In spite of what you may hear from the critics, the iPad (and most tablets, for that matter) is incredibly reliable. Much like an airplane engine, it does not simply shut down at random–it’s usually the pilot’s fault.
The most obvious, but also most common, way for an iPad to quit is a dead battery. While the iPad sports an 8-10 hour battery life out of the box, using accessories like a Bluetooth GPS or WiFi ADS-B receiver can cut that down to 4-6 hours. Then there are the days when you forget to charge up your tablet. For these reasons, we always advise pilots to carry a backup power option, whether it’s a cigarette lighter charger or a stand-alone battery.
For those pilots who want the ultimate backup, or for those whose airplane does not have a cigarette lighter, there’s a new option. The SunSocket Energy Bar is not the smallest or cheapest battery pack, but it is by far the most impressive we’ve seen. The 2″ high case has a large, 20Ah battery inside, plus plenty of plugs for gadgets:
- Four 2 amp USB plugs for iPads, iPhones and many other devices
- One 120V wall-style plug for charging laptops or other high power devices
- One 12V cigarette lighter-style plug for charging HD cameras or GPSs
In spite of all these features, the Energy Bar fits nicely under the seat in most airplanes. At 16.5″ long and 8 lbs., it’s not exactly tiny, but we found it easy to carry and store in the airplane. In an airplane without an electrical system, it could be a complete cockpit power solution.
The LiFePO4 battery inside is pretty high tech, and offers plenty of power for charging multiple devices–up to 100 watts output. It can also sit idle for many months without losing its charge, so it really does make a reliable backup. It’s even powerful enough to run an Arctic Air portable air conditioner, and you’ll probably find a number of uses for it beyond just aviation–tailgating and camping come to mind.
The Energy Bar includes a neoprene carrying bag for easy transport, and is available for $299. Complete details are available on Sporty’s website.