It wasn’t so long ago that we were all happily flying without an iPad or tablet in the cockpit.
While some pilots still fly without such a device, the convenience they offer means that it’s rare to find a pilot who doesn’t rely on one today. Even pilots who learned to fly long before the iPad was first released are now converts.
There are several iPad models available, but depending on your experience and requirements, one model usually stands out from the others.
- Best for Student Pilots: iPad Mini
- Best for Private Pilots: iPad Air
- Best for Foreflight: iPad Pro
What You Should Know
Our aim is to be as transparent as possible, so you should know:
- We picked the best iPad for Pilots based on several factors and features, including screen size, internal storage, connectivity, as well as flying and non-flying usage.
- We have made my recommendations based on thousands of owner reviews, including a combination of testing and firsthand experience, and iPad pilot reviews from other outlets.
3 of the Best iPads for Pilots
Best for Student Pilots: iPad Mini
Student pilots usually learn to fly in planes with small cockpits and where space is at a premium, which means it can be hard to comfortably use any model bigger than an iPad Mini.
With its 7.9-inch Retina display, the iPad Mini is therefore perfect for tight spaces.
You have the choice of either 64GB or 256GB of memory, and WiFi or WiFi and Cellular. For student pilots, we can comfortably say that 64GB is more than enough space for all the data and apps you will use.
You can go either way with connectivity options, and while you may not find much use in having Cellular as a student pilot, it can be a good idea to look to the future, as it will come in handy as you progress.
Best for Private Pilots: iPad Air
Like the iPad Mini, the iPad Air is also available in 64GB or 256GB, and with WiFi or WiFi and Cellular.
If you have the space in the cockpit for its 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display, it is a better option, especially due to its more powerful A14 chip.
The iPad Air’s more powerful camera (12MP vs 8 MP), and 4K video recording capability are other welcome additions both inside and outside the cockpit, making this model a good choice if you want to use your iPad for more than just aviation purposes.
Best for Foreflight: iPad Pro
The iPad Pro is recommended by Foreflight themselves, and is available with a screen size of either 11 inches or 12.9 inches; with 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB of internal storage; and with WiFi or WiFi and Cellular.
One of the main reasons why the iPad Pro is the best choice for Foreflight is because you want at least a 128GB device for all the airport diagrams, instrument procedures, A/FD sheets, VFR sectionals, documents, and IFR en route charts you will be downloading, with room to spare to download other data.
We recommend getting the Cellular option, so you can activate moving map capabilities in ForeFlight.
If you don’t have the space for the iPad Pro, don’t worry, the Foreflight will also work just fine with the latest iPad Mini and iPad Air models too.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Best iPad Screen Protector for Pilots?
The best iPad screen protector is the ArmorGlass by MyGoFlight, who also manufactures some of the best pilot kneeboards on the market too.
It’s clear that the ArmorGlass was designed mainly for pilots due to its superior anti-glare design compared to standard screen protectors.
What is the Best iPad Case for Pilots?
To protect your iPad and keep it from overheating or freezing, the Phoozy iPad Thermal Insulated Case is a great choice.
It is able to extend battery life by 3x in cold conditions, is water-resistant, shockproof up to 4 feet thanks to its 5 layers of protection, and prevents overheating through its thermal insulated pouch.
How We Picked the Best iPad for Pilots
- Screen Size
Choosing the right iPad model and screen size isn’t necessarily as straightforward as it seems. While a bigger screen can sound like a good idea and the most logical option, if your environment isn’t best suited for a larger device, it can a mistake.
Selecting the correct screen size will therefore be dependent on several factors, including how comfortable you are at reading from small screens, the size of the cockpit, and the available mounting options.
- Internal Storage
Charts, maps, apps, pdf files, books, and company manuals are among some of the most common data and files that pilots store on their iPads.
While not all of these might apply, especially to a student pilot, it’s still a good idea to buy a model with at least 64GB of internal storage space.
You either have the option of buying an iPad with just WiFi or with WiFi and Cellular. The former will require the purchase of a separate GPS unit, while WiFi and Cellular include a built-in GPS module.
Naturally, an iPad with Cellular will be more expensive, but being able to check the weather, NOTAMS, update charts, etc. without WiFi can be invaluable.
- Flying vs. Non-Flying Usage
If you are only planning on using an iPad for flying purposes, you can probably get away with a smaller screen size and less storage space. If not, it’s a good idea to get a model that can comfortably be used away from the cockpit for playing games, listening to music, watching Netflix, etc.