What’s the Best iPad for Pilots?

Looking for the best iPad for pilots? Before you decide which one is the best iPad for flying with your electronic flight bag (EFB) apps, you have to make some personal choices. Here are a few important things to consider. 

Whether they’re Apple-brand iPads or Android tablets, you are probably already aware that tablets and pilot software can bring glass cockpit performance, including avionics and situational awareness technology, to any airplane. Pilots in the market for cockpit tablets should think about which aviation apps they use. Are you a fan of ForeFlight? Or is Garmin Pilot your go-to app? This is important because not all tablets run all popular apps. Ultimately, your choice of the tablet will be driven by your EFB app of choice.

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Quicklook: Best iPad and Tablets for Pilots

  1. Apple iPad Air: Best for pilots who use the ForeFlight aviation app.
  2. Samsung Galaxy Tab A8: Best for pilots using the Garmin Pilot aviation app.
  3. Apple iPad Mini: Best for student pilots and pilots flying small aircraft. 
  4. Apple iPad Pro: Best for Foreflight users with more flight deck space.
  5. Amazon Fire HD 10: Best for affordability and entering at a low price point.

5 Best iPads & Tablets for Pilots

We’ve done a bit of research and came up with five of the best iPads and tablets for pilots. Take a look at these options and see if any of these might be worth considering, based on how you fly, your pilot software, and what your mission goals are when you take flight.

Apple iPad Air (4th Generation or Higher)

Best For: Pilots who want to use the Foreflight or other iOS-based EFBs. 

The ForeFlight Mobile EFB leads the industry. For many aviators, it’s the first and only choice for pilot software. However, the popular program only runs on Apple’s iOS. So, Apple’s iPad Air 10.9-inch tablet is a great choice to run the platform. Its 256GB storage capacity can store any charts, flight plans, or documents you may need. With more than 10 hours of battery life, this industry-leading tablet will last through even the longest GA flights.

Display Size: 10.9 inches (diagonal) 

Display Resolution: 2360 x 1640 pixels at 264 pixels per inch (ppi)

Weight:  1.02 pounds

Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, cellular, internal GPS

Battery Life: 10+ hours

Type of Port: USB-C

Storage: 256GB

Special Features:

  • Touch ID for unlocking the device
  • Digital Compass

Samsung Galaxy Tab A8

Best For: Pilots who want to use Garmin Pilot or other Android-based EFBs. 

While the Android operating system that powers Samsung’s Galaxy Tab A8 tablet will not run ForeFlight, even the model with 128GB of storage is priced at less than half of the iPad Air 10.5-inch tablet and will be a wise choice if Garmin Pilot or other Android-based EFBs are your choice. The use of a microSD card for storage expansion gives users 512GB of room for charts, documents, and of course, photos and videos of your favorite destinations.

Display Size: 10.5 inches (diagonal)

Display Resolution: 1920 x 1200 pixels

Weight: 1.12 pounds

Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, cellular, internal GPS

Battery Life: All day (approximately 12 hours)

Type of Port: USB-C

Storage: 128GB

Special Features

  •  MicroSD card for extra storage

Apple iPad Mini (6th Generation or Higher)

Best For: Student pilots or pilots flying very small aircraft using an iOS-supported EFB. 

With a 8.3-inch screen, Apple’s iPad Mini offers a small size that’s less likely to get in the way inside a small cockpit, such as trainers or various types of light, small aircraft. 

Display Size: 8.3 inches (diagonal)

Display Resolution: 2266 x 1488 at 326 pixels per inch (ppi)

Weight: 0.66 pounds

Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, cellular, internal GPS

Battery Life: Up to 10 hours

Type of Port: USB-C 

Storage: 64GB or 256GB

Special Features

  • Small, lightweight, easy to handle
  • Digital Compass
  • Touch ID

Apple iPad Pro (11-inch Model)

Best For: Pilots using ForeFlight or another iOS-based EFB and who operate aircraft that can accommodate a larger tablet. 

