First impressions after flying with the new iPad Mini

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Apple unveiled the first update to the iPad Mini last week in nearly four years, and there is no group more excited about this new model than pilots. We received our new model today and put it through the paces in the cockpit. Our initial reaction? You’re going to love it – here’s why.

Seamless transition

The iPad Mini is a favorite among pilots thanks to its small footprint, lightweight design and affordable price. Unlike the new Pro iPad series from Apple which uses an all-new design and no home button, the new Mini 5 is the exact same size as the iPad Mini 4. This is great news for current iPad mini owners looking to upgrade and use existing accessories. It also uses the same Lightning charging cable, so there are no new chargers or cables to carry in your flight bag.

Pilots will also appreciate that it uses the same buttons and controls as the iPad Mini 4, including the tried and true home button with TouchID, so there are no new gestures or FaceID concerns to deal with in the cockpit. The battery in the new Mini is the same as previous models, but if you’ve been hanging on to an iPad Mini 4 for a while that has been through lots of charging cycles, you’ll likely notice a nice increase in battery life with the new model.

High-performance in a small package

We regularly fly with all models of iPads in our flight operations, ranging from an iPad Air 2 to the new iPad Pro 11″ model. While the A12 processor in the new iPad Mini isn’t quite as fast on paper as the Pro models, you wouldn’t know it when using aviation apps. Sectionals and maps load just as fast on the Mini as the Pro and switching between screens and apps is instantaneous.

The new Mini also includes the anti-reflective screen coating that’s been a pilot-favorite feature on the Pro line of iPads. We did a quick test putting the new Mini side-by-side with the iPad Pro 11″, and it was equally as bright and readable in the cockpit.

The iPad Mini 5 can also take advantage of all the multitasking features, like split and slide-over views to interact with two apps simultaneously.

It also includes Apple Pencil support (the original Pencil, not the new one announced late in 2018), allowing you to more accurately jot down notes and clearances in flight.

Mounting the iPad Mini

The iPad Mini offers the most flexibility when it comes to mounting in the cockpit and works well in many locations. A favorite option among pilots is to use a suction cup to mount it on the left side window, where the Mini’s smaller size doesn’t block much of the view in the lower section of the front window.

Suction Cup Mounts

In the example illustrated above, we used the popular RAM suction cup kit, which incorporates a form-fitting cradle to hold the iPad securely in place. If you’d prefer to keep a case on your iPad Mini and still mount it this way, consider either the RAM 7″ X-grip or the RAM spring-loaded cradle.

There’s an alternative to RAM mounts that recently hit the market, called the Robust Mounting System. These are less expensive and customizable and work well with the iPad Mini (or any size tablet for that matter).

On the other end of the spectrum, MyGoFlight offers a premium iPad Mini mounting system that can be used with an articulating arm for increased flexibility in mounting when using a suction cup.

The Pivot Case system, used by Southwest Airlines, provides both a protective case and suction cup mounting system that is fully compatible with the iPad Mini.

For those that fly in warmer climates, the X-Naut cooling case also has a model that is compatible with iPad Mini. This unique case incorporates cooling fans, allowing you to run the iPad in temperature and sunlight conditions that would normally cause it to overheat.

Yoke Mounts

The iPad Mini works equally as well mounted on the yoke since its smaller size and weight won’t block the instruments or affect the feel of the flight controls. Most of the suction mounts listed above offer companion yoke mount options:

RAM Claw Yoke Mount

MyGoFlight Claw Yoke Mount

X-Naut Cooling Case with RAM Yoke Mount

Pivot Case Yoke Mount

Kneeboards

The last option to consider is a kneeboard, which works well for aircraft without a yoke and for those want additional protection and pockets to keep accessories within reach. There are many options here, ranging from basic straps to protective kneeboards with lots of organization. Here are links to the various options, and make sure to check out our kneeboard buyer’s guide for a comprehensive review:

iPad Rotating Kneeboard (the most basic option)

Flight Gear HP iPad kneeboard

The Flight Outfitters iPad kneeboard

MyClip (no-frills strap)

MyGoFlight Sport Kneeboard

X-Naut Cooling Case Kneeboard Strap

ASA Kneeboards

iPad Mini 5 Configurations

We were glad to hear that the new iPad Mini 5 retained the same affordable price of $399 for the 64GB model, but we’d recommend paying the extra $150 and upgrading to the 256GB to ensure you have plenty of space down the road for all your apps, aviation databases, and media. Like with other iPads, you can upgrade to the model with Cellular data for an extra $130, which also adds an internal GPS.

