Me and My iPad

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When Apple's iPad first appeared last spring, it arrived with such a gush of hype that I thought it could never live up to what was expected of it. But secretly, I hoped it would become the ultimate Swiss Army knife cockpit gadget, able to do navigation, grab weather, file flightplans, perform weight and balance and a hundred other things. I'll admit it, despite the overpromising, I wanted to fall in love.

After four months of flying with the thing and using it for all sorts of aviation-related and other tasks, I'm not in love. For me, the iPad has been amusing, sometimes entertaining, but ultimately disappointing. It's like a hot date that looks good but is so bland you don't even want to come out of the dugout, much less skip to second base.

This shouldn't be so. The hardware is terrific, the display is breathtaking, it has excellent battery life and most iPad apps are brain-dead easy to use. So what's the problem? It's lack of convergence. You remember convergence, the theory that all technology was converging on the notion that a single gadget would do everythingóprovide e-mail access, do multi-media, take pictures, have a phone and also powerful computing capability. It was understood that convergence devices would be compromised and wouldn't perform as well as a dedicated computer, but would be adequate.

That's where the iPad misses, in my opinion. It just isn't adequate. In the iPhone, at least, Apple has a good multi-purpose gadget that does all these things reasonably well and you can also make a call on it, which you can't with the iPad, so I end up carrying it, plus a cellphone and because the screen and keyboard just aren't up to the task, I also carry a laptop for serious e-mail handing or more involved writing. The iPad isn't the single go-to device I was looking for, although for some buyers, it has become just that. For me, it isn't for creating things, it's for looking at things.

But even for looking, it's limited and here, the iPad's shortcomings as a cockpit computer/display/navigator have a direct parallel to its general utility, or lack thereof. There are a couple of moving maps for the iPad and although these have some compelling features, they aren't good enough for me to leave my aera or GPSMAP 396 on the ground. On our swing up the west coast earlier this month, Marc Cook and I tried to press the iPad into service to supplement the broken XM weatherlink. It failed miserably. Even when it had good 3G coverage, which it doesn't always have, the NEXRAD views are too limited and static to be of tactical use.

Even on the ground, the iPad's NEXRAD capability is a faint shadow of what I've become accustomed to through using WeatherTAP. The iPad can access this through wireless or 3G and emerging apps improve weather getting, but since I still have to carry a laptop, I tilt toward using that instead of the iPad. It's faster and easier to use, so grabbing it instead of the iPad works for me. The iPad's size is still an issue. After testing various mounting options, I've concluded the yoke is the best place for it, even though it consumes all of the space between the yoke horns.

The iPad does do at least one thing really well: plate reading. There are a handful of apps providing this function and all of them work well enough to supplant paper. Prices for these services are a good value. As a chart reader, the iPad is less impressive, but if you're willing to adapt to the display's limitations, you can make the charts work well enough.

And that's the nut of it, really. "Well enough" is not great. It's not even good. It's one step above mediocrity and this is, unfortunately, the state of play for most technology that's oversold. These gadgets do a lot of things adequately, but rarely do anything really well. They force you to adapt to their quirks and inadequacies, rather than the other way round. Maybe they deliver a slam-dunk something or other, but often, they just don't.

For things like navigation and real-time weather in the cockpit, I haven't devolved to the point that I'm willing to accept barely adequate in exchange for trendy technology that other people seem to think is the second coming. I like bright shiny objects as much as anyone, but unless it delivers something useful and practical, I'm inclined to leave it where I found it.

Still, I wouldn't mind falling in love.

Comments (46)

Thanks for the input, Paul. I'd love to learn more about how the iPad actually performs in the cockpit. I've been circling these gadgets for weeks in the stores now, and like you am just waiting to fall in love. apart from the hefty price tag for the big-storage 3G-version, I am slowly running out of reasons not to buy one and give it a try...
The point with the WX capability is a good one, but with us not having these options here in Europe anyway, it still won't help me not to spend 800 bucks...

Posted by: Christopher Neuhaus | October 18, 2010 2:24 AM    Report this comment

Thanks for the input Paul. Unfortunately I could not agree more! While it works for me as a laptop replacement in most business cases it has failed in the cockpit, even as a chart reader. Due to Apple's software restrictions (or lack of support for third party devices) it does not work for me as a navigation GPS. In my Bonanza I often do not have proper GPS signals. A bluetooth GPS mouse type of device would cure that problem but is is neither supported directly by Apple nor can third party developers use the built in bluetooth for that. It is also slightly too big for mounting it somewhere in the cockpit (at least in my Bonanza).

