Don’t let your iPad overheat – and crash

1 min read

The iPad may shutdown when reaching high temperature limits.

Most pilots love the iPad because it almost never crashes, making for an extremely reliable tool. But there is one sure-fire way to get your tablet to shut down–leave it on the glare shield.

The iPad, being almost completely black, will get extremely hot if left in direct sun. As a protective measure, the iPad will shut itself down and stay shut down until it cools off. This can be very frustrating if you reach for your approach chart right as you turn final, only to find a dead iPad.

In our experience, overheating is not an issue if you leave your iPad on the yoke, on your leg or on the floor. The only crash we’ve ever seen was when we left it on the glare shield during flight, in direct sun and with no airflow. The iPad would not turn on until after we landed.

Our suggestion–find a relatively cool place to secure your iPad during flight, and your tablet should perform flawlessly.

24 replies
  1. Bret Koebbe
    Bret Koebbe says:

    Here’s something else to be aware of: I was flying a low-wing airplane last week with the iPad on a kneeboard secured to my leg. I was above a cloud layer and the sun was shining directly onto the iPad. After about 15 minutes on this heading, I went to look up a frequency on the iPad but was surprised to see it had gone into the temperature protection mode (the screen looked just like the one above). Even though it was relatively cool in the airplane, the black screen had absorbed excessive amounts of heat from the direct sunlight and shut it down. I put the iPad on the floor of the airplane in the shade, and after about 5 minutes it was running normally again.

    • Cindy Ries
      Cindy Ries says:

      We have developed a sunshield/heat protection shade for the iPad that dramatically lowers the temperature of the iPad when it is in direct sun. It also provides glare protection in the cockpit. Email me at [email protected] for more information.

  2. Joe
    Joe says:

    Yes this happened to my iPhone 4 a couple of times. But not in the cockpit, but at the lake fishing. We were fishing and had my phone plugged in the boat and after about and hour and a half the music just shut off. So I reached for my iPhone and it was blazing hot.

  3. Marc van de Put
    Marc van de Put says:

    I have also had this problem a few times already. I am flying a dimona hk36 motorglider with a great view due to the large canopy. But when flying in the summer, my ipad aswel my iphone shut down due to the temperature. Thats why i dont use my iphone and ipad as primary gps anymore, cause I can’t rely on it. Too bad, because the quality of the screen is great.

  4. Josh Smith
    Josh Smith says:

    I’m about to make the leap from paper, having just ordered an iPad 3 in white. I know it’s silly, but I’m hoping the white surround will help it stay cooler in my PA32R.

  5. Dave Comarow
    Dave Comarow says:

    Flying back to Henderson, Nevada from Bullhead City, Arizona in my Tiger last week it was about 103 degrees on the ground during runup. The flight is only 30 minurtes. My iPad was mounted on the Yoke. Suddenly, blam, shutdown. I tried to turn it on again and got a big “Overheat” warning screen and immediate shutdown. Not a problem on a nice, clear day with a Garmin 430 in the panel and a big road to follow, but it raises some real issues if one is relying on an iPad as a sole source of charts. I am thinking of rigging up a 12 volt fan behind the unit, and maybe an aluminum-finned heat sink. I am aso glad I subscribe to AirCharts and have WAC charts and IFR low altitude charts for the whole country on the back seat in 2 atlas binders.

  6. Stacy Sherman.
    Stacy Sherman. says:

    Ivenaldo had my new iPad overheat while strapped to my leg in a Cherokee 6 less than 5 minutes after we got above the clouds.

    I do have it in a knee board case. I’m wondering if the simple strap clips might keep it cooler.

    It also overheated twice in 20 minutes on the way back on the same flight. It wasn’t hot in the cockpit either. I was in jeans and I was comfortable.

    So, the iPad WILL overheat if it is strapped to your leg. It’s not just a glare shield problem.

  7. Jonathan Levy
    Jonathan Levy says:

    Same issue in an Arrow at 7,500, OAT around 22C with all the vents open, mounted on the yoke. Shut down twice in a 45 minute flight in the Los Angeles area. I have the original iPad 1. I’m wondering if this is any better on the later models.

  8. Marcus Sims
    Marcus Sims says:

    I fly a Piper Arrow and have my Ipad mounted to a glare shield mount under the right seat sun visor. Never have had it shut down due to heat when mounted this way and I fly regular cross country between Mississippi and Georgia. Literally 100 degrees outside.

