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 one in your flight bag at all times.
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 to purchase in 2021!
The Best iPads for Pilots in 2021
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 tima and time again, being used in professional environments and cockpits all over the world.
Things to Consider
Wifi and/or Cellular?
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.
The last important aspect to consider is the size of your iPad. This depends, of course, on a number of factors, such as your ability to read from smaller screens, the size of your cockpit and the mounting options that are available.
iPad models range from the 7.9 inch iPad Mini, all the way up to the 12.9 inch iPad Pro. While the larger iPad models offer a larger screen that’s easier to read from, they could offer problems in cockpits with less room. It’s therefore important to always consider different screen sizes and buy the model that would fit best in your working environment.
Luckily, there now exist different models with different screen sizes, so you should be able to find an Ipad with just your desired size!
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.
The iPad Mini is the smallest model in Apple’s iPad product line. Among private pilots, this model has become a very popular option, as most general aviation cockpits do not offer that much excess room to mount larger screens.
I personally use an iPad Mini 32 GB with WiFi + Cellular and love the convenience of the small size! My eyes are still pretty good (for now at least), so I have no problem at all reading from the smaller screen. The smaller size is also ideal for storing it in my flight bag!
Of course, many people still prefer a larger screen, so if that’s the case, the 7.9-inch iPad Mini might be just a little too small for you. Luckily, Apple offers a few other models with larger screen sizes.
The regular iPad was Apple’s initial model in the iPad series. Measuring 10.2 inch, this has been the most popular iPad for many years, long before Apple started selling other models with varying screen sizes, such as the iPad Mini, iPad Air and iPad Pro.
The iPad Air is the lighter and slightly larger version of Apple’s regular iPad. It offers just that bit extra screen size while being packed with even more advanced technology. A great option for the small and medium-sized cockpits!
The iPad Pro is Apple’s largest iPad model. This model comes in 3 different screen sizes: 10.2 inches (identical to the regular iPad), 11 inches and 12.9 inches.
So when would the iPad Pro be the best option for you? When you prefer to have a larger screen and have some extra elbow room in the cockpit. This latest model also includes the Retina screens, this makes ForeFlight or other EFB apps look stunning on the big screen!
Our iPad Recommendations
Overall, every model of iPad has its own advantages and disadvantages. While the iPad Mini will fit into the tiniest of cockpits thanks to its lightness and compactness, the iPad Pro will over almost double the screen size and make reading charts a lot more convenient. In the end, the best iPad for flying depends on what you are planning to do with it, in which type of cockpits you would like to use your iPad.. and how good your eyesight is (a considerable factor when using smaller screens)!
In the table below, we summarized some of the most popular models, each with their own specifications that could be a factor in your purchase decision.
|iPad Mini (WiFi + Cellular)||iPad Air (WiFi + Cellular)||iPad Pro (WiFi + Cellular)|
|Best Budget||Best price/quality||Best overall quality and convenience|
|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|
|$350 – $500||$500-600||$1000 – $1200|
|Buy on Amazon||Buy on Amazon||Buy on Amazon|
The Best iPad Cockpit Mounts
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 tablets 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.
Some popular products exist for iPads of any size, such as the Mini, Air & iPad Pro 9.7″ and the iPad Pro 10.5″.
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.
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:
The Best iPad Apps and Software for Pilots
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.
The Best iPad Accessories for Pilots
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 option is the Stratux ADS-B Dual Band Receiver Aviation Weather and Traffic, a great inexpensive receiver that provides you with ADS-B traffic and weather information in flight.
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.
If you want to learn more about flying with an Ipad, we recommend buying a copy of the Flying with the iPad: Tips from iPad Pilot News eBook. It’s cheap and will provide you with some additional tips when it comes to buying the right gear and getting the most out of your iPad EFB while flying.
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!