Editor’s note: This post is a guest editorial by Doug Ranly, Catalog Manager at Sporty’s Pilot Shop and an active pilot. He suggests some of the iPad adulation may be overblown.
Yes. The iPad is amazing in the cockpit, but it’s not perfectly designed for aviation. I think even Steve Jobs had no idea what his tablet was going to do to aviation. In less than three years from the release of the first iPad, we see more pilots with iPads than without. But even if Apple is the 800 lb gorilla in this market, let me boldly point out five things they got wrong:
- Glare. Anyone will tell you that the glare on the screen of the iPad is intense. Using it on a sunny day in a bubble-canopy aircraft is almost impossible. Anti-glare screen protectors offer some relief, but I haven’t seen one that cuts enough to say it works well. The iPad 3 does the best job by having the brightest screen, but it too has some issues (keep reading). To combat the glare, try tilting the screen up so the reflection is from inside the cockpit. There are a whole slew of mounts and kneeboards to help you do this.
- Overheating. On a hot day, in direct sunlight, the iPad can overheat. This can mean losing your charts when you need them most. You’re almost guaranteed to overheat your iPad by laying it on a black glareshield. Ask around about the dreaded yellow triangle. The iPad affected the most by overheating issues is the iPad 3. Its bright, colorful screen with ultra-fast processor means there is a lot of juice flowing in there. Electrical discharge=heat. Store it on the floor or a side pocket, and keep the Angry Birds for ground use only.
- Output higher than input. Have you ever had a iPad plugged in to a charger and notice that the battery life is still going down? We’ve had this situation occur several times. Again, this seems to affect the iPad 3 more than the other versions. It can do a lot, but it requires a lot of juice. If you find yourself in this situation and are unable to put the iPad to sleep for a while, try toning down the screen brightness.
- Size. In small cockpits, finding a place to put the iPad that doesn’t block something important can be very difficult. Its big screen is great for old eyes, but you can’t see the engine gauges behind it. The only way to get around this problem is to get creative. If yoke mounting is your fancy, try using a yoke mount on the co-pilot’s side and aiming it toward you. We know a number of pilots that keep it on the floor most of the time and only bring it up to look at charts. Still others like having a kneeboard for easy access.
- Touchscreen in turbulence. When your coffee hits the ceiling and pax are puking, trying to get that annoying little magnifying glass to appear between the K and the V so you can attempt to enter the letter C by pressing a ¼” button located next to 40 buttons the same size will make you scream for a built in GPS. There’s not an easy fix for this one. Making sure that your iPad is anchored firmly will help a little, but don’t forget to fly the plane first.
Those were five reasons to hate the iPad, but I can come up with 100 why it’s the best thing since sliced bread. These “deficiencies” don’t outweigh the fact that it’s much less expensive and easier to use than paper charts, not to mention the other 99 reasons. That one alone is worth your investment. So yes, I fly with the iPad and think every pilot should (sorry Google, but you’re a little behind on simplicity). At $399 for a basic iPad 2, it’s a no-brainer.