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There's a lot of variety in kneeboards. Some pilots fly with an improvised one: just a small clipboard with some scrap paper on, with a strap glued to the back. At the other extreme, fancy ones come with pen loops, pockets, and maybe even a fold-out area big enough to rest a map.

I'm not looking for a specific recommendation: I'm looking for how to choose. If I decide to make something homebrew, what should I bear in mind? If I buy a commercial product, which features are actually useful and which are "box features"?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Pondlife, fooot, SMS von der Tann, Ralph J, vasin1987 May 30 '18 at 17:29

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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You don't want something so big that it interferes with fully moving your control yoke/stick. I have one that is about 1/2 sheet of paper in size (or about the size of an approach chart), that works good for me. Decent width of velcro strap to go around your leg. Sportys.com has Aluminim VFR and IFR kneeboards, with good info printed right on it. If you roll your own, they also have the same info available as a placard you could stick on. The kneeboard and a few pieces of paper are all I've used.
I fly my own plane, so I can leave pens/pencils in places that are convenient for me. If you are switching between planes, then maybe a kneeboard with holders for a pen or two would be handy also. I also have a yoke mount clip that holds an approach chart. I found that trying to read a chart on my leg under the yoke was too difficult. I may change to an ipad holder on the yoke as that seems to be the trend now.

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You need to chose what works for you, and some trial and error may be pertinent here. Compared to the cost of flying knee boards are pretty cheap to cycle through. There are a few questions to answer that may be impacted by your training and the type of flying you are doing:

Am I an iPad Pilot? These days many people use iPads in the cockpit to replace paper charts. There are lots of options out there for iPad knee boards and with the scratch pad ability in most flying apps you can replace paper all together in the cockpit. If this is the way you fly you will want something sturdy that can hold the iPad in place. You may also want to consider a yoke mount.

Am I a paper pilot? If you like sectionals and a note pad there are various clip style ones out there. You can build one or buy it but I like the ones from the various major aviation suppliers as they tend to have some useful aviation numbers like weather minimums and those pesky tower light signals printed on them for reference. The military style ones tend to have a nice pen holder if thats what your after.

Do you want a side pocket? Be it clip or iPad style most knee boards I have seen are either single plate or dual in that they have a side pocket that hangs over (there are even some trifold ones out there I belive). The side is good for holding gum, extra headset batteries, a pen/stylus or an iPad cable (at least thats whats in mine).

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Keep it small and simple. People sell a lot of fancy kneeboards for use in cockpits and you'll quickly find that 90% of the features aren't going to be very helpful to you as a pilot. Most are gimmicks and useless stuff. Worse yet large awkward kneeboards or yoke mounts can interfere with one's ability to operate the flight controls effectively. Just like gun aficionados will inevitably collect a drawer full of holsters, most pilots have a drawer full of old kneeboards with fancy features they saw in Sporty's and bought for 60 or so bucks but never quite worked as well as the basic $15 ASA kneeboard they inevitably ended up using.

My personal setup is a Hendrick's 9G Plus kneeboard which I use in conjunction with an iPad Mini 4 and ForeFlight. It's a compact, functional, and simple - if somewhat pricey - kneeboard. The iPad is contained in a Urban Assault Gear hard rubber case which the kneeboard can clip on to hold it in place. It's by far the cleanest solution for using a kneeboard in the cockpit combined with an EFB.

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