Flying with iPad mini: A pilot's review

Posted:
in iPad edited October 2021
Apple specifically mentioned pilots when it released the 2021 iPad mini, so we interviewed 35-year aviator Scott Oglesby to learn more about its usefulness in the cockpit.



Scott Oglesby has been flying planes since 1985, and after a multi-year hiatus returned to a new technology-driven form of flying in 2013. Prior to the ubiquity of internet connectivity and the introduction of iPad, pilots were required to plot routes on physical maps with pencils and call airports for a weather forecast.

"When I I learned to fly," says Oglesby, "everything was on paper charts and the internet and iPad and iPhones, and all that technology didn't exist. For that matter cell phones were still analog, so every time we went on a trip we would break out our [paper] charts. We'd map our route, sometimes all the way across the country."





Today, most of the information needed for a flight can be found in a single app. From wind speed at varying altitudes to visibility conditions at any airport, pilots can now safely rely on iPad for a majority of their workflow.

"Whether it's an aeroplane with older technology in it, or whether it's an aeroplane with current technology," says Oglesby, "I use the iPads for all my weather briefing, my flight planning, and even my cross country work."



Scott has been using iPad mini for years, utilizing the app ForeFlight for all his journeys, especially when flying older aircraft with minimal modern technology.

Oglesby says that this one app has replaced not only paper documents, but also phone calls to find out about the weather in different regions along his flightpath.

In some planes, like Scott's new 1940's Piper, space inside the cockpit is very limited. While the larger 12.9-inch iPad Pro is visually appealing, iPad mini is easier to mount and use inside these confined spaces.



Pilots have to think about weight and convenience in a small cockpit, too. "I can tell you right now [the 12.9-inch iPad Pro] doesn't wait any more than my mini to speak of, really," he says.

"I like the bigger screen, the bigger format," he continues, "but for me it's a matter of space. It's real easy to see right here [iPad mini] in this cockpit. And my aeroplane will, in the next few weeks, have a mount for the iPad mini."

Every few years Scott upgrades his iPad mini, and says the new 2021 model is an attractive upgrade. The larger 8.3-inch screen would improve data visibility on flight maps, plus the A15 Bionic is noticeably faster than his current iPad mini, and both are compelling reasons to upgrade.

"The main advantage being probably a faster processing speed," he explains, "in addition, battery life keeps getting better and better."

"The biggest weakness of the iPad is heat, as in direct sunlight," continues Oglesby. "If it warms up, it'll shut off on me. That's something I figured out a long time ago, and I just actually when I'm flying sometimes I just throw in a white coat over it and that takes care of that."

"But that's the only weakness I've found so far," he says, "[iPad minis] are rock solid in their stability."

Overall, iPad mini truly is an ideal device for certain pilots, and this redesigned version is a welcome improvement. You can read our full review of iPad mini and find the latest deals in our iPad mini 2021 Price Guide, with instant savings and exclusive discounts at your fingertips.

Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 17
    lmasantilmasanti Posts: 162member
    Nice story. A Piper 1940 is a nice plane! I used to fly noe by 1970.
    In Argentina, in those times we flight ‘by the rails’ —following the railroad tracks—. Railroad stations had painter the name in the roof so pilots ‘knew’ where they were!

    It would also be nice to hear the view of an actual 767/777's pilot.
    tokyojimuJapheymariowincowatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 17
    HeliBumHeliBum Posts: 129member
    I wish the text included actual quotes instead of having to watch a video.
    edited October 2021 tokyojimuchadbagStrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 17
    chadbagchadbag Posts: 1,821member
    HeliBum said:
    I wish the text included actual quotes instead of having to watch a video.
    Agreed. I hate news stories that just introduce a video.  I.never watch them as usually I am not in a place where I can easily watch video and I can also read the news articles faster than watch them. 

    Please  warn me that it is just a video article and nit a real article in the headline or something obvious so I know to skip it. 
    JapheyStrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 17
    crleecrlee Posts: 2member
    Just curious…. How does one in small planes like this connect to the internet while in the air?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 17
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 2,587member
    Let me echo what the others have said. I can READ AI at work. I cannot have audio on to watch a video though. As interesting as it sounds, I have to pass on it.
    muthuk_vanalingammike1watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 17
    dewmedewme Posts: 4,658member
    DAalseth said:
    Let me echo what the others have said. I can READ AI at work. I cannot have audio on to watch a video though. As interesting as it sounds, I have to pass on it.

    You can mute the audio and turn on closed captioning right within the video player.

    By the way, excellent video!
    edited October 2021 watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 17
    JapheyJaphey Posts: 1,469member
    DAalseth said:
    Let me echo what the others have said. I can READ AI at work. I cannot have audio on to watch a video though. As interesting as it sounds, I have to pass on it.