ForeFlight recommends this best ipad for pilots as its “top choice.” Specifically, the guide suggests iPad Pro models that are outfitted for Wi-Fi and cellular because the internal GPS chip enables moving map capabilities. The EFB also recommends the 256GB model because the ForeFlight app alone requires 15GB to fully operate throughout the U.S.

Display Size: 11 inches (diagonal) 

Display Resolution: 2388 x 1668 pixels at 264 pixels per inch (ppi)

Weight: 1.04 pounds

Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, cellular, internal GPS

Battery Life: Up to 9 hours

Type of Port: USB-C

Storage: 256GB

Special Features

  • Digital Compass
  • Face ID

Amazon Fire HD 10

Best For: Pilots looking for a very affordable tablet for running OS EFB apps. 

There are a number of EFB apps that will run on the Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet, including Hilton Software’s WingX and others. If entry price is a big consideration for adding a tablet-based EFB to your cockpit, the Fire HD 10 may suit your needs. However because it has no cellular network capability and therefore no built-in GPS functionality, it requires an additional external Bluetooth GPS to render moving maps and geo-referenced charts.

Display Size: 10.1 inches (diagonal) 

Display Resolution: 1920 x 1200 with over 2 million pixels (224 ppi)

Weight: 1.025 pounds

Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth

Battery Life: Up to 12 hours

Type of Port: USB-C

Storage: 32GB / 64GB

Special Features:

  • It’s possible to add up to 1 TB of data storage with a microSD card. 

What Features Do iPads for Pilots Need to Have? 

  • Appropriate size: Not too large and not too small
  • Appropriate data storage capacity: Enough to accommodate large files
  • Rugged construction and protection: Can operate during extreme movements
  • High battery performance and longevity: To maintain power during long distance flights
  • High-quality display screen: Clear and easily legible

iPad and Tablet Must Haves for Pilots

Before you buy your iPad or tablet, there are a few other important considerations to keep in mind. Placement, mounting, battery life, connectivity, and durability are all possible factors that may affect your decision.

Durability

Will the best iPad for pilots be able to withstand the rough-and-tumble environment that comes with aviation? How tough is the device’s case? What’s it made of? Consider getting an anti-glare protector to help shield the screen.

Aircraft iPad Mount

Keeping items secure is always important in the cockpit—and that goes for iPads and tablets as well. The option you choose will depend on the aircraft. 

  • Suction cup: Good for pilots who rent their aircraft
  • Yoke mount: Positions the ipad directly in front of the pilot. Doesn’t work for every yoke type. 
  • Kneeboard: Also good for renters and small aircraft. Keeps the iPad easily within sight.

Battery Life

Depending on the length of your flights, battery life can be a critical factor in choosing an ipad or tablet. Having your key data available anytime during the flight means choosing a model that can last much longer than your typical flight time. 

Connectivity

Most iPads have Bluetooth as well as Wi-Fi capability. But do you need cellular capability? Cellular capable iPads come with built-in GPS receivers. These receivers will work without linking to a cellular service provider. Even if you have no interest in using the cellular capability of the iPad, you very well might want the ability to use the iPad’s GPS receiver to access GPS data built into EFB apps. That way, your iPad can be used as a backup navigation device as a last resort, if necessary.

Size

Obviously, a bigger screen will help a pilot more easily view a display. But screen size must be balanced with the amount of space in the cockpit and the pilot’s ability to operate the controls of the aircraft. Generally, an iPad or tablet screen should be large enough to see from three to five feet away, but not so large that it impedes the pilot’s ability to safely or effectively fly the aircraft. 

Resolution

Resolution is key to accurately reading information displayed on any iPad or electronic tablet. Inside the cockpit, constant movement and frequently changing light conditions can make it challenging to see all the data displayed on a screen. Better screen resolution, will lessen the chances a pilot will misread an important data point that could be critical to a flight. 

Choose an Ipad or Tablet for How You Fly

Ultimately, the best iPad for pilots is the one that is the best fit for the way you fly. Experienced GA pilots will use an iPad differently from a student pilot or a commercial pilot. FLYING Magazine offers a treasure trove of information and features focused on pilots and people who want to learn more about flying. Get your subscription here.

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