How Do Pilots Fly with an iPad?

There are so many functions to an iPad: it’s great for streaming movies, downloading wide-screen games, or facetiming. Whilst we may use an iPad for fun and entertainment, Pilots use it to help them fly a plane.

Training via the iPad

Given that we are in the age of digital, the iPad is a welcome tool for pilots because of its light weight and multifunctionality. Its ability to provide sophisticated flight planning and programmes means that it is used by pilots (beginner and/or advanced) and is highly recommended by training instructors when teaching their students how to fly. With Sporty’s (pilot training school) naming it ‘your digital co-pilot’.

Digital vs Paper

With access to new and technologically attuned applications/apps, the iPad provides pilots access to digital maps, PDF itinerary, weather reports and routes which are great for planning and flying. As recommended by Pilot Stefan Drury, such apps may include Windy used for checking what the temperature is going to be like, cloud patterns, wind patterns etc; Garmin Pilot or AV planner EFB for routes and flight information region (FIR), Rocket Route for filing away planned routes, and providing appropriate briefings and forms upon entering a new region.

When everything is set up in the cockpit, including the route on the iPad, the pilot can fly with it by their side to keep track of their route – without the use of a big, paper map.

flying with the iPad as a pilot
| © Rod Rakic YouTube

Not only does the iPad provide easy access to an array of information but it also reduces a ton of paperwork – making it rather sustainable. This is the key reason why airBaltic opted to replace manuals and reference materials with the iPad for their pilots.

Does this mean that digital planning replaces manual planning for good? Although there is no legal obligation to plan by paper, Sporty’s says that learning to plot a course and calculate time and route is invaluable to a pilot, especially if they are to undertake the FAA exam where digital devices for aid are forbidden.

calculating route and time etc
| © Sporty’s

But is the iPad a good Idea?

There are still many problems for using the iPad as a ‘digital co-pilot’. For instance, the iPad’s battery life typically lasts 4-6 hours during a flight, can often over heat, and older iPads often need replacing for they may not support new updates. Indeed, old iPads may end up in landfill which is something Air Canada via Star Alliance are attempting to solve…

Tech specs aside, there have also been concerns as to how sufficient pilot training can be via an iPad, as seen with the Boeing 737-8 Max crash whereby pilots received only an hour’s worth of training…

But what we can gather is that the iPad is highly useful when it comes to providing fast information without excess weight or pressure. That said, it is super important that they are used correctly, that it does not form a distraction to the pilot at hand and should not be used to skim proper training procedures or process.

Featured image: | © Sporty’s 

What are your thoughts on the iPad? Are you for or against its use for flying? Let us know below.

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Claudia Mok
Claudia Mok
Editor in Chief for Travel Radar: She is experienced at taking creative, analytical approaches to travel, transport and aviation.


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