Posted by: Georg Isenbuerger | October 18, 2010 3:49 AM    Report this comment

Paul, can you comment on ForeFlight. I am a VFR pilot needing an inflight chart reader to make sure I don't bust the class Bravo in Phoenix. Yes, I was thinking about the Garmin 496 [for $1500-USED on eBay]but Ipad is an easier sell to my wife because it is $800 and she can watch her mindless drama shows on NBC at home with the WiFi. Since you can download all the charts I don't need a 3G connection in the air. However like the Bonanza pilot I am worried the internal GPS will not be reliable enough. I don't want to get an updated position and find that I am under an aluminum overcast with 747's overhead. If you need my address to send me your Ipad for a demo just let me know :)

Posted by: Sam B | October 18, 2010 4:16 AM    Report this comment

ForeFlight is terrific. A good, easy=to-you planning tool that's excellent for gather a briefing on the fly. As noted, the NEXRAD capability is somewhat limited. It has a good chart/plate reader and other utilities.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | October 18, 2010 5:27 AM    Report this comment

Paul, I totally understand your points. However I would maybe note that the iPad is *not* a dedicated device, and it's functionality (or lack thereof) in a particular application, like in the cockpit, depends mostly from the applications that are using its hardware as a base. And the hardware has finite characteristics, which possibly are not the best in every single case.
Moreover, if we say that a $800 gadget (with a ever-growing number of uses in every corner of life) is not better than dedicated devices that cost three times more... well, I'd be surprised of the contrary!

Posted by: Miriano Ravazzolo | October 18, 2010 6:43 AM    Report this comment

I agree the iPad can't replace an in-panel or hand-held dedicated aviation GPS. But it does excel as both a plate reader and a source of all traditional paper information that used to be required in the plane. With ForeFlight updated with all sectional and low-IFR maps, it will show your plane on course (GPS has always been fine in my Mooney) and allow you to play with diversion routes very easily if they come up. I haven't touched a piece of paper in six months.

Posted by: JEFF SCHLUETER | October 18, 2010 6:43 AM    Report this comment

The lack of a real GPS is a real problem. Also I find the screen is not bright enough. There is no good way to mount it anywhere. On the other hand, the ability to access charts is fantastic. Jeppesen has a free app that works if you have an electronic data subscription. The ForeFlight and WingsX combined give access to virtually everything you need. The 3G iPad can be used as a phone with Skype as it has a built in microphone and speaker. If there was a way to get data in the air, there is an ADS-B application called PlaneFinder.

Posted by: Thomas Hirsch | October 18, 2010 6:49 AM    Report this comment

I partially agree with you: The iPad is not the single gadget that does everything. I find it a great gadget for consuming information but a mediocre one for creating stuff (mostly due to lack of a real keyboard). I bought the iPad as a plate reader and to supplement paper enroute charts and sectionals; ForeFlight lets it do both admirably. For these functions, I just set the iPad on my kneeboard. As a bonus, I have a device that does several other things that are entertaining but which I would not have spent money on. It certainly does not replace the KLN94 or the GPSMap 396 that are in the plane.

Posted by: Art Zemon | October 18, 2010 6:52 AM    Report this comment

I'll gladly take it off your hands for $100- and save you having to deal with it's inadequacies.

Posted by: Tom Phillips | October 18, 2010 7:16 AM    Report this comment

Hmmm ... seems to me you've drifted from "wanting to fall in love", to finding it necessary to hate. These new portable devices will be transitional for hard-core aviation use for at least the next 3 to 5 years. In fact, I would expect that devices like the Aera and GPSMAP 696/695 portables to be accepted for some limited, but legal, IFR work before this happens.

Let me submit a cautionary note, though: recently my personal 695 unit "fried" a circuit board for some unknown reason (and the very secretive Garmin won't let on as to why). I mention this as a reminder to all aviators out there to have a modicum of paper documents in the cockpit for insurance as we press forth in this "brave new world" of the digitized cockpit.

Posted by: Phil Derosier | October 18, 2010 7:17 AM    Report this comment

I don't want all my eggs in one basket nor do I want to rely on a mass market toy for reliability. Personally I think it's more of a distraction and causes more pilots to fly "head down" and that is a dangerous thing.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | October 18, 2010 7:26 AM    Report this comment

I hate to pop the iPad's bubble, but the tablet computer in the cockpit has "been there, done that" already! I started with a Fujitsu p1610 and AnywhereMap Pro and had a great (barely) yoke-mountable system in my 206. I now use an "almost new" Samsung Q1EX that cost the princely sum of $231 delivered to my door (Ebay) to run AnywhereMap. I have real-time GPS navigation ("mouse" GPS), can use the touchscreen or a bluetooth mouse (I prefer the mouse), and run near-real time XM weather, and have Voyager SmartPlates (the updated plates are FREE from the government!). When I arrive at my destination, I plug in a $18 (Ebay again!) folding Targus keyboard and use wi-fi to check my email and flight plan. The visibility/legibility is excellent in all lighting conditions. Who needs an iPad when the market is flooded with very reasonably priced alternatives. Tablets in general are unloved by the masses, but are perfect for aviation navigation and weather applications!

