If you’ve heard of the company Skilcraft, it’s probably for two reasons. First, it’s the manufacturer of the U.S. Government Pen, a low-cost, professional-looking ballpoint that also happens to be very reliable. And second, it’s held in high regard by the National Industries for the Blind for employing scores of blind workers in their manufacturing facilities. Skilcraft is a good company, and so I was interested in trying another of the their well-known pens, the stealthy-looking B3 Aviator multi-pen.
As the pen’s name makes obvious, the B3 Aviator is marketed towards pilots. It meets the FAA’s “FOD” requirements, and it has a matte black finish to prevent glare. The multi-pen has three components: a 1.0mm black ballpoint, a 1.0mm red ballpoint, and a 0.5mm mechanical pencil. The midpoint of the barrel twists in either direction to eject and retract the three tips in turn, and the end-cap also screws off to reveal an eraser.
Oddly, the design and function of the B3 Aviator is pretty much identical to the Zebra Surari Sharbo 1000. So, it probably goes without saying that the problems I had with the Sharbo are the same problems I have with the Aviator. In particular, there’s no indication on the barrel for which tip is selected (you have to closely examine the tip to know if you’re about to write with black ink/red ink/pencil), and the cap that covers the eraser is a small piece that’s begging to be lost. For some reason, I also had some trouble getting the Aviator’s pencil lead to eject without breaking.
But, unlike the Sharbo, the Aviator feels a lot more substantial and durable – for about $18, you don’t feel like you’re getting ripped off. But that’s all that this pen really has going for it. The refills are fine, and it generally works okay. However, I still wouldn’t recommend this multi-pen – the design just isn’t very good.
3 thoughts on “Multi-Pen Review: Skilcraft B3 Aviator”
The Skilcraft B3 is my go-to EDC pen/pencil. It’s slim profile works great with my pocket notebook and it is a great alternative to the much larger and more expensive metal-bodied multi-pens that are on the market. I’ve tried to carry other plastic multi-pens such as those made by Bic and Pilot, but their plastic bodies are not always ideal for putting in your pants pocket. A big plus for buying this pen is that it helps support an American company that employs blind workers.
If you need a durable multi-pen, then the Aviator is good for that. But the twist mechanism – specifically the fact that you can’t see which tip you’re turning it to – really annoys me.
The matte black paint on the Skilcraft pen gets scraped off easily. Mine was scraped quite badly so I decided to strip off the entire paint on the pen. Beneath the matte black paintwork, the pen is actually gold and silver in colour.