An iPad mounted in the panel of an airplane has become an increasingly common sight, as more and more pilots replace aging avionics with modern tablets for a fraction of the price of a full panel upgrade. While the iPad itself can’t be permanently installed and it can’t be used for primary reference (don’t take out that airspeed indicator!), it is a valuable and reliable tool for situational awareness and backup.
iPad panel mounts have been around for years, but we think the latest designs from Guardian Avionics may be the best yet. These durable mounts are made from ABS plastic, and they mount to the panel with just four screws. The end result is very clean and professional installation.
While the mount is permanently installed, the iPad easily slides in and out so you can take it home after the flight. A spring-loaded cradle makes it simple to insert without using tools or over-stressing the tablet.
One feature we like in particular is the thoughtful accommodation of cords. Specific cutouts allow for charging the iPad with a Lightning cable and for connecting the 3.5mm audio cable. These are both useful for homebuilders, since the iPad can be wired into the rest of the airplane for power, data and audio. Surprisingly, not all iPad panel docks have these cutouts.
There’s also tapered 5/8″ hole in the back of the cradle, specifically made for attaching a hose to the avionics cooling fan. This simple but smart addition should prevent overheating iPads, and can be installed in just a few minutes.
Best of all, there are a variety of options to suit almost any pilot: iPhone 6, iPhone 6+, iPad Mini 1-4, iPad Air 1-2/Pro 9.7″ and iPad Pro 13″. Prices range from $99 for the iPhone 6 to $249 for the 13″ iPad Pro.
While the iPad mounts are the most popular (especially the Mini), we found the iPhone mounts to be surprisingly useful. We could see applications for a phone in many airplanes, as a backup attitude source (when connected to an ADS-B/AHRS receiver) or as a situational awareness enhancement in cockpits where there may not be room for a full size iPad. We saw one airplane with an iPhone mounted just above the main six pack of instruments.
How about the legal side of mounting an iPad in the panel? Installation of the iFDR mounts in experimental aircraft is pretty straightforward, but a certified airplane requires some homework. It’s not impossible, but a check with your local Flight Standards District Office and a reading of Advisory Circular 138 is advised.