Posted by: JOHN AUSTIN | October 18, 2010 7:59 AM    Report this comment

I sold a Fujitsu P1620 tablet PC to find my iPAD prchase and I find my self in the unusual position of disagreeing with Paul!
We have a 430w and 396 with WX in the plane....

The PC was big, bulky, slow and unweildy in the cockpit and took forever to boot, comparedto the 0.5S to power-on in with the iPAD. I am using foreflight on the iPAD and love it. The charting is excellent, the pre-flight briefing tools superb and the approach plates are very readable. Only thing I miss is the geo-referenced approach plates I have on my P1620. I haven't used the on-line filing tools yet.

I have not had the problems the Bonanza driver noted with respect to the in-built GPS; I get a solid 5m accuracy. It might not be perfect but things are improving all the time and it is way ahead of all the competition, both in terms of price and usability.

Paul - Can you suggest a better alternative?

- Tim

Posted by: Tim Fountain | October 18, 2010 8:05 AM    Report this comment

Have Anywhere MAp. Have used Dell PDA, Motion LS800 tablet and Anywhere ATC (HP). Works great when it works.The Dell X51v worked like a champ, the Tablet was a pain, mostly due to Windows problems. It was and is still good to use for electronic plates. The HP ATC works well but XM WX keeps deactivating my subscription every now and then and I haven't been able to figure out why.. It's a real pain to have to go through having to land and call them. I check it out the day before a flight and it works, next day it's deactivated. Very frustrating! The latest NASA Call Back was all about EFB problems, head down syndrome and all. Maybe NTSB will recommend a third crew member in airliners to run the gadgets?

Posted by: Tom Phillips | October 18, 2010 8:57 AM    Report this comment

Nobody has mentioned the iPad's fatal flaw: It shuts down when it gets hot. Just putting it on a table outdoors in summer sunlight is enough to prevent operation.

As with most Apple products, I find my iPad spectacular in some respects and infuriating in others, such as it's lack of the concept of "folders." The hi-temp shutdown isn't a significant problem for home use, but I wouldn't want to have to rely on it in the cockpit.


Posted by: Richard Factor | October 18, 2010 9:02 AM    Report this comment

I have been flying with my 3G iPad for the past 3 months and am very happy that I have been able to consolidate several applications into one device. Previously, I relied on a GNS430 and Anywhere Map ATC GPS with assorted tools for E6B, checklists, flight planning, AFD, etc. With the iPad I use SkyCharts Pro and ForeFlight, along with Sporty's E6B, Giant Timer, and an Electronic Checklist application. I use a RAM knee board mount to keep it handy. So far, every cross check with the GNS430 and Anywhere Map ATC have been dead on for navigation accuracy and the charts are a lot easier to use than the ATC, not to mention a lot faster for rendering a scale change. The METAR/TAF updates are also handy for checking conditions while enroute. I do not use XM weather on either the ATC or iPad, so I cannot speak to the timeleness of the updates. Overall, I think it is a good tool that will get better as more applications are written specifically for the iPad interface (not recycled PC apps or iPhone's tiny size). The upcoming multitasking verison of the iPad OS will also make switching apps a bit easier.

Posted by: John Salak | October 18, 2010 9:19 AM    Report this comment

With the wide fenestration of the Liberty XL2, I enjoy superb GPS accuracy using the iPad's built in GPS receiver, the accuracy of which rivals that of the installed GNS530.

I fly at low altitude, enjoying the passing scenery, routinely accessing the 3G network, allowing weather updates via Foreflight or a variety of internet sites, such as Weathertap and Navmonster.

Life is as good as it's ever going to get for this fair weather for-the-fun-of-it aviator, and the iPad with Foreflight helps!

Posted by: DANIEL SPITZER | October 18, 2010 10:45 AM    Report this comment

I got the Ipad to replace my Jepp charts with Foreflight. I got the cheapest Ipad and installed Foreflight, and I couldn't be happier. My biggest concern was battery life, followed by viewability in sunlight. A+ on both counts. I already have my nav and weather needs in the panel -- I just wanted to replace the reams of paper charts. I'm not sure why people expected this device to be so much more , but it solves at least one problem very well.

