The iPad has made our lifes in the cockpit a lot easier. With today's airspace and cockpit workload, it's hard to imagine flying without.
But which iPad should you buy and how do you mount it in the cockpit? In this definitive guide, we will discuss the best iPads, mounts and accessories you can buy!
When it comes to tablets, there's a wide choice ranging from cheap Chinese models, to Samsung's Android tablets and the Apple iPad at the higher end of the price spectrum.
For use in the cockpit, Apple's products have proven themselves again and again, being used in professional environments and cockpits all over the world.
The Apple iPad line features quite a few different models, from the smallest iPad Mini to the newest iPad Pro with a maximum screen size of 12.9 inch.
Below, we will list some of the most popular iPad models for use inside the cockpit.
Since we want to use our iPad mostly as an in-flight GPS, we will need some sort of GPS receiver. In general, you will have two options; Either you can buy an iPad with WiFi + Cellular, which includes a built-in GPS module, or you buy an iPad with just WiFi and will need to buy a separate GPS module. We will discuss this more deeply below.
The Cellular model will usually be about $100-$200 more expensive than the model without, but this is worth it. Even if you plan on using an external GPS module, the cellular capability will allow you to go online in places without WiFi connection, like the cockpit or tarmac. This way, you will be able to check weather, NOTAMS, update charts, etc.
Like most portable electronic devices, iPads can be bought with different options when it comes to storage space. The new iPad Mini, for example, can be bought with 64GB or 265GB storage space. Whichever is best ultimately depends on your mission and what you want to use the iPad for. Planning on using it just for flying? Then the smaller 64GB model might be sufficient. If you want to use it for more than just flying, a little extra storage space will never hurt.
In the end, it all depends on whatever your budget allows.
We listed some of our personal recommendations below, with some points of comparison.
iPad Mini (WiFi + Cellular)
iPad Air (WiFi + Cellular)
iPad Pro (WiFi + Cellular)
Best overal quality
|Ideal for smaller cockpits||Fits in practically every cockpit||Great for larger cockpits|
|7.9 inch||10.5 inch||12.9 inch|
|300.5 grams||456 grams||633 grams|
|134.8 mm x 203.2 mm||174.1 mm x 250.6 mm||241.9 mm x 380.6 mm|
|Buy now on Amazon||Buy now on Amazon||Buy now on Amazon|
Having an iPad in the cockpit can be a great help, but the hardest part is often finding the right spot that's both easy to use and not compromising safety inside the cockpit.
We went searching for some of the best mounts you can use to safely mount your iPad in the cockpit.
In general, you have two major options: either you mount your iPad directly inside the cockpit, for example on the yoke or attached to the windshield. We will first list a few great options to mount your iPad this way. The second possibility is to use an iPad kneeboard, which allows you to attach your iPad or other tablet to the kneeboard on your lap. This offers some more flexibility when it comes to flying different types of aircraft, however having to constantly look down may jeopardize your situational awareness and lookout when flying.
The first option we'll discuss is mounting your iPad on your aircraft's yoke using a clamp mount. This is a convenient way when flying a yoke-equipped aircraft like the popular Cessna C172.
A second option is to mount your iPad on the windshield of your aircraft. This is especially useful if you fly a non-yoke-equipped aircraft like the DA40. Using a suction cup mount, the iPad mount is attached to the windshield, giving you more flexibility of where you want your iPad to be in the cockpit.
Again, we found some great options for the iPad Mini and iPad Air & iPad Pro 9.7". We would not recommend this product for the larger iPad Pro 10.5" because of its weight and potential pressure on your valuable aircraft windshield.
Buy now on Amazon
Another good, but little more expensive, option is the MyGoFlight Universal iPad Suction Mount Kit. This kit includes a suction mount and iPad cradle, and supports iPad Air, iPad mini, Galaxy Tab and any other tablet, offering maximum flexibility!
Finally, we have a third option: mounting your iPad on your lap using a special kneeboard. We have recently created another guide covering the best kneeboards for pilots, including some popular options for iPad kneeboards.
The below options seem to be the most frequently bought ones:
Buy now on Amazon
There are some great iPad apps and pieces of software to help you before, during and after your flight. These apps can help you during flight planning and performance calculations, in addition to aiding in navigation during your flights. With today's complex airspace, flying without becomes a real challenge.
Although we have personally tried only a few, the following list contains some popular apps and software that are used in flight schools, FBO's, airlines and cockpits around the world.
To really take advantage of flying with an iPad and get the most out of the aviation apps you use, there exist some extra accessories you can purchase. Again, depending on your needs and budget, other options might be more applicable.
One of these options is the Sentry ADS-B receiver. This gadget is a compact, powerful, next-generation Dual-Band ADS-B receiver. It provides reassuring redundancy for location tracking, compatible with four GNSS systems: GPS, Galileo, GLONASS, and BeiDu and can track three satellite constellations concurrently. In addition to essential FIS-B weather, flight information, traffic, and attitude, Sentry adds a Carbon Monoxide sensor and alarm, a 12-hour battery, and a high-capacity data card for Weather Replay and storage. Sentry is packaged in the smallest form factor yet for a device this capable.
Buy now on Amazon
If your budget is a little tighter, the Stratux ADS-B Dual Band Receiver Aviation Weather and Traffic is a great inexpensive alternative that provides you with ADS-B traffic and weather information in flight.
Buy now on Amazon
Another useful accessory is some sort of additional battery capacity. Like every battery-powered electronic devices, batteries may die. During critical phases of flight, this is the last thing you need. Bringing along a power bank with some extra juice for your iPad could be a life-saver.
We personally recommend the Anker PowerCore 20100mAh. It weighs as little as a can of soup (12.5 oz) yet charges the iPhone 7 almost seven times, the Galaxy S6 five times or the iPad Mini 4 twice.
In the end, it all comes down to personal preferences and what fits your mission. Flying with an iPad can greatly increase safety, but only when used in the proper way and while paying close attention to the possible distraction factor that's involved with using electronic devices in the cockpit. The tools and gear mentioned above are just a small fraction of what's available on the market today, so it is impossible to give an extensive list of every single product with their strengths and weaknesses. We did, however, do our best to point you in the right direction and cover some of the most popular and widely-used products in cockpits all over the US and the rest of the world.
Cover image by iPadPilotNews.com. Check out their website for more great information about flying with an iPad!
Have any questions, suggestions or remarks about this guide? Let us know in the comments below!
Last updated on January 21, 2020 by Senne Vandenputte