7 settings all iPad pilots should know about


The Settings app was fairly basic when the iPad was first released in 2010, providing control of the bluetooth and Wi-Fi wireless radios, screen brightness and email account settings. Six years later it has evolved into a collection of hundreds of settings, with multi-tier menus that can make it difficult to find what you’re looking for.

It’s so complex that Apple added a search function within the Settings app in the iOS 9 update last year. There’s also the control panel, which is accessed by sliding your finger up from the bottom of the screen to quickly change frequently used settings.

All these settings and configuration options are great for customizing everything to your liking, but at the end of the day there are really only a few settings you need to be concerned about when using the iPad as an EFB in the cockpit. Here’s a quick rundown.

1. Enable multitasking gestures

General > Multitasking > Gestures

Enabling this setting allows you perform basic actions like switching between apps, reveal the app switcher and close an app, by placing 4 or 5 fingers on the screen at the same time and swiping or pinching. This shortcut eliminates the need to use the home button to perform routine actions.

Multitask settings

2. Configure location services

Privacy > Location Services > Custom app settings

This is the spot to specify a preference for each app on whether or not it can access your location. Some may disable a particular app’s use of location for privacy issues, but more importantly from the pilot’s perspective we’ve found that using location services in the background decreases battery life. Allowing ForeFlight to show your position on the chart or record your track log is great during flight, but you probably don’t need the Weather Channel tracking your location as you routinely drive around your home town. Consider setting this option to “When Using” for certain apps, to allow it to use your location when the app is open, but prevent unnecessary battery use when running in the background. Read more about iPad Location Services here.

location settings


3. Lock rotation

Control Panel (swipe up from bottom of the screen)

This simple setting is located in the control panel, allowing you to access it any time by swiping up from the bottom of the screen. It allows you to lock the orientation of the screen, which is useful when flying in turbulence and you don’t want the screen to inadvertently change the layout when viewing a particular chart.

rotation settings

4. iCloud Find My iPad

iCloud > Find My iPad (and Send Last Location)

This setting should be on by default, but it’s a good time to verify while you have the iPad in your possession. You’ll find this extremely helpful (we know by experience) when you misplace your iPad or leave it in the airplane. Enabling this option allows you to locate your device using a computer, iPhone (with the Find my iPhone app) or another iPad. Make sure to also enable the setting here called “Send Last Location”, which will automatically send the location of the iPad to Apple when the battery is critically low, in case it takes a few days for you to track it down and the battery runs out of juice.

iCloud settings

5. Disable Auto-Brightness

Display and Brightness > Auto-Brightness

During testing we’ve found that lowering screen brightness by about 20 – 30% will give an extra hour of battery life in the air. By leaving auto-brightness enabled, the iPad will automatically reset the brightness to full bright when you get into the cockpit and shorten the useful battery life. And at night you’ll probably find the need to lower the brightness of the screen below the minimum value, using the in-app brightness dimming feature found in most apps (or by using the next tip when viewing approach charts).

display settings

6. Enable Invert Colors

General > Accessibility Shortcut > Invert Colors

After enabling this setting you’ll be able to press the home button three times quickly to invert the colors of the screen. This is really helpful when flying at night and viewing approach charts or a taxi diagram, since it shows the chart as white text on a black background and helps you maintain your adjusted night vision.

Accessibility Settings

7. Disable app auto-updates

iTunes and App Store > Automatic Downloads

While having your iPad automatically download and install new app updates may at first seem like a helpful feature, leaving this feature enabled can leave you high and dry at the worst possible time. Many of the popular aviation apps need to connect to the internet the first time they launch after an update, which will render them useless at 8,000 feet if you don’t take care of this task on the ground first. For this reason we recommend updating your apps manually and launching them right after the update to make sure they’re functioning as expected and have the necessary data installed.

Appstore Settings



  1. Instead of 6. Enable Invert Colors, which is indeed useful but presents an unfamiliar view on your favorite app, I prefer to use the three-click-home-button dim method for night flying.

    This is how to do it.
    1. go to Settings – General – Accessibility – Zoom
    2. select Zoom Region: Full Screen Zoom
    3. select Zoom Filter: Low Light
    4. slide Maximum Zoom Level down to 1,2x to prevent nasty things
    4. go back one to Accessibility and go to Accessibility Shortcut
    5. enable Zoom for Triple-Click the Home Button

    This is what it does.
    Triple click on the home button will now reduce the brightness of the screen significantly and below the setting accessible by the usual brightness slider.
    When the Low Light Filter Zoom is enabled, triple tap with three fingers brings up the configuration menu.

    Attention – if you set up this method up on an iPhone without multi gesture capability, the triple click will launch in a slight zoom, but can be zoomed back to full screen.

  2. When flying in helicopters the vibrations of the aircraft can cause the shake to undo gesture which can be frustrating when trying to enter text like searching for a location by identifier.

    To disable this gesture: Settings → General → Accessibility → Shake to undo : Off

  3. Be very careful about turning the brightness down on a sunny day to save battery life. If you turn it too low you may not be able to see the screen enough to turn it back up. I did that and finally had to get out my backup iPad. Thankfully I had one.

  4. Did that once, and after the initial panic of a failed screen, I finally figured out that I might have inadvertently turned the screen down. I found a dark closet, and readjusted it. Alternatively, if you feel the force is with you, you can just let go and follow your feelings:
    – In the blind (dark screen) swipe up from the bottom center, then repeatedly jab your finger close to a spot on the lower right of the screen where you think the left end of brightness slider should be (practice this first with an bright screen, so you know where to jab).
    – When you finally hit the right location, the screen will come on dimly, and you can then move the slider.

  5. Re No. 5, auto brightness. I now prefer to leave it on auto. I had been leaving it off on both my iPhone and iPad Mini, ostensibly to save the batteries, which in my case is unnecessary, since I have power available to both of them in flight. I had an experience a few months ago, in which I climbed up through a thick overcast with the brightness setting on both of them set pretty low. When I topped into the bright sunlight, though, I could hardly see the screens and had a hard time finding the brightness controls to turn them up. If they had been on automatic, they would have brightened themselves. Then coincidentally a few days later, I read in another publication that the difference in battery life is insubstantial anyway. So for my purposes, I now leave the brightness on auto.

  6. Ditto Cary Alburn’s observations. I’ve learned the hard way that ‘auto brightness’ is a good thing. Yes, it might result in higher power consumption, however!!! In addition to ship power I carry two back up power banks accessible in my kit located with easy reach… ‘just in case’. I always wear sunglasses with dark lenses. Lowering the brightness makes it very difficult to see the iPad charts under most daytime light conditions where cloud shadow is absent.

  7. I’ve been browsing online more than 2 hours today, yet I never found any interesting
    article like yours. It’s pretty worth enough for me.
    Personally, if all website owners and bloggers made good content as you did, the
    web will be much more useful than ever before.

  8. I have had the opposite experience with the auto-bright and I also turn it off. I am not sure if it is malfunctioning, but if I have auto-bright turned on, it almost seems to have the opposite effect. In the daylight I cannot see the screen, even well enough to take a picture on the ground! Not sure what it does to battery life yet, since i do keep all of the other settings pretty tight for that reason. Anyone know if there’s a trick? Or is that just a “feature” of the first gen ipad mini? I just end up going full bright all the time.

  9. To Guy Fisher. If your helicopter vibrations set up an SHAKE TO UNDUE, there is something drastically wrong with the helicopter. Have it inspected, tracked and balanced!

    • If my Bell 212 isn’t vibrating like hell, something is wrong. The vibrations let me know all the parts are still spinning correctly.

Comments are closed.