While the iPad Mini has become the most popular tablet for pilots, the new iPad Air has proven to be a worthy challenger. It offers the full 10″ screen size of the original iPad, but with a narrower bezel and an incredibly light weight. It’s a good option for the cockpit.
But the smaller size means your old iPad 1-4 accessories won’t fit. Some high quality accessories are now hitting the market that are specifically made for the Air, so pilots can fully equip their cockpits. Let’s review the new options in mounts, kneeboards and screen protectors.
RAM Mounts have become the standard for mounting the iPad in the cockpit, and for good reason. These lifetime warranty systems are tough, easy to use and reliable. There are two main options for mounting the iPad Air: custom-fit cradles and X-Grip cradles.
The custom-fit cradles, called EZ-Roll’r by RAM, are the most popular mount since they are the smallest and least obtrusive in the cockpit. These cradles are for use without a case, and can be connected to almost any RAM Mount, including suction cup and yoke mount. If you already own a RAM Mount and just need a new iPad Air cradle, that piece is available separately.
The X-Grip cradle is a more universal design, so it works with or without a case. Simple squeeze the mount and the rubber grips spread apart. Place the iPad in the mount and release–the X-Grip will hold your tablet firmly in place. This is a good way to quickly remove your iPad if you change airplanes a lot. It is also available with in suction cup and yoke mount versions.
There are a number of kneeboards still in the works from many companies (including some from Sporty’s), so the options aren’t as vast as they are for mounts. One good option for pilots interested in a low profile kneeboard is the popular MyClip leg strap. This works well with the iPad Air, as well as the iPad 1-4, and accepts both portrait and landscape orientations. If your cockpit doesn’t have much room, this is our preferred solution–it’s a simple and reliable way to keep your tablet stationary.
Another of our favorite kneeboards comes from iPro, maker of a whole line of kneeboards. Their Commander Kneeboard for the iPad Air includes an elastic leg strap, protective case and a flip-over writing desk. If you’re not quite ready to throw out your pen and paper, we think this is the best option out there. It takes up more space, but it’s a reasonable tradeoff. Note that the charging port remains uncovered by the kneeboard, so you can plug in a power cable or GPS in flight. The kneeboards is available for $79.95.
A screen protector is another popular accessory, and the options are almost endless. Do yourself a favor and don’t Google “iPad screen protector.” We’ve flown with dozens of them and many are pretty worthless.
In essence, there are two basic styles of screen protector: quick on/off protection films and more permanent anti-glare films. The bubble-free screen protector is a favorite of ours because it’s refreshingly easy to install, with no glue and no air bubbles when you’re done. It doesn’t do much to reduce glare, but it’s a great way to protect your iPad from scratches and fingerprints. It can be removed and re-applied multiple times.
The anti-glare screen protector attempts to solve the most common complaint about the iPad by cutting down on screen glare. It’s not perfect, but it’s by far the most effective one we’ve ever seen. On a bright, sunny day in a low wing airplane it can make a huge difference. It does take a little more effort to put on than the bubble-free model.
Most other iPad accessories are not model-specific, so your Bluetooth GPS or ADS-B receiver will work just fine with the iPad Air. The Bad Elf GPS with Lightning Connector will plug into the Air, if you’re looking for a non-wireless GPS option.
More iPad Air accessories are hitting the market every week, so check back for more updates.