  9. Jonathan Levy
    Jonathan Levy says:

    Just curious, which model iPad do you have. I’m also wondering if the humidity has anything to do with it. The temperature at 7,500 was around 80F, the iPad was in direct sunlight, and the humidity was in single digits, when the unit kept overheating..

  10. JohnPetrikas
    JohnPetrikas says:

    Anyone thought of using a white case to allow it to run cooler? Why black? Duh?
    I lay a piece of white paper over the Stratus on the glareshield. No overheats.

  11. Josh Smith
    Josh Smith says:

    OK, I have about 100 hours now using the WHITE iPad3 running WingXPro in a PA32 and a PA46 with, knock on wood, no overheats. And it has gotten some direct sun. I have the iPad strapped to my right leg. Maybe white is the way to go?

  12. Jeff
    Jeff says:

    Was flying today with the IPAD on my sportys knee board about a 45 minute flight, during the arrival, about 8 minutes out and the IPAD went into temp protection mode, BLACK screen. NOT a good time. I am still carrying paper back up so I scrambled for the paper and survived the incident. NOT GOOD… I have four spacers behind the IPAD so there is some cooling from behind when its in the knee board. I have noticed that with the IPAD working with the Elf GPS it tends to get hotter than if I just use it for charts. I was using the elf GPS and Wing X Pro 7 on an IPAD 3.

  13. John
    John says:

    Same problem flying yesterday in a Robinson 44 (heli). Sun shining straight down through the canopy, iPad on a knee pad. Everything fit perfectly and I was very happy until on takeoff from Los Banos – 34C OAT – I noticed the thermal shutdown screen. Would be pretty annoying if I needed approach plates! As it was with paper chart and Garmin I resisted the temptation to declare an emergency.

  14. DanM
    DanM says:

    I am running Foreflight with all the VFR/IFR charts on my original ipad and I have experienced the heat shutdown twice. cabin temps were mid 70s. it happened once while mounted on the yoke and once on my lap. both times, the screen was in direct sunlight from the pilot side window. Overheating seems to be linked to the screen in direct sunlight and while bluetooth linked to my Dual GPSs. I also had mine enclosed in a thin black cover which doesn’t allow the heat to dissapate from the aluminum back side so I plan to take mine out of the cover next time and keep it out of the direct sunlight. it is great for situational awareness but I have learned the hard way to keep paper maps onboard. I use Garmin 496 with XM weather as my primary GPS. flying a piper cherokee.

  15. Kent Magnuson
    Kent Magnuson says:

    Be careful of direct sunlight on the iPads for more than a few minutes. They will shut down for near 10 minutes. Any cover will keep this from happening. I leave mine on the copilot seat or keep in flight bag next to me on floor. My primary use is enroute charts, so do not need to consult it much anyway.

  16. Raymond Calapatia
    Raymond Calapatia says:

    Funny. but my ipad3 shutdown itself and had the temperature problem even in cooler temperatures… I was inside an airconditioned room with no sunlight… and it overheated. Golly!

  17. Bob Wright
    Bob Wright says:

    I have had an I Pad now for just a little over one year and 50 or 60 hours of flying with Wing X Pro and love it. Although I have yet to have an overheat issue, in the Midwest, I did have a total I Pad crash last week. I took off from home base for a 20 minute hop and picked up a passenger. We then proceeded on our $100.00 hamburger flight and in the climb to 5500 ft I looked down to see the I Pad blank. I figured it must just be a glitch and proceeded to reboot the system. After trying to reboot several times all I could get to come up on the screen was the little apple and then a diagram of a USB cord showing it plugged into I tunes. What the heck? The flight was VFR and I had paper backup plus, so we went on our way and left the I Pad issue for later. That night I learned the USB picture on the unit is not a good thing as it means the unit has had a total failure, everything on it is gone, and the operating system has to be reloaded. So I plugged it into a computer with I tunes and reloaded it. Any apps that you purchased through I Tunes, such as Wing X Pro, are stored and can be reloaded. Anything else you have such as photos etc. are totally gone unless you are backing up some way such as I Cloud. The important point I would like to make from my experience is although these tablets are an awesome tool packed with tons of great info and cool stuff, do not count on them to always be there!!!! ALWAYS carry paper backup and or whatever is need to continue the flight safely without the tablet! Happy flying.

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