Charging your iPad: what you need to know

The easy way to charge your iPad in the cockpit.

One of the standout features of the iPad is its long battery life – a fully charged battery should last you about 9 – 10 hours (6 – 7 when using an external GPS). Even though most general aviation flights rarely last that long, it’s always a good idea to charge the iPad the night before your flight and start with a full battery.

Using the included wall charger

One of the few accessories included with the iPad is a USB Power Adapter, which will charge the device from a 110V wall outlet. If you look closely at the specs on the adapter, you’ll see that it’s a 10 watt, 2.1 amp charger. This is important to take note of since the iPhone, iPod Touch and other replacement USB power adapters are typically rated at 5 watts and 1 amp. The higher 2.1 amp charger allows the large battery in the iPad to charge more quickly than when using the traditional 1 amp adapter (it will take around 4 – 5 hours to charge a completely drained iPad 1 or 2 battery, and around 6 hours to charge the iPad 3).

A couple notes here:

  • You can still charge an iPad with a 1 amp USB power adapter, but it will take longer than 5 hours to fully charge
  • The iPad’s 2.1 amp charger is still safe to use with your other USB devices (iPhone, iPod, etc.) and will not damage them

Charging in the airplane with a cigarette lighter adapter

You can also use a 12-24V cigarette lighter charger in your airplane to charge your iPad. Pay close attention before just buying any USB charger though, as you’ll want to make sure it provides 2.1 amps for optimum charging. This model offers 2 USB ports, both rated at 2.1 amps. And if you need a replacement 110V home charger, this model also provides a 2-port USB configuration.

Charging from a computer

A third charging option is to connect your iPad to a computer that has a high-power USB 2.0 port (many new Macs and PCs have this). This will not charge as quickly as when using the wall power adapter, but can often be more convenient. If you see the note “Not Charging” in the iPad battery status, your computer most likely does not have a high-power USB port.

Keep your iPad backup battery charged in the airplane with a solar panel

iPad Battery Backups

You can also charge the iPad when on the go with a portable backup battery. The first option is a high-capacity battery that can fully charge an iPad and extend it’s life by over 150%. This model has 5 USB ports allowing you to charge your Stratus ADS-B weather receiver or Dual Bluetooth GPS along with your iPad. And you can’t beat the price either – it’s available for under $100.

A second iPad battery backup option includes a portable solar panel to recharge the unit. This system will provide an additional 8 hours of battery life to your iPad. And the solar panel will charge the self-contained backup battery in direct sunlight in 3 – 4 hours (the flexible solar panel works great resting in direct sunlight on your glare shield).

 

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About the author

Bret is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati’s professional pilot program, and has been a flight instructor for over 10 years. During his time as a check airman for Sporty’s Academy, he has earned FAA Gold Seal and NAFI Master Instructor accreditations. Bret specializes in advanced avionics training, and especially enjoys working with students learning glass cockpit systems, WAAS GPS units, and iPad and Android tablets in the cockpit. He currently flies both professionally and for fun in a variety of aircraft, from Cessna Skycatchers to a Cessna Citation. Bret is also a Vice President at Sporty’s Academy, where he develops innovative new aviation training products in video, online and mobile app formats.

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17 Comments

  • Derek

    I’ve had problems with a couple of different car chargers in the cockpit creating large amounts of radio interference. Any recommendations for a brand that won’t?

     
  • Bret Koebbe

    Derek, we’ve experienced the same thing in several of our airplanes as well. Unfortunately we have not been able to completely eliminate it, but we’ve found that it’s usually the USB cable leading to interference and not the actual charger. We’ve found the Apple cable seems to offer less interference than replacement cables, and shorter is better than longer. Also 24v electrical systems seem to cause more interference than 12v.

    The problem also seems to be amplified when the iPad screen is on, so keeping it in standby mode when you’re not actively using it can help too.

     
  • Walley

    I’ve also heard, and it makes perfect sense, that some cheaper aftermarket cables are not capable of delivering the full 2.1 amps from the charger to the iPad due to smaller wires being used.

     
  • waltscarco

    Thought I’d give some advice, be careful when using any type of cigarette lighter style power or charging equipment, especially in an aircraft. The outlets are usually of the automotive type, and differ in quality, especially if they have been replaced with “aftermarket” parts. Likewise, there is a difference in the quality of the chargers. Only buy manufacture approved chargers, Low quality units can internally fail, and may supply a full 12 volts and high amps, which will instantly “fry” equipment. Always insert or remove chargers and power adapters straight in or out, never “twist” in place, it can cause a short. If a connection cannot be made (usually due to old, dirty or corroded sockets), then pull straight out, and re-insert in a different position. These outlets are often wired for high amps, right off the buss or battery, enough to power a cigarette lighter, and may not be “fused”. I have shorted out parts and burned wires behind the panel more than once. Scary business.

     
  • I have had interferience with external batteries as well as the charger. It is definitely the cable as changing the cable position (but not moving the iPad or battery) will often reduce the interferiance. Putting the battery behind me also seems to help. It is enough of a problem that I pull the plug during critical phases.

     
  • naokomccracken.com

    Do you have further articles just like this one called, Charging your iPad: what you need to know – iPad Pilot News?
    I wish to read even a lot more regarding it. Many thanks.

     
  • Kent Magnuson

    The new 2 amp cig plug charging units will keep upcharging your iPad even with the screen light on full time. The older 1 amp cig plugs will upcharge the unit if you turn off the screen light. If you leave the screen on full time, the older 1 amp chargers may not upcharge your unit, but will usually maintain the present charge.

     
  • Tom K

    Will it hurt the iPad battery to keep it charging when it’s not being used?

     
  • Tom K

    Thanks!

     
  • Yo guys, seen a lot of ppl complaining on their iPads not charging through the wall socket. I have one, it was lying in a cabinet for 6 months. After pluging it to a wall charger – wouldn’t charge at all. BUT i was thinking and thinking and it came to me that there might by a layer of dust on the iPad socket (or thin oxidized layer) so i had the plug plugged in several times into it in a row (plug – unplug – plug and so on…) and imagine this – it worked. Im looking at it charging now (battery is wasted, i won’t probably get more than 60% on it.) Spread the word!

     
  • I have tried different cables and 12 volt chargers, but when I plug into the 12 volt cig lighter on my mooney m20f, it keeps saying “charger not supported with this accessory.” Any ideas?

     
    • John Zimmerman

      That usually means your iPad is not getting enough power to charge (it will usually charge, but very slowly). Verify it’s a 2.1 amp plug you’re using and an Apple cable? If so, how many amps does your Mooney put out of the cigarette lighter?

       
  • Nathan

    Mine is old and cranky…it will only charge from a socket that doesn’t have much else going on, otherwise it will just “tread water” chargewise.