Posted by: RODMAN PAUL | October 18, 2010 11:29 AM    Report this comment

Paul, you and I have already discussed this but I will put in my 2 cents. I love my ipad and the ForeFlight ap. I have mine mounted to the R side pedestal in my Citation using a RAM mount. For me, the gps has worked just fine and offers another aspect of situational awarement by overlying the high altitude charts. Do I need it? No I have an abundance of gps and weather data from other sources and depend on my installed avionics primarily. However, the chart viewing alone makes it worthwhile. Of course the flight planning is very basic, but useful for short flights where fuel is not critical. For filing, it can't be beat. It doesn't replace anything I had but I would miss being without it now that I'm used to it.

With all due respect, Paul, I think you're being overly harsh on the iPad.

Posted by: Howard Tobin | October 18, 2010 1:38 PM    Report this comment

I have used various GPS and tablet PCs in the cockpit in the past, but none come close to the usefulness of the iPad both in and out of the cockpit.

I use both Foreflight and WingX (I prefer WingX in-flight) along with a number of other aviation apps and it has been invaluable as a backup for navigation as well as for pre-flight and filing needs.

I have had it shutdown a couple of times due to heat, so it will never be primary for charts or plates, but I have learned how to best avoid that from happening by strategic location.

Overall, it has replaced my laptop when I am on the road, which I leave running at home. I can access that if needed. I don't write columns, so I don't need to type a lot on it, but you can get dedicated keyboards.

As competition and technology improve, these can only get better. For a non-aviation device, it certainly has met all of my expectations.

Posted by: Robert Heise | October 18, 2010 1:45 PM    Report this comment

The iPad is a great platform for general use. The engineering is excellent enough for my 4 year old to pick up and at least find some thing fun to look at. However, There are other tablets that have been on the market for at least 5 years now that work well with XM Weather and chart readers.

I operate a Citation XLS with two EFB's running, Samsung Q1's. Of course, we have more room in our cockpit than most smaller gen av aircraft. We have had EFB tablets in our cockpits for at least 5 years now. We started with Motion Computing LS800's running Systems. We moved to the Samsung Q1's in order to have better touchscreens not reliant on a dedicated RF stylus like the Motion Computing system.

Apple's tech philosophy is to provide a polished, integrated interface right out of the box. But since they keep strict control on applications, it slows the creativity/functionality of specific applications for Aviation. If a market large enough to demand these applications becomes a reality, the iPad will improve as a platform to be used as an integrated EFB.

Currently, as an eReader platform, The iPad excels. So much so that I have converted my ebook, "FAR's Translated" available at into a format that is easily downloaded into the iPad.

The current generation of young people are entrenched in this new paradigm of electronic media. This is where the iPad will excel.

Posted by: David Wright | October 18, 2010 9:31 PM    Report this comment

So Paul, let me get this straight. You're complaining because the iPad doesn't do everything you want it to do? "I hoped it would become the ultimate Swiss Army knife cockpit gadget, able to do navigation, grab weather, file flightplans, perform weight and balance and a hundred other things"

The iPad has been available to purchase on the market since what - April? The Garmin has been releasing one incarnation or another of aviation GPS systems since June of 1991. So in the 7 months since the iPad's release you want it to best the Garmin?

The iPad does Navigation (and has a built-in GPS on the 3G+WiFi models)
The iPad does weather (although it does require some form of network connection).
The iPad does file flight plans.
The iPad does perform weight and balance.
The iPad also does a hundred other things, including carry all of my books and supporting documentation material such as my POH, the FAR/AIM, the Airport Facilities Directory (all current mind you for free or near-free).

By the way - what size screen is your Garmin? Oh, right, it's a massive 3.8" diagonal. Unless you are referring to the Aera, in which case it's a "massive" 4.3" screen.

Can either of those do weight and balance? Not at least against the specs that I looked up on it (it might be a buried "feature" somewhere).

How much are the updates to the maps from Garmin? By the way - what was the total cost of the Aera? $2,000 looks to be about the going price.

Posted by: Brian Garrett | October 18, 2010 11:54 PM    Report this comment

So what is my point to all of this? Garmin industries has been at this for nearly 20 years now, and their BEST entry-level device for aviation is $2,000 and while it can do a few things more or better than the iPad, it is not by much.

