Flying With The iPad Mini

by HPA · March 6, 2013

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.

iPad Mini with Wing X Pro

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.

iPad Mini Kneeboard

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.

Final Word

Shopping around for an electronic chart option? Go with the iPad Mini over the iPad.

iPad Mini Size Comparison

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.


How it Started

One of my best friends in high school, (Doug Gray) was a private pilot. He offered to take me up for a flight in a 1967 Cessna 150, N6228S. We took off from Calhoun, Georgia, and he took me on a scenic tour of the area, I was hooked. I later found out that my English teacher, (Jan Haluska) was also a flight instructor and the school was offering a ground school course the next year, which he taught, along with flight training with the goal of becoming a private pilot. I managed to talk my dad into funding the training, at the time the total cost was right around $500. Cessna 150 rental rates where $12 an hour, and the 172 we used for cross country was $15 an hour including fuel.

Training Begins

It started August of 1977. The fall semester rolls around, and I am enrolled in ground school, and if memory serves me, we met twice a week. First came the paperwork for my student pilot certificate, which at the time was included with the 3rd class medical. I loved ground school, especially learning navigation, plotting courses on the sectional, again this was before iPads and GPS, so we did a lot of dead reckoning and VOR navigation for cross countries. At the end of the course, I made an 83% on the Private Pilot written exam, remember this was before we had the question-and-answer books that on future test I would consume before taking a written.

2022.06.09 11.19 Flyhpa 62a27fea7716a


The fun really began on August 22, 1977, it was my first flight. To my surprise we used the same Cessna 150, N6228S that my friend Doug Gray had taken me for a ride in. The Cessna 150 had a standard VFR instrument panel, with one NAV/COM, and one VOR CDI. No intercom, so no headset, at the time I didn’t know what I was missing. I didn’t get my first headset until I started my instrument training in 2003. I was a big guy, I was 6’ 4” and weighed 245 lbs. but I do not remember being uncomfortable in the 150 even with the instructor in the right seat.

First flight lasted .8 hours, and we accomplished orentation, shallow turns, stability, and effects of flight controls. Over the next few months we added steep 720’s, slow flight, stalls, turns around a point, S-turns, emergencies, landings, (short field, soft field and normal).


At this point I want to talk about a training experience that still stands out. We were close to solo and were practicing takeoffs and landings. Turning base to final Jan got very upset at the way I was cross controlling the aircraft. Cross control is when you are in, say a left turn, and use opposite rudder to line the nose up with the runway. So, he had me depart the pattern and head east to the practice area, and climbing up to 5500 feet MSL, he had me slow down to just above stalling speed, start a left shallow turn and add right rudder. As the airplane stalled I had the strangest sensation, no roller coaster has ever come close, instead of blue sky in the windscreen I was looking at brown ground, and as far as I could tell we were upside down, through the terror of the moment Jan talked me out of the spin, controls neutral, oposite rudder, pull slowly out of the dive. As we leveled off he asked me what altitude we were at, as I remember it was around 2,800 feet MSL. Then he asked me what would happen if I experenced this on base to final in the traffic pattern. The answer was obvious, I would be a pile of wreckage off the end of the runway with a very short-lived aviation career. Needless to say this cured my cross-control tendencies.

Another training event the sticks out in my mind was the first time we did takeoffs and landings at the High School runway. The runway was 1,500 feet long, not sure of the width, but it seems like we had about 5 feet on each side of the wheels when on the center line of the runway. Landing from the south you also had to go between a cutout in the trees to be able to stop in time on the runway. After getting confortable landing here every runway since seemed huge. I remember landing at Chattanooga (KCHA) on a night cross country and commenting to Jan, that I felt like I could of landed sideways on the runway, it felt that large.

Very soon after this I started wearing old shirts to all my flight lessons, the reason for this occurred on February 8, 1978. The lesson that day was stalls, takeoffs and Landing. As we were taxing back in Jan told me it was time for my first solo. I was very excited, and after some last minute advice from Jan, including watch for floating on landing the plane will be light with him not in the right seat, complete 3 takeoffs and landings to a full stop. It was a blast, and at the end of my shirt was shorter in the back because Jan cut the tail out of it signed and dated my solo [an aviation tradition]. Total flight time accumulated on the day of my solo was 18.1 hours. I was now officially a pilot with solo priveleges.

In my next article I start cross country training, when Jan decided that it would be best accomplished this in the 172. Checking out in N5970R was like moving into a 747, this started a love affair with one of my faviriote planes to date. Since this time I have flown over 900 hours in many different models of the 172 and feel like I am stepping into an old friend every time.

More about Randy here:


Would you like more information?

Send us a message below.

8 + 6 =