iPad pilot gift guide—2020 edition

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Whether you’re a pilot shopping for another aviation enthusiast or you’re a non-pilot desperately trying to figure out what to buy the (slightly weird?) aviator on your list, iPad apps and accessories are a good bet. Ten years into the tablet revolution, pilots are still snapping up this gear at a tremendous rate. Here’s our list of the top 10 things any iPad pilot would like this Christmas.

10. Audio Link – More and more apps are adding audio alerts to go along with all the on-screen information, from terrain warnings to TFR reminders. Modern headsets like the Bose A20 and Lightspeed Zulu 3 have Bluetooth built in so you can hear these callouts without having to look down, but if you have an older model like a Bose X or David Clark H10-13.4 that’s not an option. That’s where this handy accessory comes in – it plugs into any standard twin plug headset and allows you to pair your iPad to your headset. Shop Now

Flight Outfitters Lift Bag
The Flight Outfitters Lift Bag is made for the iPad, and is our top pick.

9. Flight bag – The iPad has fundamentally changed what most pilots carry: a single tablet has replaced stacks of paper charts, paper manuals and so much more. That means your old flight bag is probably outdated (and most likely too big). Fortunately, a new crop of flight bags is tailored to iPad pilots, with slimmer sizes and lots of iPad-specific pockets. Our current favorite is the Flight Outfitters Lift Bag.

8. Mount – A mount is a must-have accessory for many pilots and they are available in several sizes and configurations. The most popular options are the Yoke Mount and Suction Cup Mount, both of which are available for the Mini and iPad/Air/Pro. RAM Mounts are available with custom-fit cradles, while Robust Mounts are available with universal cradles (a good option if you use a case). Shop Now

7. Kneeboard – If you don’t like a mount the other option is a kneeboard, and there are plenty to choose from, ranging from under $40 to over $170. Roughly, there are two main styles: basic leg strap and bi-fold kneeboard. Both are excellent for keeping your iPad stable on your leg; it’s mostly a matter of deciding how much more you want the kneeboard to do. For example, do you like to write on paper? Some bi-fold kneeboards include a clipboard for paper and pen. Do you fly an airplane with a center stick? A basic leg strap is probably all you have room for. Our favorite bi-fold model is the new universal Flight Gear one; our favorite simple model is the MyClip Multi.

6. Apps – Yes, you can send an app as a gift. It may not be as beautiful as a perfectly wrapped box under the tree, but apps do make excellent gifts – especially if you know of one that a friend or family member would really enjoy. For the beginning pilot, there are a number of training apps that can be both inspirational and helpful during training. For a more experienced pilot, consider an app that helps them master their favorite Electronic Flight Bag app, or send them a ForeFlight gift certificate. Any app in the App Store can be sent as a gift – here’s how to do it.

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

5. Flight simulator – There’s a lot of excitement in the world of home flight simulators, especially since the relaunch of Microsoft Flight Simulator earlier this year. While programs like this are typically thought of as games, they can be an efficient way to practice with your favorite electronic flight bag app (here’s how). A good yoke and rudder pedals set is an essential addition to your favorite simulator. Shop Now

4. Backup battery – This slim battery pack is our nominee for most under-appreciated iPad accessory, allowing you to carry a “get out of jail free” card with you at all times. Simply charge it up (using USB-C, Lightning, or micro-USB) and then plug in up to four devices simultaneously – it more than doubles the battery life of your iPad, and does not require a cigarette lighter or a wall plug. You’ll find dozens of uses for this, and not just in the cockpit. For the ultimate peace of mind, there’s a three piece kit that also includes a cigarette lighter charger and a dual 2.4 amp wall plug. Shop Now

3. SiriusXM Aviation Weather Receiver – These portable weather receivers connect to an iPad via Bluetooth and deliver SiriusXM weather and GPS position to ForeFlight or Garmin Pilot – anywhere in the U.S. This includes radar (base and composite reflectivity), lightning, storm tracks, METARs, TAFs, TFRs, PIREPs and more. They even allow you to listen to SiriusXM audio entertainment in the air. Shop Now

Garmin D2 Air
The new D2 Air smartwatch from Garmin can connect to the Garmin Pilot app.

2. Smartwatch – The smartwatch continues to be one of the hottest trends, and it’s not limited to aviation use. Connect one of these to your smartphone and you can get push notifications, activity tracking, GPS directions and even some handy in-flight features. It’s not a replacement for an iPad, but it is a nice accessory for the gadget geek who has it all. The latest models even include a pulse oximeter to track your oxygen level and pulse. Garmin has two excellent options right now: the under-$500 D2 Air and the top-of-the-line D2 Delta PX.

1. ADS-B Receiver – Portable ADS-B receivers are still the most popular iPad accessory among pilots. Part of the reason for their success is that they’ve grown into more than just weather receivers (although that’s still the most valuable feature). Most of these now offer traffic and backup attitude as well, so that synthetic vision display in your favorite app really comes alive. The ForeFlight Sentry is the most popular option, but the Sentry Mini and Stratus 3 are other great choices. Shop Now

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