For the price difference of $1,200 less, the iPad does most of what the top-end portable Garmin does and a whole bunch more. Does that mean the iPad should be THE aviation solution? Not at all. It does lack some functionality in key areas: Weather certainly, a finer granularity in GPS tracking (although 5m is pretty dang good). Keep in mind folks, this product is less than a year old, and here we are reading a product comparison between it and the standard Garmin products. David Wright eludes to this in his posting. Can you imagine where this product is going to be in four to five years? If I were working at Garmin I would be having a serious "oh $hit" factor as to the price point vs. features. Is the iPad a direct competitor? Nope - not yet, but it is going to be - VERY soon. Sooner than Garmin would like to acknowledge.

There are other GPS vendors other than Garmin out there as well, and they certainly would LOVE to take advantage of the iPad and exploit the features. ForeFlight's software is top-notch and since I started using my iPad with ForeFlight they have improved the product several times, all without a charge and with some rather imaginative ways.

Posted by: Brian Garrett | October 18, 2010 11:55 PM    Report this comment

I know mounting is currently a problem (believe me - in an LSA, there is NO room for anything extra), but again, I go back to the fact that this product is less than a year old and manufacturing is only now starting to show some really creative solutions to the mounting issue.

The fact that this article was even written shows there is an interest in finding a larger screen with more features and a better alternative to the Garmin systems. I know at least I want a bigger navigational screen that does more in the plane - this just might be it and we are in the infancy of a new era of the tools we can use - with the iPad leading the way.

Posted by: Brian Garrett | October 18, 2010 11:55 PM    Report this comment

(sorry for monopolizing three - now four, posts - I guess I had a lot to say about this....)

Posted by: Brian Garrett | October 18, 2010 11:56 PM    Report this comment

Canthe ipad actually be used for navigation in the air?? I can never seem to get it to be used for a moving map function, any ideas why? I see people talking about the accuracy of the GPS but I can never seem to get it to work, or for that matter my iphone (using Foreflight)

Posted by: Les Eaves | October 19, 2010 11:24 AM    Report this comment

Canthe ipad actually be used for navigation in the air?? I can never seem to get it to be used for a moving map function, any ideas why? I see people talking about the accuracy of the GPS but I can never seem to get it to work, or for that matter my iphone (using Foreflight)

Posted by: Les Eaves | October 19, 2010 11:24 AM    Report this comment

Yes you can use the iPad for navigation in the air. You need to have the 3G+WiFi version of the iPad since that has the GPS built into it. If you don't have that version of the iPad I'm not sure how it would triangulate where you're at. I can't say I've tried using the flight following using ForeFlight on the iPhone. The support folks at ForeFlight are great, so if you're having problems with the GPS accuracy on the iPhone (or iPad) drop them a note and I'm sure they'll be happy to help figure out what's going on.

Posted by: Brian Garrett | October 19, 2010 12:18 PM    Report this comment

Interesting report thanks Paul. I've got a little android phone and it fits that convergence bill pretty well. I haven't spent a cent on it yet but its got some neat capabilities. It can show GPS location on google earth, which it pulls down (up?) via 3g. During a forced landing at night or in bad vis it could help you find a field instead of the trees. It can log your 3d pathway and output it as a KML to display in google earth later. It can shoot vids, take pics and be used for calls and messages while displaying and logging gps vector info. Its got that great sky map too - pointing it any where and you get a moving map of the planets and stars - brilliant! Sure, it slows down when doing a few things at a time but for a little gadget to be filming, playing music and gps logging at once is pretty cool. Bit small for approach plates but I am seriously considering one of the cheap 7" android tablets we are about to get flooded with. 7 or 8 inches would be a good size I reckon. Android will take precedence over the next year or two and while I think the Apple hardware is superior, the open nature of Android and the greater number of components included for the price will bring who know's what capabilities...

Posted by: John Hogan | October 20, 2010 7:24 AM    Report this comment

From a programmers point of view the IPad has all the hardware needed to do most things aviation related. Only the 3g version has a true GPS the non 3g version uses wifi triangulation to approximate GPS functions. There is a company that makes an add on GPS for the IPad but you have to ďJail-breakĒ the device because itís not Apple approved. I have a feeling that the Android based tablets will see more add on hardware than the IPad will ever. The IPad Screen and touch features are better than most Android devices however Android by its very nature is more open to programmers and hardware manufacturers.

If someone would make an add on device that feeds in static pressure, pitot pressure, a Gyro stabilized compass, and a Gyro stabilized tilt sensors you could replace the entire instrument panel with a tablet. Iíve played with making a ďGlass cockpitĒ app, but since none of the sensors are gyro stabilized and speed and altitude can only be calculated with GPS and not air pressure differential (airspeed and altitude) itís only for fun (never finished to point where Apple would approve it anyways).

