iPad trends for pilots – 2018 year in review

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As 2018 winds down, we’re looking back at another busy year in the world of iPad apps and accessories. There was no miracle cure for in-flight connectivity, no major Android expansion, and no new iPad Mini (you could even say iPad sales were flat). And yet, at least for pilots, tablets and electronic flight bag apps have never been more important or more popular. From antique taildraggers to the newest business jets, pilots of all experience levels and interests are planning and flying with a tablet.

Here’s a look at some of the trends we saw in 2018.

App consolidation continues

Fltplan.com and Garmin
FltPlan.com’s merger with Garmin was a big story in 2018.

This is a continuation of a trend that took off last year: the big players among app developers continue to gain market share and even merge with rivals. The big story in 2017 was the deep partnership between Jeppesen and ForeFlight; in 2018 it was Garmin’s turn to join forces with another big player, in this case Fltplan.com join. That merger promises new services in 2019, especially for turbine airplanes and professional pilots.

The result of these tie-ups has been ever more advanced features, from pre-departure clearances on ForeFlight to engine instrument displays in Garmin Pilot. It’s also led to accelerated growth outside the US, as ForeFlight in particular made huge strides and can be considered a full-featured option in Europe now.

A systematic approach to planning a trip in ForeFlight

7 tips for using ForeFlight 10.1

Garmin buys Fltplan.com, setting up big rivalry with ForeFlight

Garmin begins to integrate Fltplan.com features

ForeFlight vs. Garmin Pilot: Which mobile app is best for you?

New ADS-B receivers

Stratus 3 ADS-B receiver
An ADS-B receiver like the Stratus 3 is still a must-have accessory for pilots.

With the 2020 mandate to install ADS-B Out in airplanes just 12 months away, the market for panel-mount avionics was surprisingly quiet (although the $500 FAA rebate is back). Portables, on the other hand, remained red hot with multiple new product introductions and new software integrations. There were even new weather products available from the FAA’s FIS-B weather feed. Pilots apparently see a lot of value in a portable ADS-B receiver; the jury is still out on more expensive panel-mount products.

Appareo introduces Stratus 3 with more app support, lower price

ForeFlight Sentry combines ADS-B receiver and CO detector

Garmin introduces new ADS-B receiver, expands Flight Stream

Product PIREP video: ForeFlight Sentry ADS-B Receiver

ForeFlight debuts new ADS-B weather products in version 10.4

ForeFlight adds support for Garmin GDL 50, 51, and 52

Flying with Stratus 3 and the FltPlan Go app

How to use Stratus 3 with the Aerovie app

Video review: Garmin GDL 52 SiriusXM/ADS-B Receiver

Flying with the Garmin GDL 52 ADS-B and SiriusXM receiver

iOS 12 brings new features

iOS 12
iOS 12 brought some new screen layouts and new touch options.

Apple updates its mobile operating system annually, but iOS 12 brought some major changes in 2018. Whereas previous updates changed a lot of the look and feel, this one focused on speed, performance, and new productivity features. It also changed some long-established operating procedures – there isn’t even a home button on the latest iPad Pro models.

Pilot’s guide to iOS 12

iOS Update Green Light program: iOS 12.1.1 and iOS 12.1.2

New Apple hardware

iPad Pros
The new iPad Pro models are expensive, but very powerful.

Along with the new software came new hardware from Apple. There was no updated iPad Mini, a product pilots have been begging for, but the latest iPad Pro 11″ and 12.9″ models set a new bar for performance and screen quality. They are the best tablets yet for the cockpit. Also don’t overlook the new iPhone models – while hardly cheap, the larger screens are now quite usable in the cockpit, and ForeFlight’s introduction of synthetic vision on the iPhone closed a major capabilities gap. Is the iPhone XS Max the new iPad Mini?

Apple debuts all-new iPad Pro models

First impressions after flying with the iPad Pro 11″ and 12.9″

Apple’s New Lineup of iPhones is XS-ive

The New iPad is Basically the Old iPad

Headsets and apps

Bose Connect
The Bose Connect app shows how useful it can be to connect a headset to an iPad.

The other essential product for pilots (besides an iPad), is a headset. While the integration between these two products has moved somewhat slowly, 2018 showed the potential for more features. Lightspeed’s popular FlightLink app gained fans, and Bose’s new ProFlight headset introduced new headset-iPad options. Look for more in this space in 2019.

How to use the Bose Connect app with the ProFlight headset

Use iPad audio to make your flying safer

Flight training is hot

Pilot training
Sporty’s Pilot Training app includes Private Pilot Training, Instrument training, avionics, and communications.

Airline pilot hiring is the strongest it has been in a generation, so it’s no surprise that flight training is growing right now. Flight schools across the US reported record flying hours and plenty of interest from prospective pilots. The app world has responded, with new options for at-home and in-cockpit training. The days of sitting through a boring ground school class in a drafty hangar are long gone.

Sporty’s updates Pilot Training iOS app (and adds Android too)

Using Stratus to record and play back flights

New aircraft transition courses available in Sporty’s Pilot Training app

Sporty’s updates Study Buddy pilot training apps

The student pilot’s guide to learning to fly with an iPad

Handy accessories

Flight Gear iPad battery pack
The new Flight Gear battery pack can charge two iPads and a Stratus at the same time.

Finally, there was a wide variety of new iPad accessories introduced in the past year. While maybe not as flashy as a new app or ADS-B receiver, many of these are quite useful – maybe even essential. From staying connected in flight to keeping your iPad charged, there are some excellent options for pilots of all levels.

New Flight Gear battery pack is the best charging option yet

Product PIREP video: Flight Gear Battery Pack

Garmin inReach Mini offers compact way to text and track

Tips for flying with the Garmin D2 Delta and Garmin Pilot

New X-Naut cooling case introduced for iPad Pro 10.5″

iPad screen protectors – which one is best for pilots?

AirText introduces lower cost option

Video review: combination iPad/paper kneeboards

Bad Elf simplifies avionics database updates