23 COMMENTS

  1. […] If you’re looking for an iPad with a smaller footprint consider the iPad mini. This version measures 7.87″ by 5.3″ and will be a better fit in cockpits with tighter constraints. It runs at the exact same resolution as the full-size iPad model, so all the iPad apps currently available are compatible with it. It was updated in 2019 to include the high-performance A12 processor, which puts its performance nearly on par with the iPad Pro. It also includes the anti-reflective screen coating which pilots will find useful in the cockpit (read our PIREP on this model here). […]

  2. […] If you’re looking for an iPad with a smaller footprint consider the iPad mini. This version measures 7.87″ by 5.3″ and will be a better fit in cockpits with tighter constraints. It runs at the exact same resolution as the full-size iPad model, so all the iPad apps currently available are compatible with it. It was updated in 2019 with the latest high-performance A12 processor, which puts its performance nearly on par with the iPad Pro. It also includes the anti-reflective screen coating which pilots will find useful in the cockpit (read our PIREP on this model here). […]

  3. Living in the south overheating is a constant issue with earlier iPad models. Do you have any sense of how resistant the new iPad Mini is to overheating?

    • If the 5 isn’t any more sensitive than the 4, I wouldn’t anticipate any problems. I mount my 4 on the yoke of my P172D, and it has never overheated. Neither did my original Mini. I think it helps that my mount is skeletal rather than solid, so that air gets to the back of the iPad.

  4. Regarding the iPad overheating issue. If you mount the iPad mini on a window using a black mount, the dark color absorbs the suns energy/heat. Try spray painting the back of the mount white. This reduces the heat by at least 15oF. Makes a significant difference.

  5. Until apples allows charging without using an all white charger and GPS (without mandatory cell capability) and external memory I’m not on board with it at all. I’ve already spent too much on apple stuff and now that USB chargers are common in many panels it would make sense for apple to allow charging from those devices. But…they’re stupid….and greedy. So they’re still off my Christmas card list. I have one because I have to…don’t like it

    • I’m really surprised that they didn’t go with USB-C with this one, but there are lots of other cables out there. I use the same brand for Apple products that my friends use for everything else. I have not used a genuine charger in years and often charge from the panel. I’m not sure where you got the idea that you can’t do that… You don’t need a cellular plan to use the GPS, so that is not a valid complaint either. You actually still use external storage? I didn’t know anybody used that anymore!

    • Regarding the GPS, you need only purchase the iPad with cellular capability. You don’t need to purchase a monthly data plan with it. It will still behave the same as the wifi-only model, but the cellular model is the only one with a GPS receiver.

  6. You can charge any Apple device with a lightning cable only, provided the power source supplies sufficient amperage. We charge our iPads and iPhones all the time with nothing but a power outlet that has two 2.4 amp USB ports in it. No white Apple charger required at all.

  7. I have an old mini 2 so the gain will be significant. If your 4 is working well, I’d probably keep it unless your jonsing for the pencil. I personally have one but dont use it in the cockpit. It’s just much faster and easier to write on paper.

  8. I have a double flush-mount 2.4 amp USB port for the cigarette lighter, from a mail-order giant,for not many dollars. Works fine, easily charging both the iPad mini4 and the Stratux. The Lightning cable is not white, btw, much sturdier than the original equipment.

  9. I had a Mini 4 and liked it. I switched to the Pro 11 for more screen real estate, especially for 1) Split screen view with synthetic vision, and 2) Easier to “write” (with pen or finger) in even mild turbulence. New gestures are intuitive, and a no-brainer if you already have iPhone X or later. Physical size fits well on my yoke and no need to block any window space. Barely any larger than the older iPad 9.7.

  10. Started using a full size Ipad , it was too big to mount in my C172 on the left side of the windshield , as it blocked the airspeed indicator . Bought an Ipad Mini & it fit perfectly on a suction cup mount — however the touch buttons were so small , the were unusable even on a slightly windy/ bumpy day . I’ve now switched back to my full size Ipad in my lap.

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