For now one of the Atom based Tablet PCís is more interesting for me. Although smaller than a full laptop you can use it in laptop form with a keyboard (95% full size) or fold it and use the touch screen in tablet mode. Just needs more aviation apps as it will run all built for Windows but most apps built for windows were not designed with a touch screen in mind.

Posted by: Joseph Chambers | October 20, 2010 11:45 AM    Report this comment

I'm with Howard and a number of other posters. I got an iPad and ForeFlight specifically to replace the books and books of approach plates. It does that fantastically well. And as a bonus, it also replaces the Lo/Hi and Sectional charts. I didn't expect that. I also didn't expect that it would have all the AOPA airport info as well. And it's organized by airport...all you need to know is the name, identifier, or city/state. I really get it to replace XM, get enroute weather, etc. We already have that available via XM running into our Garmin 530/430Ws.

And when I'm on the ground, I get all the rest - anything accessible via the web - even Avweb. What more would you want? And it's only about 6 months after release. What will be available in a year or so? To me it's just a great device with only greater things to com. BTW, the touch keyboard isn't too bad - even for fat fingers -- Sent via an iPad

Posted by: LARRY BAUM | October 20, 2010 8:44 PM    Report this comment

Ken is right to an extent. The problem with a one-device-for-all solution is exactly that - ONE device. Flying is about back up systems. I love my iPad with ForeFlight. Back-up? iPhone with ForeFlight. Back up for ForeFlight/Apple? Garmin 396. If everything electronic goes down AND my alternator quits AND my vacuum pump fails AND my handheld radio fails AND its LIFR well, I'm buying that farm. Short of that, I feel very comfortable in an old steam gauge tin can with (relatively) cheap new electronics to assist. No more paper here! (Qualifier: Northeast pilot with plenty of radar coverage)

And I disagree with Paul (and agree with several others) on the laptop/flight planning issue. Maybe he has a better computer solution than I do, but I grab the iPad and ForeFlight WHILE sitting at my computer because it's soooo much easier for flight planning. In fact, I like ForeFlight so much I will grab my little iPhone before the computer. And when I'm out pre-flighting and need an update, clearly the portables an 3G rule. Additionally, you can calculate weight and balance, download the MOST current FAR's, have a PDF copy of your POH etc. all in one place.

Bottom line - iPad has changed the way I fly and I love it! Still would love to see external GPS and XM satellite antennas to make a full back up for the 396, though. Nothing's perfect...

Posted by: Cory Sammons | October 21, 2010 3:48 PM    Report this comment

FInally got Foreflight to work on my iphone, specifically the moving map function. Seems I had been failing to turn off "Cellular Data", once i did it worked like a charm - now I'm off to buy an ipad!

Posted by: Les Eaves | October 21, 2010 4:01 PM    Report this comment

None of these solutions are what I need. I'm very comfortable and proficient with my WAAS GPS, and have an MX20 MFD that's well integrated with the GPS. I also have ADS-B out via my transponder.

I want either of the following:
1) a reasonably priced (ie probably not Garmin) panel mount 978MHzADS-B receiver that can feed weather to my MX20, or
2) A handheld version of the AV8OR or Aera or ? that can receive ADS-B weather and traffic instead of XM WX.

The panel solution would be perfect, but as long as Garmin keeps its protocols proprietary and closed, 3rd party solutions from companies like NavWorx can't be integrated with the MX20 or GMX200. While I do like what NavWorx is doing, they've not managed to reverse engineer the Garmin MX20 interface protocols, and the 3rd party displays leave something to be desired.

I don't want or need a whizbang 696 or anything similar that tries to be everything including things that look like primary flight instruments, but aren't. I just want TIS-B traffic and FIS-B geo referenced weather and terrain (mountains around here don't change very often) without more subscriptions and proprietary databases.

We need open protocols in our panel mount and handheld avionics. Period.

Posted by: Greg Goodknight | October 24, 2010 3:17 AM    Report this comment

@ Joseph Chambers - Yep I agree. The gyros in my android device are already pretty amazing. You can play that teeter game with great sensitivity by tilting the device. While I wouldn't (and can't by law) trust these slate type devices as a primary source of situational awareness, in a homebuilt or LSA they're cheap enough that you could array 2 or 3 of them across a panel as MFDs, all with their own data sensors and able to talk to each other. I reckon they will become prevalent to the point at which most vehicles (air, land, water) come with a panel mounted cradle that you plonk you tablet computer into to access onboard equipment, storage and sensors and to act as an MFD, media centre, GPS etc. I bet someone's working on a cheap ADS-B-In receiver that can talk to them.
They all need to get the daylight viewability sorted though.

