Kneeboards remain a very popular option for securing an iPad in the cockpit, having evolved from their basic paper chart days to accommodate the latest tablets. They are affordable, don’t block the instrument panel, and can easily be carried between airplanes, making them a smart choice for renters or flying club members. But one issue that comes up frequently with iPad kneeboards is compatibility: which kneeboards work with which iPads? And what about iPad cases?
Fortunately, the latest Flight Gear iPad Kneeboard solves this problem, with a universal design that adapts to almost every tablet size, with or without a case. The iPad is held in place by two rubber-coated metal brackets; these are solidly built so they won’t crack or bend, but the rubber coating prevents scratches. The brackets work well with a “naked” iPad but are also wide enough to accommodate iPads in cases, including thicker ones like the Otterbox and Lifeproof models many pilots prefer—a rarity for kneeboards.
These brackets are then attached to the main kneeboard with velcro, so the position of them is almost infinitely adjustable. In our testing, we attached one bracket to the kneeboard (at the bottom) then placed the iPad against it before attaching the other bracket. This was a quick and easy way to get a tight fit without having to estimate the size—just stretch to fit. This worked for an older iPad Air model, a new iPad Pro 11″ model, and many sizes in between.
The board that the iPad is attached to can be removed from the rest of the kneeboard for repositioning, so it’s easy to switch from portrait to landscape orientation in flight. There’s also a built-in kickstand, which is helpful for reducing glare in flight. We left it down for takeoff and landing, to prevent any potential interference with the yoke, then flipped it up for cruise.
The right side of the kneeboard hangs down against your leg and has two slash pockets, ideal for holding a charging cord or cleaning cloth. There’s also a full-length zipper pocket, which is a good spot for a backup battery (a protective flap over the zipper prevents it from accidentally damaging your iPad screen). You can have your iPad mounted on the kneeboard and leave it plugged into your battery pack without any wires stretching across the cockpit, which we found to be a really nice setup. There are also two elastic bands for holding a pen or stylus.
Two nice details are apparent here. First, the outside of the pockets are made out of a soft fabric that accepts velcro accessories. You can attach almost anything here, but Sporty’s does offer a line of Gear Mods made just for this purpose. Secondly, there’s a slot in the spine of the kneeboard that allows it to be folded over, passing the leg strap through the slot. This makes the two-panel kneeboard into a smaller, single-panel design. It’s perfect for tight cockpits.
The front of the kneeboard has a larger pocket that’s sized for a backup chart, but we also found it well-suited to a small notepad. If you can’t quite give up the pen and paper, this is a good spot to put a small legal pad for in-flight notes. It’s easy to flip the right panel over on top of your iPad to copy ATIS, then flip it back to reveal your iPad.
The Flight Gear Bi-fold iPad Kneeboard is available for $34.95, which is a good value compared to many other iPad kneeboards. Two sizes are available, one for the iPad mini 1-5 and one for 9.7″ to 11″ iPads, but the flexible nature of the design means the larger size can fit almost any tablet.