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iPad Becoming an Important Tool for Business Pilots

Apple’s iPad touch-screen tablet computer is one of the biggest technological innovations of the year. But an informal survey of NBAA Member Companies indicates that rather than simply being a chic, nice-to-have gadget, the iPad is becoming a powerful tool for business aircraft pilots on the go.

Certainly, many have been wowed by the iPad’s high-resolution, large-format (9.7 inches measured diagonally) LED-backlit display, which has been heralded by mobile device users who for years have had to squint at the tiny screens of smaller handheld units. And being able to essentially replace a laptop computer with a unit that has a battery life of up to 10 hours and is roughly the size of a magazine (weighing just 1.5 pounds and being a mere half-inch thick) has been key to the iPad’s popularity, as well.

However, an increasing number of business aircraft pilots, whose business is mobility, value the proliferating number of aviation “apps” (software applications) that make the job of planning and updating a trip while on the road easier than ever before.

As of early September, Apple’s online iTunes Store was offering nearly 100 no-cost or low-cost aviation software packages specifically designed for use on the iPad. Apps range from simple programs that calculate weight and balance and center of gravity, to sophisticated packages that supply navigational charts and a wealth of weather data and radar images (including Nexrad).

Other apps provide electronic versions of key aviation references, such as the Aeronautical Information Manual, Federal Aviation Regulations (including Part 91) and aviation dictionaries and encyclopedias. Digital flight logbook, aircraft checklist and FAA test prep guides are also available as apps for the iPad.

Aviators who are early adopters of the iPad have been using the tablet to meet many of their computing and communication needs while away from home base. Besides the Wi-Fi-capable basic iPad, Apple offers a 3G model that can keep users connected when no Wi-Fi access is available.

Some Part 91 pilots are using chart-filled iPads as one tool in their transition to a paperless cockpit. Others are replacing their Class I electronic flight bags (EFBs) with iPads loaded with a variety of aviation apps. Still others who fly with Class II or III EFBs hard-wired into their cockpits like to be able to use the portable iPad to check and review key information when away from the airplane.

Although the iPad has only been around for a few months, it already has become an important tool for a growing number of business aviation professionals.

Are you using the iPad or other tablet devices in support of your job? Share your experiences with NBAA at, and watch for more information on this topic to appear in the November/December Business Aviation Insider.