Posted by: John Hogan | October 24, 2010 7:51 AM    Report this comment

Well the discuss. Was about iPad has degenerated into everybody cheering for their device. I like the iPad in the cockpit, a lot. I use gns480 for IFR, 396 for NEXRAD weather and iPad for everything else and I am very happy. The chart subscriptions for all places US low Ifr, VFR, approach plates, etc. insane. I don't really want a one thug does it all cause I love backup and backup for that. (I even has my 6 pack backed up twice). Things I don't like? Haven't yet found a good mounting solution.

Posted by: John Fulton | October 25, 2010 8:08 AM    Report this comment

I like the iPad. When it came out, only 8 months ago, I waited for the 3G version and was rewarded with a tremendously simple device that provides many different uses. As for my aviation use, it is really superior for pre-flight planning using Foreflight, great for filing the flight plan and all this without needing a wi fi connection. In flight, you can't beat the ease of accessing approach plates and airport info. I mount mine in my Bonanza with a Ram Mount. The moving map has been very reliable. My Nexrad is supplied by a yoke mounted Aera 510. These two devices, together, provide everything I need...and the total price of both is far less than the Garmin 696. And as a bonus, I have a car gps in the Garmin and with the iPad I have email, the internet, music, movies, a photo viewer, a virtual newspaper, and access to thousands of Apps. I hope we eventually get XM Wx on the iPad, but I'm far from disappointed. In the iPad I have a device I can use every single day AND have terrific aviation capability in and out of the cockpit.

Posted by: BOB DEFILIPPO | October 25, 2010 9:12 AM    Report this comment

I like my Ipad in the air. I use foreflight and Wingx. There is however a new app called Sky Radar that uses Seatle avionics geo referenced approach plates and the company makes an add on ADS B receiver. I downloaded the app, 30 day trial but have not tried it in the air, has anyone used this, especially with the ADSB receiver?

Posted by: Robert Mitchell | October 25, 2010 10:27 AM    Report this comment

I've been using Macs for 20 years so I picked up the iPad a little easier than most but OSX and iOS are different. I fly of course and own my own business, and decided to see if the iPad could replace my Macbook. At first I didn't think it would and Apple for it's part did not design it to replace the MB, but as I've been using it for about a month now I've found it does a pretty amazing job or replacing the MB. I did find it necessary to purchase the bluetooth keyboard to do serious word processing and it really does a great job. I read, edit and forward extensive spreadsheet budgets, no problem. I can even have our clients sign a PDF contract right on the ipad and print or email or transfer it directly to their computer via WiFi. It really can do an awful lot but not the way you are used to doing it, especially if you have little or no experience with a Mac. So I'm happy and waiting for a good training manuel as I'm working on my IFR ticket. And with over 300,000 apps and 30,000 specifically for the iPad, you can find the app you need. I'd be glad to share with you the apps you'll need to do the things I'm doing with the ipad. And don't forget these apps are 99Ę to $10 for most, I mean how can you beat that?

Posted by: Marty Rogers | October 25, 2010 10:42 AM    Report this comment

I have found my iPad, with foreflight to be the best solution. I now have all charts (high, Low, IFR & sectional) and can locate my exact position instantly on any of these charts, at any alt or ft level. I also have all airport data including IFR charts avai at any flight level without having to have 3G coverage. Before leaving the ground I simply put in my flt plan info, and it downloads and saves all weather and notams so I can acesss that easily during the flight when I am out of coverage aera. If you drop your laptop computer or go into the flt levels your computer most likely will not work at all. The iPad is almost indestructible, however For inflight weather it's still important to have onboard wx radar or XM. As always in aviation just know your limitations with your equipment. Foreflight subscription cost me $74.99 a year for my iPad and iPhone. So I have a complete backup to everything on my iPhone. (the iPhone dose not overheat). I did get the iPad to overheat by leaving it in the closed plane in the sun. I was surprised how quickly it came back after getting it in the shade. The iPad has organized my enroute charts, approach plates and flight plan and weather. It has lowered the cost of buying expensive charts. It has solved the problem of revisions and up to date charts. I always have a back up of all this in my shirt pocket ( the iPhone). I can even call ATC on it through SKYPE in an Emerg.

