How do different iPad models fit in an airplane?

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We get a lot of questions from pilots looking to get the best size iPad for their cockpit. It’s a difficult thing to visualize without actually getting the device inside the plane; on top of that, you want to compare one size device to the next. There are over a dozen different sizes of iPads and iPhones that you could be using for your EFB app. In this article, we’re taking a look at the most commonly asked-about sizes. With that in mind, we didn’t examine some of the older generation iPads that might still be hanging on. If that’s your iPad, well it might be time to upgrade to a newer, faster, more capable unit and this article should help you decide.

iPad Mini yoke mount
Yoke mounts are popular – do they work with all iPad models?

Let’s consider seven different size devices in the same Cessna 172 cockpit to see what fits best. We mounted the iPads and iPhone in two ways: with a suction cup and with a yoke mount. We were able to mount nearly every device to the yoke (although the 12.9” iPad Pro is just too big).

For the suction cup mount, we tried to use our favorite mounting spot – the bottom of the windscreen that wraps around to the left-hand side. This spot sort of extends the glare shield if you line it up right and helps you keep the iPad in your natural instrument scan. A few of these iPads proved to be too big for this location, so we opted to move the suction cup mount to the right side of the plane by the copilot. With the iPad angled toward your view and out of the way of the yoke, it was definitely a good option for those flying with big iPads.

We wanted to give you a reference for the size and potential placement of these devices in the cockpit. Some of these pictures are to prove that it’s not feasible to mount the pictured device as we have. Remember that the final decision to mount your iPad or iPhone is up to the pilot in command, who must consider the safety risks associated with adding gear to the flight deck. Always be sure that you mount your devices with flying in mind first – the last thing you want is to flare on final and find your mount is in the way.

Here are the devices we mounted in our C172.

  • 6.5-inch iPhone (XS Max, 11 Pro Max)
  • iPad Mini 4 (same size as Mini 5)
  • iPad Air (same size as the Air 2, Pro 9.7 and 2017 iPad)
  • iPad Pro 10.5
  • iPad Pro 12.9 (First generation)
  • iPad Pro 11 (Newest model)
  • iPad Pro 12.9 (3rd generation, newest model)

Which iPad do I have?

If you’re not sure which iPad you have, it’s okay, you’re not alone. Please note that we loathe the naming convention Apple has chosen for the iPads as much as you do. It’s difficult to be sure which iPad you have but if you need to look that information up here’s how you do so.

First, identify your iPad’s Model Number. Go to Settings > General > About. You’ll see it listed here on the Model line. If you see a different format of the model number (something like MTFL2LL/A), tap on it once to view it in the format below.

Then, reference this chart.

Name Year Introduced Model Number
iPad (original) 2010 A1219 (WiFi) or A1337 (cellular)
iPad 2 2011 A1395 (WiFi) or A1396 / A1397 (cellular)
iPad (3rd generation) 2012 A1416 (WiFi) or A1430 / A1403 (cellular)
iPad (4th generation) 2012 A1458 (WiFi) or A1459 / A1460 (cellular)
iPad (5th generation) 2017 A1822 (WiFi) or A1823 (cellular)
iPad (6th generation) 2018 A1893 (WiFi) or A1954 (cellular)
iPad (7th generation) 2019 A2197 (WiFi) or A2198/A2200 (cellular)
iPad Air 2013 A1474 (WiFi) or A1475 / A1476 (cellular)
iPad Air 2 2014 A1566 (WiFi) or A1567 (cellular)
iPad Air 3 2019 A2152 (WiFi) or A2123, A2153, A2154 (cellular)
iPad Mini (original) 2012 A1432 (WiFi) or A1454 / A1455 (cellular)
iPad Mini 2 2013 A1489 (WiFi) or A1490 / A1491 (cellular)
iPad Mini 3 2014 A1599 (WiFi) or A1600 (cellular)
iPad Mini 4 2015 A1538 (WiFi) or A1550 (cellular)
iPad Mini 5 2019 A2133 (WiFi) or A2124, A2126, A2125 (cellular)
iPad Pro 9.7″ 2016 A1673 (WiFi) or A1675 (cellular)
iPad Pro 10.5″ 2017 A1701 (WiFi) or A1709 / A1852 (cellular)
iPad Pro 11″ 2018 A1980 (WiFi) or A2013 / 11934 / A1979 (cellular)
iPad Pro 12.9″ (original) 2016 A1584 (WiFi) or A1652 (cellular)
iPad Pro 12.9″ (2nd generation) 2017 A1670 (WiFi) or A1671 / A1821 (cellular)
iPad Pro 12.9″ (3rd generation) 2018 A1876 (WiFi) or A2014 / A1895 / A1983

Yoke Mounts

Now that you’ve got your bearing on which iPad you have, here is the head-to-head comparison of one iPad to the next.

