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Best iPad for Pilots

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In this article I’ll help you pick the best aviation iPad for your flying situation.

Tablet computers are everywhere these days, but there are few places where they are more valuable than in the cockpit of an airplane.

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Why Have an iPad in the Cockpit?

It’s safe to say that the Apple iPad has revolutionized flying. That might sound extreme, but the capabilities of this tiny device so perfectly match a pilot’s needs that it’s hard to imagine flying without one.

These days, you’d be hard-pressed to find a cockpit where the pilots are using nothing but old-school paper charts. Electronic charts are easier to keep updated and more manageable to use in the cockpit. 

But it isn’t just inside the plane that the iPad shines. iPads make preflight planning easy, with cross-country planning tools and even weight and balance calculators. 

iPad for Foreflight

From planning, weather analysis, and chart viewing to in-flight terrain and hazard tracking, synthetic vision, and even flight profile recording, Foreflight does it all.  So when looking for the best iPad for Foreflight I recommend getting more memory.

Foreflight requires a significant amount of memory, especially if you fly across the country and will need more charts downloaded to your device. Don’t get the smallest memory option.

iPad vs Android for Pilots

You might wonder why you don’t hear about more pilots using Android tablets.

One big reason is that Foreflight is an Apple-only app. There are alternative apps available in the Google Play store, like the Garmin Pilot app, but none of these have the same following that Foreflight does. 

iPad Reliability

Another reason is the iPad’s fantastic reliability.

The iPad was designed from the ground up to be highly stable. That design and engineering have helped it achieve a record of reliability that is unmatched by other devices.

As a result, beyond a battery failure or physical damage, iPads are some of the most stable and reliable tablets on the market today. 

Models — iPad Pro, Air, iPad, or Mini?

iPad Pro models come with the largest and most advanced displays. Currently, there is an 11- and a 12.9-inch version available. They are also currently the only iPads powered by Apple’s newest M1 chip. 

iPad mini for pilots

Choosing A Size

So, which model is suitable for a pilot? The answer depends on what exactly you want to use the iPad for. If it is limited to travel and cockpit use, you might like the small and light form-factor of the Mini.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for an all-around laptop replacement, look at the smaller-screened Pros. 

The exact model you pick will depend more on price, availability, and features. In the end, they all run the same very capable iPadOS and apps. 

Best iPad for Student Pilots

If you’re looking to purchase an iPad as a student pilot I’d recommend looking at the Mini. Its compact size fits well in the cockpit of a Cessna 172 or Piper Archer (two of the most popular training aircraft).

Trying to handle an iPad Pro in such a tight space will be challenging. The regular iPad or iPad Air isn’t too bad in a smaller cockpit but the Mini is easily the most comfortable.

Apple iPad Mini (6th Generation): with A15 Bionic chip
$399.99


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02/19/2024 08:20 pm GMT

Connectivity — WiFi-Only, or WiFi + Cellular?

Rather than worry about which model to purchase, your first question needs to center around connectivity and storage. These will make a bigger difference in your overall iPad experience than the actual model will.

Here’s what you need to know about WiFi-only iPads—they do not have an onboard GPS chip. In contrast, a cellular iPad will always have a GPS signal, even if you don’t have an active data subscription for the cellular service. 

In my view, the best iPad for flying is the basic iPad. It’s a good size for easy viewing but not too large like the iPad Pro.

Apple iPad (10th Generation): with A14 Bionic chip, 10.9-inch Liquid Retina Display
$349.00


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02/19/2024 08:19 pm GMT

Storage — How Much Does a Pilot Need?

iPad capacities vary depending on the model. For example, the Mini comes in either 64 or 256 GB, while the Pro starts at 128 GB and goes all the way up to 2 TB. 

Foreflight recommends using one with at least 128 GB of onboard memory. Remember, you’ll be downloading your charts and supplements for offline use, so the app does take up a fair amount of space.

One of my previous iPad’s had a lower storage limit and on multiple occasions, I’ve had to go through and delete apps and other items from the iPad in order to update my charts in Foreflight.

You’ll probably also download some other apps, textbooks, and maybe some flight manuals.

If you follow their recommendations, you’ll have plenty of space to download charts for your local area and have room left over for music, movies, and fun stuff.

iPad Accessories for Pilots

Mounts and Holders

Mounts and holders secure the iPad within the cockpit, providing stability and optimal viewing angles. 

PIVOT creates a case and mount system that many pilots like. The mounts are strong and will hold your iPad in whatever position you set it. The biggest downside is that their mounts will only work with their cases so you’re locked in to their system. 

PIVOT Single Suction Cup Mount – Curved Arm – Supports Multi-Angle Display and Viewing
$49.95


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02/19/2024 08:47 pm GMT

MyGoFlight offers flexible mounting solutions that cater to a pilot’s preference, whether it’s a yoke mount, suction cup, or glare shield attachment.

MYGOFLIGHT Flex Yoke Articulated Arm Sport Mount
$149.00


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02/19/2024 08:51 pm GMT

Protective Cases

A good protective case is crucial for preventing damage to the iPad. The OtterBox Defender Series cases are known for their rugged build, offering drop and scratch protection.

MyGoFlight also makes an iPad case that hooks into their mounts. Their cases are a sound option, especially if you want to use their mounts.

As mentioned above, PIVOT makes some fantastic, durable cases that will work with their mount. The biggest downside to their cases is the high price point, with most of their cases priced at over $100.

PIVOT A22A Atlas Tablet Case – Fits iPad (10th gen.) – 360 Degree Protection
$149.95


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02/19/2024 08:49 pm GMT

Power Accessories

Maintaining a charge during long flights is vital. An Anker PowerCore portable charger can keep the iPad powered for extended periods.

Anker Portable Charger, USB-C Power Bank 20000mAh with 20W Power Delivery
$29.99


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02/19/2024 08:59 pm GMT

Final Thoughts

  1. 2021 Apple iPad Mini (Wi-Fi + Cellular, 256GB)
    Buy Now

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  2. 2020 Apple iPad Air 10.9-inch (Wi-Fi + Cellular, 256GB)
    $599.00 $465.69
    Buy Now

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    02/18/2024 03:13 am GMT
  3. 2021 Apple 10.2-inch iPad (Wi-Fi, 64GB) - Silver
    $249.00

    A tablet is a must-have in the cockpit in 2021. If you’re not sure which one to go with the Apple iPad is easily the most popular tablet on the market. The 2021 iPad is a great option. Some people also like the iPad Mini and if you really want cutting edge go with the iPad Air.

    Buy Now View All iPads

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    02/18/2024 06:49 pm GMT
  4. 2021 Apple 11-inch iPad Pro (Wi-Fi + Cellular, 256GB)
    $1,099.00 $879.98
    Buy Now

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    02/18/2024 10:14 pm GMT
  5. 2021 Apple 12.9-inch iPad Pro (Wi‑Fi + Cellular 256GB)
    $979.99
    Buy Now

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    02/18/2024 09:23 am GMT
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Comments

One response to “Best iPad for Pilots”

  1. Larry clasen

    Can garmin pilot be Installed in ipad mini?

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