Posted by: David McRoberts | October 25, 2010 11:50 AM    Report this comment

My Garmin 496 expertly handles the NEXRAD and GPS/map chores for me; I do find my little iPhone handy for some utility ground functions such as preflight wx, flight plans, W&B calcs & finding a hotel. Beyond that about the only justification I can see for dragging around a larger iPhone-sans-phone would be approach plate display (which the iPhone can do in an emergency anyway).
In my opinion no in-flight application that requires internet connection is really viable. As pointed out by USNR, it is actually illegal to use the 3G cell system in flight, but more to the point in my experience airborne cell performance is very undependable anyway.

Posted by: John Wilson | October 25, 2010 11:58 AM    Report this comment

John...ForeFlights architecture places any chart or plate on the iPad. No internet or 3G connection is required in-flight. On the ground, having 3G or wi-fi will allow you to update Wx info and file flight plans, but no online connectivity is necessary for the flight functions. One other use I have found for the iPad is having every avionics and aircraft manual conveniently stored as a PDF and readily available using the Goodreader App. I also have numerous training documents, reference charts, and FAA bulletins available. While I don't recommend flying while reading your Garmin 530W does make for a handy reference while sitting on the ground waiting for passengers or weather to clear.

Posted by: BOB DEFILIPPO | October 25, 2010 8:24 PM    Report this comment

Hi Paul, Iím a helicopter CFI/CFII guy. IPad plus ForeFlight is the best thing since sliced bread. One hand on the cyclic, one hand on the collective, one hand holding the Enroute IFR chart, one hand on radios/GPS, one hand finding the right plate. Helicopter organization is a real challenge. Now sectionals/TAC, lo-level enroutes, approach plates, airport information, frequencies, latest METAR/TAF, radar are completely organized with the touch of a finger on the IPad. I took the elastic strap off my old knee board, cut two holes in the IPad case and it sits securely strapped on my knee. Taking a clearance or an en-route update, write with your finger on the scratchpad, donít even have to grab a pen. Yes it can break or lose its GPS position but you need a panel mounted GPS for procedure flying, it can go down too. I flew an R44 with the IPad/ForeFlight into Oshkosh this summer from Wichita, it never lost its position or the ability to get weather updates. Even in full sunlight itís still very useable although harder to see. At night itís magic - no more flashlight in the teeth or headband. Itís a step function forward in my view and at $75/year for all chart updates! Yep it shut down in the Phoenix sun a couple of times, Iíll live with that - need paper backup anyway. Fully charged for the first flight the battery lasts all day at maximum brilliance. But itís the cockpit organization that wins hands down and - gives you more time for looking outside and thatís safety.

Posted by: George Mcneil | October 25, 2010 11:22 PM    Report this comment


ForeFlight and the iPad are the key to IFR happiness. I fly with a G1000, but there is still room for the iPad. It's so much easier to get data out of the iPad than it is to twirl knobs on the G1000. Which of the nearby airports have ILSs? Which has the highest ceiling? Where is that intersection I just got cleared to? It's all very intuitive with the iPad/ForeFlight, and a knob-and-button battle with the G1000.

On the ground with an Internet connection, the iPad/ForeFlight puts everything in one, charts, briefing, turns a half-hour job into a one-minute job.

Buy it, use it, and then be happy!

Posted by: MARTIN GOMEZ | November 1, 2010 11:52 AM    Report this comment


I liked your short video posted today on the iPad -vs- Garmin 696. As much as I like the iPad and use it for every flight, I agreed with your summary of pros-cons. I especially liked your conclusion regarding using an iPad along with a Garmin Aera 510. That's how I fly and feel I am getting the best of all worlds and save a fortune on the Garmin updates because the $74 per year ForeFlight gives me all the up-to-date charts, procedures, and airport info I need. Not to mention saving a bundle on the hardware up front. BTW, one solution for the high glare of the iPad screen is to use an Anti-Glare screen protector. I bought the one from It really makes a big difference in the cockpit.

Posted by: BOB DEFILIPPO | November 1, 2010 2:05 PM    Report this comment

Just watched your video. Very balanced but I think youíve missed the major difference between the IPad and any dedicated GPS whether panel or portable. First although the IPad cannot be considered any alternative to a dedicated panel mount /G or /R GPS, it certainly can compete for ease of use for VFR flying. The route planning capability is great. AND the IPad pilot has the all the aviation IPad Apps and web based aviation services at his/her disposal. Not so for any dedicated GPS product. Graphic aviation weather sources including current loop radar are at your 3G IPad enabled fingertips and itís tough to find somewhere down here (but not guaranteed) in the desert south west that doesnít have more than adequate coverage.

Posted by: George Mcneil | November 1, 2010 5:51 PM    Report this comment

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