pressure changes can cause regular pens to leak, but not a pilot’s pen!
Many pens designed for pilots come with multiple functions, such as a built-in stylus for touchscreen navigation or even a flashlight for those night flights.
These pens are built to last. Made from high-quality materials like aircraft-grade aluminium, they can withstand the rigours of daily use in a cockpit environment.
Essential Accessories for Pilot Pens
- Pen Holders: A pen holder that attaches to the pilot’s clipboard or kneeboard ensures that the pen is always within reach.
- Refills: Pilots often opt for pens with easily replaceable ink cartridges. This feature is especially useful for long-haul flights.
- Cleaning Kits: Ink can sometimes clog the pen’s tip, so a cleaning kit is a handy accessory to maintain the pen’s performance.
UniJet Stream Prime High Grade Multi Ballpoint Pen
- Rotating Extrusion / With Sharp Eraser
- Weight: 1.1 oz (30.6 g)
- Lead diameter: 0.02 inches (0.5 mm)
- Ball Diameter: 0.7mm Ink Color: Black, Red, Blue
- Size: Shaft Diameter 0.4 x Thickness 0.6 x Total Length 5.4 inches (11.7 x 16.1 x 138.8 mm)
Space Pens: Used By Pilots And Astronauts
What Are Space Pens?
Space pens are specialised writing instruments designed to function in the extreme conditions of outer space. Unlike regular pens that rely on gravity to feed ink to the tip, space pens use pressurised cartridges. This allows them to write in zero gravity, underwater, over grease, and in extreme temperatures ranging from -30°F to 250°F.
The Birth of the Space Pen
The space pen was developed by American pen manufacturer Fisher Space Pen Co., founded by Paul C. Fisher. The pen, known as the Fisher Space Pen, was first patented in 1965 and was later approved by NASA for use by astronauts. It made its maiden voyage into space on the Apollo 7 mission in 1968.
How Do Space Pens Work?
The secret behind the space pen’s functionality is its pressurised ink cartridge. The ink is forced out by compressed nitrogen, allowing the pen to write in conditions where ordinary pens would fail. The ink itself is a special thixotropic ink, which remains solid until subjected to pressure, ensuring it won’t leak or dry up.
Space Pens and Aviation
While space pens were initially designed for astronauts, their unique features make them incredibly useful for pilots as well. The ability to write in extreme conditions, including high altitudes and varying pressures, makes the space pen a valuable tool in a pilot’s arsenal.
Fisher Space Pens
The Fisher Space Pen uses a pressurized ink cartridge that is filled with nitrogen gas. This pressure forces the ink to flow out of the pen, even when the pen is held upside down or in zero gravity. The ink is also thixotropic, which means that it becomes thicker when it is not in use. This prevents the ink from leaking out of the pen.
Fisher Space Pens are made from a variety of materials, including brass, stainless steel, and titanium. They are available in a variety of colors and styles.
Space pens represent a pinnacle of writing technology, designed to function where other pens cannot. Whether you’re an astronaut floating in zero gravity or a pilot navigating through turbulent skies, a space pen is designed to be as versatile and resilient as you are.
Writing Implements of WWII Pilots: A Historical Perspective
The Fountain Pen: A Necessity of the Time
During World War II, the fountain pen was the go-to writing implement for pilots. Unlike today’s advanced pens designed for high-altitude and pressure changes, the fountain pens of the 1940s were relatively simple. However, they were reliable and got the job done. Pilots used them for jotting down coordinates, making quick calculations, and even writing letters home.
Type of Fountain Pen
- The Parker 51: This pen was known for its smooth writing and durability. It was also relatively inexpensive, making it a popular choice for military pilots.
- The Waterman Ideal: This pen was also known for its smooth writing and durability. It was a bit more expensive than the Parker 51, but it was still a popular choice for military pilots.
- The Sheaffer Snorkel: This pen was unique in that it had a retractable nib that could be stored inside the barrel of the pen. This made it a popular choice for pilots, as it was less likely to leak in the event of a crash.
- The Eversharp Skyline: This pen was known for its sleek design and affordable price. It was a popular choice for both military and civilian pilots.
- The Cross Townsend: This pen was known for its high quality and luxurious design. It was a popular choice for high-ranking officers and pilots.
These are just a few of the many pens that were used by pilots and navigators in World War II. The specific pen that a pilot or navigator used often depended on their personal preference and the availability of pens at the time.
In addition to these pens, pilots and navigators also used pencils in the cockpit and on the navigator’s table. Pencils were less likely to leak than pens, and they were also easier to erase. However, pencils could be harder to write with in cold weather.
No matter what type of pen or pencil they used, pilots and navigators in World War II relied on these writing instruments to record important information during their missions. This information could be vital to the success of the mission, and it could also help to save lives.
The Challenges of Using Fountain Pens in Combat
Fountain pens are not ideal for high-pressure environments, and WWII pilots often faced issues with ink leakage, especially during rapid altitude changes. Yet, the fountain pen was a crucial tool, and pilots had to make do with what was available.
Adapting to the Conditions
To counter the limitations of fountain pens, pilots often carried inkwells and blotting paper. Some even resorted to using pencils as a more reliable alternative, especially during longer missions where the risk of a pen leaking or drying out was higher.
The Evolution of Necessity
The experiences of WWII pilots with their writing implements played a role in the development of more advanced pens designed for aviation. It was clear that the pens needed to be as tough and versatile as the men and women using them. This led to the development of the multi-functional and pressure-resistant pens that modern pilots use today.