Using the iPad Mini in Aviation
by Hank Gibson, CSIP, CFAI+, Master CFI, Gold Seal CFI, CFII, MEI, AGI
We all know that paper charts are all but a thing of the past. Yes, Jeppesen and NACO still put out paper charts, but most pilots have made the switch to the iPad. Whether it’s Foreflight, Wing X Pro, Garmin Pilot, or the Jeppesen app, we no longer have a need for paper charts. The iPad (and other tablets) have made staying legal so much easier. The only thing we have to worry about now is making sure we download our updates.
The iPad brought pilots convenience and functionality in the cockpit. The iPad Mini has taken what the iPad did for aviation and made it even better. I started using the iPad Mini in December and have loved it in the cockpit. Below is a breakdown of why you should go with it over the regular sized iPad for aviation uses.
We’ll start with the big topic: the iPad Mini’s size. Obviously, it is smaller than the regular iPad. Is that good or bad? Personally, I think it’s great. The best thing about the iPad Mini is the fact that it actually fits on your knee while you’re flying. The iPad is a little bit too big to be practical in the airplane. The Mini, on the other hand, is roughly the size of a metal kneeboard so it fits perfectly on the top of your thigh.
Currently, I have the Zagg Keys cover for my iPad Mini. For practical uses, I like it. It has a blue tooth keyboard built into the case so I can type a little faster. In the airplane, it doesn’t really get in the way. I just fold the case back, leaving the keyboard resting on my thigh. The kicker is, I have to make sure I turn the bluetooth off on the iPad itself or else the iPad Mini will keep sensing the keyboard each time a key get’s pressed against my leg.
There are several iPad Mini cases specifically made for aviation (The AppStrap Kneeboard and the iPad Mini Bifold Kneeboard are a few examples). I have not used any of these myself, nor have I used the iPad Mini without a case, so I’m not sure how well it would stay on your leg when turbulence hits.
I have had several people ask about being able to read from the screen of the iPad Mini. So far, I have not seen a problem with this. The font to me doesn’t look any smaller than it would on a normal size iPad. The Mini also has the two finger pinch function to zoom in if you need to see more detail on a chart. If all else fails, assuming the autopilot is on, you can pick up the iPad Mini and hold it closer to your eyes.
If you know how to use the iPad, the transition to the Mini is a piece of cake. The user platform is all pretty much the same. You’ll just have to get used to being able to stow it in small cracks and crevices in the cockpit to keep it out of the way!
If you’ve never used the iPad before and want to rid yourself of those pesky paper charts, go with the iPad Mini. In order to get comfortable with it, HPA offers iPad Mini training to help you find your way around your new tablet (for more information, check out our iPad Training Page).
Just like it’s bigger brother, the iPad Mini is perfectly legal for charts in the airplane. It has all the EnRoute Charts, all the approach plates, all the arrivals, and all the departure procedures. Of course, it’s always good to keep a back up chart in the plane depending on what area you are flying through. Always keep the iPad Mini charged up too. When the battery dies, it’s no longer a legal way to keep charts in the plane. Oh, and don’t leave it sitting on the glare shield on a sunny day. iPads and iPad Minis can overheat and, Poof!, there goes the charts.
Shopping around for an electronic chart option? Go with the iPad Mini over the iPad.
Already have an iPad? If you want something that is more space conscious and don’t mind spending some more money, go get yourself one. You’ll notice a big difference in usability right away.