Charging your iPad – new tips for the iPad Air and Mini

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One of the standout features of the iPad is its long battery life–a fully charged battery should last you about 8-10 hours (4-6 when using an external GPS or ADS-B Receiver). 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

10W iPad charger
Full size iPads come with 10 or 12W chargers, to support the larger batteries.

One of the few accessories included with the iPad is a USB Power Adapter, which will charge the device from a 110V wall outlet. Easy–all wall chargers are the same, right? Unfortunately, no.

If you look closely at the specs on the adapter, you’ll see different amp ratings depending on the model of iPad you have. The iPad 1, 2 and 3 came standard with a 10 watt, 2.1 amp charger. The iPad 4 and the new iPad Air include a 2.4 amp charger. The iPad Mini, iPhone and iPod Touch all come with a 1 amp charger. The difference between 2.1 and 2.4 amps isn’t really worth worrying about, so we’ll just call them 1 amp and 2 amp chargers.

The full size iPads have large screens, which require a large battery to deliver that great battery life (this is especially true for Retina display iPads). The higher 2 amp charger allows the larger battery to charge more quickly than when using the traditional 1 amp adapter. It will take around 4-6 hours to charge a completely drained iPad battery, depending on the model.

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 amp charger is still safe to use with your other USB devices (iPhone, iPod, etc.) and will not damage them. You can’t overcharge them.

Charging in the airplane with a cigarette lighter adapter

2 amp cigarette lighter plug
Make sure your cigarette lighter plugs are rated for 2 amps.

You can also use a cigarette lighter charger in your airplane to top off your iPad. This is cheap insurance, and we recommend one of these if the airplane you fly has a cigarette lighter plug. But pay close attention before buying any old USB charger, as you’ll want to make sure it provides 2 amps for optimum charging. Cheap cigarette lighter chargers usually only have 1 amp USB ports. Also check to see if it will run off 12 or 24V charging ports. Most airplanes, even those with 24V electrical systems, have 12V cigarette lighters–but not all.

The easiest solution is to buy a 12-24V, dual 2 amp charger – this will charge any device in any airplane. No thinking required. This model offers 2 USB ports, both rated at 2 amps, and runs on 12/24V. 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 3.0 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.

iPad Battery Backups

You can also charge the iPad when on the go with a portable backup battery. These are really handy, and not just in the airplane. Simply charge up the high-capacity battery pack and you have a go-anywhere device that can fully charge an iPad and extend its life by over 150%. This model has 5 USB ports, allowing you to charge multiple devices like an iPad and a Bluetooth GPS. And you can’t beat the price either–it’s available for under $100.

A more deluxe iPad battery backup option is this larger pack that includes USB, 12V and 110V plugs. It can power your iPad (or any number of other devices) for days, and while it is much larger and heavier than the one above, it’s still only 2″ tall.

Final tips

When in doubt, go with the higher amp charging device. 2 amps won’t hurt your iPad Mini or your iPhone, but 1 amp won’t be enough for your iPad. About the only thing that isn’t interchangeable is the physical connector. Newer devices like the iPad Air, Mini and iPhone 5/5S use the smaller Lightning connector; older devices use the larger 30-pin connector.

ipad connectors

16 COMMENTS

  1. I am presently experimenting with solar chargers in several aircraft I fly that do not have cig lighter plugs. They seem to be working well.

  2. Be careful of some of the cheap cigarette lighter adaptors as they may have no EMI suppression and generate unacceptable electrical noise. This can interfere with radio reception. Have been caught by this.

    • I am not sure I am experiencing EMI interference. I can not charge my iPhone, mini or iPad with my external sound portable battery pack or through my cigaret lighter without getting interference in the radios. My wife seems to be able to use the same charger in the middle seats and charge her iPhone and I don’t get the inference?

      • I have experienced EMI while having my iPad plugged in. It took me quite a while to figure out what was going on because I discovered that the EMI was very sensitive to the position of the wire and the charging device. I was getting EMI both from the CigLighterPlug and when using an external battery. I can get the EMI to come and go just by waiving the connector wire and battery around.

