Whether you’re a pilot shopping for another aviation enthusiast or you’re a non-pilot desperately trying to figure out what to buy the (slightly weird?) aviator on your list, iPad apps and accessories are a good bet. Six years into the tablet revolution, pilots are still snapping up this gear at a tremendous rate. Here’s our list of the top 10 things any iPad pilot would like this Christmas.
10. Screen protector – Screen protectors are one of the most useful accessories for the iPad, and the latest generation has some significant enhancements over earlier designs. We particularly like the MyGoFlight ArmorGlas, which is made of tempered glass so it goes on quickly and easily. It reduces glare (although it doesn’t completely eliminate it) and prevents scratches and broken screens. It’s an essential item for almost any pilot. Shop Now
9. Flight bag – The iPad has fundamentally changed what most pilots carry: a single tablet has replaced stacks of paper charts, paper manuals and so much more. That means your old flight bag is probably outdated (and most likely too big). Fortunately, a new crop of flight bags is tailored to iPad pilots, with slimmer sizes and lots of iPad-specific pockets. Two of our current favorites are the Flight Gear HP iPad Bag and the Flight Outfitters Lift Bag.
8. Backup battery – This little battery pack is our nominee for most under-appreciated iPad accessory, allowing you to carry a “get out of jail free” card with you at all times. Simply charge it up and plug in up to two 2.4 amp devices and two 1 amp devices simultaneously–it more than doubles the battery life of your iPad, and does not require a cigarette lighter or a wall plug. You’ll find dozens of uses for this, and not just in the cockpit. Shop Now
7. Smart Watch – This category didn’t exist a few years ago, but it’s now one of the hottest accessories, and it’s not limited to aviation use. Connect one of these to your smartphone and you can get push notifications, activity tracking, GPS directions and even some handy in-flight features. It’s not a replacement for an iPad, but it is a nice accessory for the gadget geek who has it all. The two best options right now are the self-contained Garmin D2 Titanium GPS Watch or the Apple Watch.
6. SiriusXM Aviation Weather Receiver – New for 2016, the SXAR1 is a compact, wireless device that can be mounted on the glareshield or on a side window. It connects to an iPad via Bluetooth and delivers SiriusXM weather and GPS position to ForeFlight to any location in the U.S. This includes radar (base and composite reflectivity), lightning, storm tracks, METARs, TAFs, TFRs, PIREPs and more. Shop Now
5. Mount – A mount is a must-have accessory for many pilots and they are available in several sizes and configurations. The most popular options are the Yoke Mount and Suction Cup Mount, both of which are available for the Mini and iPad Air. For the ultimate in flexibility check out the MyGoFlight universal mounts that allow you to quickly secure your iPad without removing your case. Shop Now
4. Kneeboard – If you don’t like a mount the other option is a kneeboard, and there are plenty to choose from, ranging from $15 to $129. Roughly, there are two main styles: basic leg strap and bi-fold kneeboard. Both are excellent for keeping your iPad stable on your leg; it’s mostly a matter of deciding how much more you want the kneeboard to do. For example, do you like to write on paper? Some bi-fold kneeboards include a clipboard for paper and pen. Do you fly an airplane with a center stick? A basic leg strap is probably all you have room for. Shop Now
3. Apps – Yes, you can send an app as a gift. It may not be as beautiful as a perfectly wrapped box under the tree, but apps do make excellent gifts – especially if you know of one that a friend or family member would really enjoy. For the beginning pilot, there are a number of training apps that can be both inspirational and helpful during training. For a more experienced pilot, consider an app that helps them master their favorite Electronic Flight Bag app, or send them a ForeFlight gift certificate. Any app in the App Store can be sent as a gift – here’s how to do it
2. Deluxe iPad GPS – iPad GPSs have been a top accessory for a while now, but there’s a new crop of higher end GPSs that add some exciting new features. Both the Bad Elf Pro Plus and the Dual Electronics XGPS160 SkyPro allow you to connect up to 5 devices to the same GPS, ideal for two pilot cockpits or for using your phone and iPad. Both also include data loggers, and the Bad Elf even has a built-in screen for basic GPS performance data. These are outsanding GPSs, and our first choice for a reliable iPad moving map. Shop Now
1. ADS-B Receiver – For the fifth year in a row, portable ADS-B receivers are the hottest iPad accessory among pilots. Part of the reason for their popularity is that they’ve grown into more than just weather receivers (although that’s still the most valuable feature). Many of these now offer traffic and backup attitude as well, so that synthetic vision display in your favorite app really comes alive. Some, like the new Stratus 2S, even include flight data recorders to help you log your flights. Shop Now