Starting off with the yoke mounts and moving from smallest to largest…

6.5-inch iPhone – Shown with the X-Grip for Phablet. You can use either the Phone X-Grip or the Phablet X-Grip, as well as a Perfect Fit Cradle (but this won’t work with cases so it’s fairly restrictive). Buy Here

Mounted Landscape

Mounted Portrait

iPad Mini – Shown with the Perfect Fit cradle. Note that we mounted the iPad upside down because that allows the cradle to be better centered over the yoke with less obstruction of the instrument panel. This works well because the iPad’s screen will auto-rotate to right side up. Buy here.

iPad Air – Shown with Perfect Fit cradle. Buy here.

iPad Pro 10.5 – Shown with Perfect Fit cradle. Buy here.

iPad Pro 12.9 First Generation – Shown with Perfect Fit cradle. The yoke is not visible with this iPad and mount. If you want to mount this iPad on exposed tubing, the yoke mount will work well for that application too.  Buy here.

iPad Pro 11 – Shown with the X-Grip for 10″ tablets. It’s a snug fit but this will work for the Pro 11. A Perfect Fit Cradle is also available. Buy here.

iPad Pro 12.9 (3rd generation) – Simply laying this iPad against the panel demonstrates how enormous it is compared to the instruments. We don’t recommend you fly like this.

Suction Cup Mounts

Here are the suction cup mounts on the pilot’s side window.

6.5-inch iPhone – Shown with the X-Grip mount. It will work with the X-Grip for phone or the Phablet X-Grip, or with a Perfect Fit Cradle (but again, no case for your phone if you go this route). Buy here.

iPad Mini 4 – Shown with the Perfect Fit cradle. Buy here.

iPad Air – Shown with the Perfect Fit cradle. Buy here.

iPad Pro 10.5 – Shown with the Perfect Fit cradle. This iPad is just on the edge of being too big to use on the pilot’s side. Copilot’s side is shown below. Buy here.

iPad Pro 11 – Shown with the X-Grip for 10″ Tablets. It’s a snug fit but the iPad Pro 11 will work well with this setup; a Perfect Fit Cradle is also available. With how large this iPad is, we would not recommend using it in this position. Buy here. 

For larger iPads where it’s just not feasible to mount on the pilot’s side, we switched to the copilot’s side. Each of these mounts was placed as low as possible without interfering with the yoke.

iPad Air – Shown with the Perfect Fit cradle. Buy here.

iPad Pro 10.5 – Shown with the Perfect Fit cradle. Buy here.

iPad Pro 12.9 1st Generation – Shown with the Perfect Fit cradle. Buy here.

iPad Pro 11 – Shown with the X-Grip for 10″ Tablets. It’s a snug fit but the iPad Pro 11 will work well with this setup. Buy here. 

Summary

After seeing each of these devices in the plane we’ve found some favorites and some disqualifiers. Keeping in mind that the whole point of the iPad or iPhone is to act as your chart or backup attitude indicator, remember that it needs to be useful but most importantly not get in the way of your flying.

Our Favorites

iPad Mini – The iPad mini seems to be ideally sized for the yoke or the suction cup mount. With a screen big enough to utilize split screen features in a form factor that fits in nicely with the instruments, it is our favorite for the plane. The new iPad Mini 5 is a great option.

iPad Air, iPad Pro 9.7, or the 2017 iPad – This unit comes in second. It gives you just a bit more screen space to see everything while still being manageable on a yoke or the suction cup. It may be too large for some to consider mounting on the pilot’s side window, but the co-pilot’s window is a nice alternative. This size iPad also is more useful outside the plane with everyday tasks and traveling than the iPad Mini is.