        Since I keep the iPad right next to me I just unplug it at the first sign of EMI and when I am flying critical parts of IFR flights. I just recently purchased the powerplug from Sporty’s that they advertise for 24v systems and I have not had EMI while using it, so there is hope.

        I have a usb cable that I use to charge my external GPS that has a Ferrite Core built into the cable (that large “bulb” thing at one end of a cable) and I have not had problems associated with the GPS. The Ferrite cores that I found on-line just arrived yesterday and I will put one on the iPad cable for testing.

    • No, that’s not right. With a Bluetooth GPS, you’ll definitely see less than 8 hours, but 2 is not nearly enough. How old is the iPad? Do you have the brightness turned up all the way on the screen?

    • Nope, i had an iPad3, lasting 3hrs on foreflight, went to the Apple Store, they tested it and told me i had a bad battery, geve me a “new” unit, lasted much longer. I dont use BT, just 3G, GPS and Wifi while on the air.
      Brightness is a battery killer, drop it a knotch or two while in flight during non critical phases.

      best wishes

  3. I found a very nice external battery pack/charger from Monoprice.com. It’s a 5000mAh pack that costs about $30.00. It will fully charge my iPad Air once and my iPhone 5 more than twice. I always have it with me. The product number is 9283. It’s only slightly larger than my iPhone!

  4. Articles re: real time weather and options as how to obtain on an IPad would be be helpful and very interesting.
    John

    • John –

      Real time weather, live radar, and many other features are available on an iPad using Foreflight Mobile and the Stratus First Generation or Second Generation ADS-B receivers. The Stratus receivers are available from Sporty’s. I’ve been flying with an iPad since Foreflight first became available and it has revolutionized my flying. The addition of the Stratus units is another huge step forward in convenience and, quite frankly, safety. I got the first generation Stratus receiver when it became available and upgraded to the second generation unit as soon as I could.

      The features like real-time radar, pireps, METARS, TAFS, and much more were previously only available by paid subscription but the Stratus (and other ADS-B receivers) gives me all that information subscription-free. For pilots who have been using subscription-based real-time, in-flight weather, can drop those services and use a Stratus. It’ll pay for itself in the money saved in less than 2 years.

      There are other iPad apps that work with other brands of ADS-B receivers; comparisons can be found in other articles here in iPad Pilot News.

      Hope that’s helpful.

      Rob

  5. I had a 2.1amp charger for my C182,
    With the ipad3 and my iphone 4s conected, it would not charge . It would help hold charge, but still eventually loose charge.

    I changed for a new mini retina, and now both devices charge with the same charger.
    The larger ipad screen needs more juice.
    I hope this helps.

  6. I have a pre-retina Mini and Stratus II, both running off the cigarette lighter adapter from Sporty’s, so that the batteries in them are back-up only. Both can be run down some before I crank up, like if I’ve been fiddling around with them before starting. So far the lowest charge I had on the Mini was 65%, but I don’t know what the charge was on the Stratus II before starting, because I didn’t check it. But after a flight of less than an hour, both were fully charged.

    Part of the issue of charging sufficiently is the adapter, as discussed above. But also part of it is the charging capability of the airplane’s alternator, as well as the condition of the airplane’s battery. If the alternator is taxed to its capacity because it needs to recharge a really run down battery and if all the lights are on along with the heated pitot, it’s pretty likely that the charge to the iPad and accessories will be slower, or maybe not sufficient to keep up with use, especially if there are a lot of apps running in the background.

    That’s another issue, too. Use the double-click of the “home” selector button at the bottom of the iPad’s facia to close out unneeded apps, because they all sap the battery, some worse than others. That should be part of the iPad preflight, as well as checking to make sure the apps that are necessary are up to date.

  7. My battery “sign” no longer shows percentage of charge. There is a different sign now. My iPad is very new.

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