    Or you could maybe wait until you get home and watch it then. It’s not exactly breaking news that has to be digested immediately. If you actually watch the video, you’ll see why it works better in that format vs. a text-based article. 
    edited October 2021 watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 17
    bbhbbh Posts: 131member
    crlee said:
    Just curious…. How does one in small planes like this connect to the internet while in the air?
    Assuming your iPad has Cellular connectivity, you connect to a cell tower and stream data, just like on land. If you do not have Cellular, you are restricted to WIFI. On the ground, in front of the FBO, you can usually reach their WIFI. Assuming they gave you their password.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 17
    neilmneilm Posts: 964member
    Same here and for the same reasons: I skip all videos.
    StrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 17
    Even with smaller (8 seats) planes with all the navigation and weather gear integrated in the cockpit, I’ve already seen about ten years ago pilots using iPads to find the optimal spread and location for luggage to maintain the center of mass. They are really useful tools as well as they are media consumption gizmos.
    edited October 2021 watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 17
    bbh said:
    crlee said:
    Just curious…. How does one in small planes like this connect to the internet while in the air?
    Assuming your iPad has Cellular connectivity, you connect to a cell tower and stream data, just like on land. If you do not have Cellular, you are restricted to WIFI. On the ground, in front of the FBO, you can usually reach their WIFI. Assuming they gave you their password.
    WiFi has limited range and certainly won’t reach an aircraft in flight.  Cellular may work at times, but would be kind of iffy depending on location.  It using the app for navigation, weather, and local conditions, it would seem important to have a reliable internet connection.  Just wondering how or what type of connection is used in flight… perhaps satellite?  
  • Reply 12 of 17
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 12,331member
    crlee said:
    bbh said:
    crlee said:
    Just curious…. How does one in small planes like this connect to the internet while in the air?
    Assuming your iPad has Cellular connectivity, you connect to a cell tower and stream data, just like on land. If you do not have Cellular, you are restricted to WIFI. On the ground, in front of the FBO, you can usually reach their WIFI. Assuming they gave you their password.
    WiFi has limited range and certainly won’t reach an aircraft in flight.  Cellular may work at times, but would be kind of iffy depending on location.  It using the app for navigation, weather, and local conditions, it would seem important to have a reliable internet connection.  Just wondering how or what type of connection is used in flight… perhaps satellite?  
    The maps are downloaded locally to the device, and GPS is used to position your location against the downloaded maps. My friend is a pilot and uses Garmin devices for pilots in this fashion. Boaters have similar versions.
    crleemuthuk_vanalingamchasmdewmewatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 17
    crlee said:
    Just curious…. How does one in small planes like this connect to the internet while in the air?
    You don't. The navigation apps are stored on the device and use GPS to map - same as any satnav in a car. They'll also access the internet on the ground for planning routes using live weather data, but those plans are made before flying.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 17
    lmasanti said:

    It would also be nice to hear the view of an actual 767/777's pilot.

    We also use iPads (supplied by the airline) ... use them for maps/charts, for weather information, for all manuals. It replaces about 40 pounds of paper that we used to carry with us all the time.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 17
    crlee said:
    Just curious…. How does one in small planes like this connect to the internet while in the air?
    I had a look at the developer’s website for more info on this. 

    Turns out it doesn’t need an internet connection to do its thing while in flight; all the data for the flight plan is downloaded ahead of departure (for example weather). The charts and maps are already stored on the device, so nothing to download there. GPS positioning doesn’t need an internet connection. 

    Interestingly (for me anyway) the app is capable of connecting over Bluetooth to a whole variety of different aftermarket hardware sensors and transmitters that are common for small aircraft. Things like enhanced GPS, communication transmitters, GSM receivers, and so on. So it can pull in additional data from these sensors to augment what’s already on device, even without an internet connection. 
    watto_cobraFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 16 of 17
    Hmm, so Mr. Oglesby is 35 years old and has been flying planes since 1985… Perhaps he became a pilot while in the womb?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 17
    SoliSoli Posts: 10,033member
    dan4rth said:
    Hmm, so Mr. Oglesby is 35 years old and has been flying planes since 1985… Perhaps he became a pilot while in the womb?
    The article says he has 35 years in aviation, not 35 years old. 2021 - 1985 = 36, so his experience is likely 36 years, and could round to 37 years depending on when we started in 1985.

    crlee said:
    Just curious…. How does one in small planes like this connect to the internet while in the air?
    This is a very complex and lengthy explanation if I were to detail all the ways in which Foreflight works. It's an amazing piece of SW that I was personally was happy to see mentioned by Apple a couple times during the event, and is now shown on their website. I think this was the first time they've done this.

    Adding to what others stated, you usually create your flight plan while you have access to the internet. You can adjust your flight at any time and it will updated on the fly, but there are things that may not "pack" if you're not connected. Typically you'd already have the maps for your areas and types and flying downloaded, but they may have to be updated if they're out of date which is every 56 days for visual flight rules (VFR) maps. Then you create a plan on the path you'll fly which will then "pack" everything you need for your trip like icing, turbulence, and surface analysis layers, and other info that can help a pilot fly safely from origin to destination. You also get various maps showing current and projected weather conditions. Pretty much everything you need to make an informed decision before you leave the ground.

    If your iPad is connected to modern avionics you can get up to date traffic and weather in Foreflight on your iPad as an overlay . Additionally, you even have the option of being able to send a new flight plan to your avionics (instead of just receiving info on your iPad in flight) with a quick drag-and-drop of your finger on the iPad.

    Garmin has their own software that works in a similar way, but Foreflight is the most popular option. I only have Garmin avionics in my plane and it all connects to Foreflight with ease.


    edited October 2021 muthuk_vanalingamXedwatto_cobraroundaboutnowFileMakerFeller
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