Honorable Mention

6.5-inch iPhone – This is the largest iPhone to date in terms of screen size, called the iPhone 11 Pro Max in the latest version (or the XS Max for a slightly older model). Its physical footprint is almost identical to the older Plus size models like the 6+, 7+ and 8+ but with the all-screen design, it makes a very nice cockpit companion for yoke or suction cup mounting. The only drawback is you can’t do split screen on the phone with ForeFlight. We’ve flown with the iPhone 11 Pro Max and the iPhone XS Max and they are great. The size difference is nothing you won’t get used to after 24 hours. If you’re looking to go from two devices to one, I’d highly recommend the larger screen iPhone.

What about my larger iPad?

Well if you have the iPad Pro 10.5, you might find it doable in less cramped cockpits. It’s not actually that much bigger than the iPad Air, which we find to be a solid option. So if the 10.5 sounds like the one you want, go for it. On a kneeboard, it can work quite well.

iPad Pro 12.9 1st or 3rd Generation – These big boys are simply oversized for use in the plane in any sort of mounted solution, in my opinion. Maybe with the right kneeboard, you’ll find it usable but remember that what’s most important is that your iPad doesn’t interfere with you while you’re flying. For that reason, I’d say these iPads are better as a reference device that you can lay on the floor the majority of the time and only grab when you want to check on something. This limitation is huge for smaller GA pilots but if you’re flying a big turboprop or a jet and you’ve got the space to reach back in the cabin then you might be alright.

Note that we snapped a picture of the iPad Pro 12.9 3rd Generation laying against the panel of our C172 just for reference. This way you can really see how massive this iPad is. When the day comes that we can replace all our steam gauges with one of these big iPads I’m all for it. The 12.9 1st Generation mounted on the yoke is so large that you can’t even see (or grab) the yoke. Do not mount your iPad this way – it just ain’t right.

iPad Pro 11 – I love this 11 inch iPad. It’s a great computer and wonderful for flight planning. It is, unfortunately, too big to mount on the yoke and must either be used with a suction cup or a kneeboard. If that’s what you want then it’s a great option for pilots.

Cirrus or Bonanza pilots – The yoke option is out the window for a Cirrus pilot, and even a suction cup can interfere with the side stick. For that reason we recommend an iPad kneeboard. For Bonanza pilots, the yoke mount will work but make sure you choose the larger diameter version.

Photo Gallery

Ready to buy a mount?

We used RAM Mounts for this comparison test. These are sturdy and customizable to the situation and device. You can shop for RAM Mounts here. Another good option is the Robust series of mounts.

For more tips on iPad mounts, read this article.

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7 COMMENTS

  1. It would be great if you guys can redo this post (I assume its just a reposed from your old one) and make pictures from a hight a Pilots head would usual be to really see how much an ipad at each position would block instruments. Showing it form that low is not really giving me any idea (especially for yoke mount).

  2. You didn’t think to install the yoke mount on the right command. I have a ipad air and I mounted this at right yoke. It is very nice because I see any gauge on the board

  3. Wish you would include panel mounts as there are many of us that fly Experimental and can install panel mounts. I’m actually in the middle of building a new panel to replace my 20 year old panel and plan to make the IPAD mini a major part of the upgrade.

  4. IPad 11 Pro works perfectly in a Cessna 172 with RamMounts new mount for IPad 11 and also the more advanced mount from MyGoFlight made for IPad 11 Pro. Please review them in future. I have them both.

  5. I came to the same conclusion on my own a year or more ago. Wish this article had been around back then, but glad to see that I made the right decision.

  6. I hope this is helpful. I have tossed and turned re the best solution for me. I have heard so many great things about the iPad mini, even my instructor has one. However, although I fly without glasses, at 59 I much prefer something larger,…..but not too large. Then the new iPad 11′ Pro came along, with the fast processor and new stylus. Trouble is, how to best mount in, especially flying the Archer II? The knee boards I have used get tossed onto the back seat when I am close in, due to them interfering with the yoke.
    (The last thing I want in the metal on the bottom of the yoke cracking the screen of my new iPad.
    The solution? I purchased a MyClip2 for the iPad. It’s FANTASTIC. It’s light. I take my iPad out of the normal protective case so as to maximize cooling, and during take-off and landing, I simply slide the whole band to the right, so my iPad is down on the right side of my leg, out of the way of that nasty yoke. Anyway guys, hope this helpful. Oh, also, I purchase a little metal pen-holding clip, that I clip onto the strap, as this hold the stylus really well. Blue Skies, Chris, Sydney, Australia.

  7. Really great chart to compare iPad models. To make size selection easier, a column added with external length & width would be really great with an asterisk to indicate models with the same external dimensions but larger display screens.

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