iPad Pilot Safety Alert

The release by Apple of a new operating system for the iPad, iOS 5, has raised concerns among aviation app providers that pilots’ iPads might lose charts or even entire applications without the user’s knowledge.

The issue has to do with Apple’s decision to let the new operating system delete files at its discretion if it were to run low on space. In a worst-case scenario, a pilot might add a video or download a new app only to have the new operating system delete charts from the application database. When the pilot tried to pull up the chart to fly an approach, it would simply not be there.

This is only a concern for pilots if their iPad is running low on storage space. As you probably know, different models of iPad have different amounts of drive space on them, which is used for storing files used for applications and data, which can include music, videos and photographs. According to an iPad expert from Apple, who spoke with us on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak on the subject, there is no way at this time for users to safeguard certain apps. The issue affects all apps, not just aviation ones.

Hilton Goldstein, president of Hilton Software, developer of the popular app WingX Pro, recommends not upgrading to the new OS on your iPad or iPhone. If you already have made the change, however, or if you have a new iPhone 4S, on which the new OS is native, unfortunately you can’t downgrade. In that case Goldstein suggests keeping “several gigabytes” of storage free as a safety measure.

For its part, ForeFlight recommends keeping extra space handy, and adds that it’s a good idea to turn off cell reception on your device (if it is so equipped), which is especially important with iOS 5, it says, “since your iPad only removes data from apps if it is downloading something, and you can’t be downloading if you’re not connected to the Internet.”

Numerous application developers, including Hilton Software and ForeFlight, have petitioned Apple to change the way the new OS handles storage, but so far Apple has not responded with any changes or proposed changes to what seems an ill-considered storage management scheme.

For a full technical brief on how to safeguard your data with the new iOS, check out the blog on the subject at Foreflight.com.


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