Episode 4: The iPad as a flight tool

Amy and Marc Discuss the Apple iPad, and it’s usefulness in flight.

I really want to be able to say, “The Pad is perfect for flight”, but I can’t. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very useful and handy tool, but it has a few drawbacks. At some point you have to ask yourself, “Is this better than paper in flight?” The answer is that it’s not.

The iPad is convenient. This is the bottom line of what is good about it. So, use it in flight… absolutely. Just don’t expect it to improve the cockpit clutter too much. Having a moving map, or approach plates, are the most useful features, but honestly, a Kindle DX can display plates better than an iPad (no brightness to adjust on Kindle glass – drawback: no color on a Kindle).

The Foreflight software is pretty good, but it still has a way to go in order to do everything you might need. On the other hand, I’m not sure it should ever be designed to do everything. I think the apps should be broken up into phases of flight. Then, have checklists, and incorporate your own workflow into the checklists… then we’ll have something.

All said… the iPad is not perfect for flight. As a preflight planner – it’s awesome. Every pilot should buy one (the 3G model, that is. Specifically for the GPS, but having a data connection is also really handy).

Sarah Lane and Tom Merritt did a show on iPad flying apps on “iPad Today”. Check out their show for a more flying-novice look at the iPad: iPad Today, Episode 5


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3 Responses to Episode 4: The iPad as a flight tool

  1. joatnm says:

    Just to be clear here are some things that you left out or were a bit off on. That said this was a great piece and I agree that the iPad and hopefully Motorolla Xoom, etc. will revolutionize CRM.

    1> A person can use the Wifi only iPad for in flight use. There are many compatible Bluetooth enabled GPS receivers that are much more accurate than the AGPS receiver that comes in the 3G enabled iPad units. You can find much more accurate fix readings with a WAAS enabled Bluetooth GPS.

    2> This is important to note since it has been found that compared against a new handheld Garmin and a panel mounted G1000 GPS that the iPad GPS can be off as much as 14 NM. This problem is most prevalent on climb out and descent to approach and landing. The most critical phases of flight. At steady cruise the AGPS in the iPad was vitually spot on with the other 2 GPS units. Source: Video on Foreflight blog page. The iPad was using foreflight app for iPad.

    3> If you look at the specs on the iPad the unit is only rated up to 10,000 feet MSL! I have called Apple tech support about this. I spoke with techs as well as their supervisors and none of them could tell me why this is. Best answer I could find was a guess by a blogger who guessed that the limit was due to the iPad being succeptible to overheating due to thinner air at high altitudes. And it is true that there have been reports with the first iPads overheating while sitting in cars or in direct sunlight when sitting in a window. So fly high with the iPad at your own risk. They will know if you were up to high since you had your GPS altimiter on.

    Foreflight recently posted an article on their website listing their picks for GPS accessories, maps and apps to compliment Foreflight on iPad. It is worth a look.

    Nate – MT

  2. Marc says:

    To be very clear: we left out allot. 🙂

    PreFlight TV episodes are an introduction to the gizmo, idea, practice, or event, in the way that television news is to newspapers. The episodes are really just a taste.

    For the record, I agree with everything you’re saying.

    I too heard/read the blog story about iPad overheating above 10,000 feet, though I don’t believe it. In an unpressurized aircraft 10,000 feet is ~20F colder than the surface, and pressurized aircraft are pressurized to at least ~8,000 feet. So, the reason doesn’t make any sense to me. My best guess is that Apple simply didn’t test it for higher than 10,000 feet. Why would they? It probably didn’t even cross their minds that general aviation pilots would want to use it.

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