How to mount and use your iPhone as an EFB in the cockpit
The iPhone is finding a home in many cockpits, as pilots have come to appreciate the larger screens on these phones as alternatives to the iPad. The increased readability makes the latest iPhones a great backup option as an Electronic Flight Bag (EFB), since it’s probably in your pocket already and one app subscription works on multiple devices.
What’s also nice is that there is almost full feature parity now between the iPad and iPhone versions of ForeFlight and Garmin Pilot, so you can take advantage of every flight planning and in-flight weather and navigation capability on your phone in the airplane.
To give some perspective on screen size, we first mounted an iPad mini next to an iPhone 14 Pro Max in a Cessna 182:
The iPhone Max series iPhones shown above feature a 6.7″ screen, while the regular iPhone (e.g. 12, 13 or 14) incorporate a 6.1″ screen. The screen size on the iPad mini 6 is 8.3″ diagonally.
Once you decide to use your iPhone as an in-flight display, it’s smart to secure it in the cockpit. In our experience the Robust series of mounts provide the best solution at the right price, so we’ll start there.
The simplest is and most affordable option is the Robust Universal Phone Suction Cup Mount. It will fit all smartphones up to 3.6″ wide, including the largest iPhone 14 Pro Max in a case. The kit includes an infinitely adjustable arm, heavy-duty suction cup, and quick grip clamp, and its universal design means it will likely work with your next iPhone upgrade too.
Robust also offers a Universal Phone Yoke Mount, which includes the same flexible cradle and arm, but instead uses an adjustable clamp to secure it to the yoke shaft:
This clamp also works well to secure your phone to the glare shield or a roll bar if you have that option in your airplane. You can also purchase just the clamp attachment to quickly transform your suction mount kit when needed (or just the suction cup too).
The next option to consider is RAM’s Perfect Fit style, which features a fixed bottom and a semi-flexible top that snaps over the iPhone screen to hold it in place. These are extremely well-made mounts that can stand up to years of abuse. If you already have a RAM suction cup or yoke mount, it’s easy and inexpensive to buy only the cradle, then add it to your existing mount. These are available for most iPhones produced over the last 5 years. Note that these mounts are form-fitting, so they will not work with a case on your phone.
For those wanting to stick with the RAM system but are looking for a little more flexibility to leave the case on an iPhone, check out the RAM X-grip mount. This is available in a small size that’s ideal for almost all smartphones, and its quick-release design makes it fast and easy to remove your phone.
For MyGoFlight users, there are also some good options. The universal Phone Cradle has an expandable aluminum clamp that will fit almost all smartphones, even with a case on. If you already own a MyGoFlight mount, this is an easy way to upgrade your system. If you’re new to MyGoFlight, this universal Phone cradle can be connected to either a Yoke Mount or Suction Cup option. These systems are more expensive than RAM Mounts, but they are well made and the offer more flexibility.
The complete selection of iPhone mounts is available here.
I certainly have tried many solutions of using iPad, iPhone, as my EFB and in the end it was the new iPad mini using RAM mount. Strapping a larger iPad to your thigh is a danger of disorientation as you look up and down, iPhone Max just a bit too small for approach plates. One tip I would have is to “learn” where that sweet mounting location is on the side of the windshield while your seat is in the flight position. During preflight and mounting equipment like that, the seat is generally pushed back position in order to get in and out of the airplane. Be sure that the mounting location is not interfering with the flight controls. Also I would suggest that you mount it with the charging port on the bottom, especially if you plan on having a backup battery handy. As with any in cockpit device, the last thing you want during flight is to be worried about where it is, orientation, suctioned securely, etc.
I agree that it is best to not place an iPad/iPad mini/phone on your thigh to avoid constantly looking up and down. I tried a few things and my favorite ended up being iPad mini on Ram X-Grip with suction cup on left window. iPad is positioned to allow full view outside plus full view of all instruments.
One thing I never see mentioned is the impaired cockpit visibility when installing portable devices blocking part of the available viewing area of windows and windshields. As a young A&P in the very early ‘80’s I remember reading in class about how limited the amount of allowable optical deformation is permissible and the limitations on where repairs can be placed in cockpit windshields.
These days, invariably I see all kinds of technology stuck on or otherwise restricting the view from the cockpit on airplanes that enter the shop. I get it, I’m as addicted to my iPad as anyone when I fly. What I ask, and in light and consideration of the recent sharp uptick in midair collisions, is that you be aware of the placement and possible restrictions in visibility you may be imposing.
You are so right. Not only restricting the view outside but inside as well covering up line of sight to breakers and more. Too much going on inside a small space. How many heading indicators do you need.
Right on Eric. The windshield is to look through. Not a convenient flat surface.
I prefer my mini on my thigh in a holder that also incorporates a notepad and pencil along with my emergency checklists.
It never gets lost or falls off the mount.
Thank you for bringing this hazard up. I wish Sporty’s would quit encouraging mounting devices to the windshield or windows which the block the vision outside. Sporty’s frequently shows pictures of devices blocking outside vision.
Absolutely agree with all these comments about NOT putting anything up where it blocks part of your field of view….an iPad is a view-limiting device, not a heads-up display.
I agree with everyone here that pilots should use discretion and common sense when mounting an iPad or iPhone in the airplane so as to not block the view out the window. For example, an iPhone or iPad Mini mounted in the lower left corner of the side window with a suction cup is a great option and does not obstruct visibility in single-engine Cessna airplanes.
I started flying with the original iPad back in 2010 and have since logged over a thousand hours using it in every way conceivable in a Cessna 172/182, Piper Aztec and a Cessna Citation. I’ve made about every mistake along the way too, including a memorable flight in the Citation in 2010 where I set the iPad on the floor before takeoff (there were no iPad mounts or kneeboards in 2010), and then during the climb out, it slid all the way to the back of the airplane. I also had it overheat several times in the early days, again attributed to mounting it in a bad spot in the airplane.
Up until last year, I primarily used the full-size iPad (Air, Pro, etc.) secured to a kneeboard on my leg. I experimented with mounting the 11″ iPad Pro on the glareshield and side window, but found it to be too big for that space in the airplanes I flew. I switched to the iPad Mini 6 last year and found that the size was just right to secure it in a cradle-style mount and suction cup to the left side window. When placed at the lower portion, it’s perfectly in line with the flight instruments and does not block the view out the window. After flying a few hundred hours with this configuration, it is now my preferred spot as it minimizes heads down time since you don’t need to look down to find key information. It’s also ideal for the times when you need to continuously reference a chart like an airport diagram when taxiing at a big airport or an approach chart when flying IFR.
“…After flying a few hundred hours with this configuration, it is *NOW* [correction] my preferred spot…”
With a metal glareshield, I’ve been decidedly low rent for nearly 20 years of devices (hp iPAQ to iPhone) with a small c-clamp and phone protector that comes with a (geeky) holster…holster is striped down to just phone clamp and is zip tied to c-clamp that is clamped onto glareshield …protector comes in handy when an oops event results in phone dropping onto pavement!
My pref’d spot in a smallish bubble cockpit, left side of glareshield, low enough not to block view out and tweaked to avoid instruments inside.
Would X-Naut have any input to this conversation? Nothing worse than an iPad “going dark” from overheating on a summer approach in the weather?