We thought switching to Apple’s iPad mini for cockpit use would be the cure-all for the shortcomings of the bulkier, full-size iPad. As it turned out, it created a new set of problems. While the smaller mini is less obtrusive, the little sucker just won’t stay put if you plop it in your lap. On a recent trip, ours slipped under the seat, dropped on the floor and became wedged between the seat and the circuit breaker panel in a Pilatus. We thought it was gone for good.
Convinced that any cockpit iPad—full-size or mini—needs to be secured, we set out to find the perfect mounting solution. We gathered various mounting hardware and accessories, to include yoke mounts, all-purpose surface mounts and kneeboard mounts to evaluate in different cockpits. We couldn’t come close to covering all available options here, so if you have a favorite mount or process, let us know.
That’s how CEO and co-founder of MyGoFlight Charlie Schneider defines his iPad mounting solutions. We think his philosophy can help in making logical decisions when selecting iPad mounting hardware.
“Pilots ask why they need to secure their iPad while flying until they experience it falling on the floor and the device becoming unreachable,” said Schneider.
MyGoFlight offers a wide variety of durable mounting options for the iPad, as well as high-quality accessories that help tame the unit in the cockpit, including bundled packages to include Bad Elf GPS receivers, storage bags and anti-glare screen covers. They even offer specialty mounting solutions for large aircraft—including a universal jet mount—for attaching to the flat surface area on the control yoke of a Citation, TBM, BeechJet and Boeing, to name a few.
MyGoFlight is methodical when it comes to suggesting a mounting option and doesn’t believe there is a single best way to secure an iPad in the cockpit. According to Schneider, there are many factors that buyers rarely consider—including aircraft model—plus the existing avionics configuration. After that, it’s all about pilot preference. Ask yourself some qualifying questions before spending money on a mounting option. Do you want the iPad fixed-mounted on a hard surface or are you the kneeboard-wearing type? You should also consider the apps you wish to use, your body size and evaluate how close you sit to the controls. Certain apps that display a PFD or synthetic vision are often best used within your line of sight. This will likely require a mount that’s close to your primary scan.
RAM IT ON THE YOKE
Unless it’s an iPad mini, we say forget about mounting to a traditional control yoke. We think it’s too awkward and a full-size iPad blocks primary instruments. In fact, at 5.8 by 7.7 inches, the iPad obscures just about anything in its path. Mounting it on the copilot’s yoke is a slightly better option, if you can live with the reach and a side viewing angle.
That’s where RAM (which stands for Round-A-Mount) comes in handy, with articulating arms plus socket-and-ball mounts. The RAM mounting system uses a hard rubber ball, injection molded onto a marine-grade aluminum post and an adjustable clamp that has incredible gripping pressure. These mounts are so durable they have a lifetime warranty. The ball-and-socket design enables the iPad to be positioned in the vertical or horizontal. There’s a wide variety of clamps and arm lengths to choose from—including glare shield clamps, yoke clamps and suction cup mounts. Most kits are under $100.
RAM offers various cradles, including the $23 EZ-Roll R, for both the full size iPad and the mini. The EZ-Roll R cradle has two tabs at the bottom and one at the top of the cradle that we’ve seen stress and snap off on more than one occasion—something to think about if you remove the iPad after every flight, although it appears that newer cradles have strengthened retaining latches.
One design feature we like about the RAM cradle is the ability to offset the ball mount to one side (or in the lower center of the assembly). Whether mounting on a glare shield, side pillar or on a yoke, this affords flexibility. RAM also makes the X-Grip universal cradle for large tablets and the Tab-Tite cradle, which we didn’t evaluate. RAM makes a unique seat-rail mount that clamps to the floor between the two seat rails, secured with a steel mounting plate with holes drilled for the seat-stop locking pins. While it works best in the cabin of a high-wing Cessna, we’re not fans because it tends to get in the way if the copilot seat is occupied. It also hinders the seat from moving fully forward. We do like the flexible stalk—fitted with a rubber ball at one end—that threads into the clamp.
ForPilotsOnly makes unique mounting systems for both the mini and full-size iPad. The $69.95 iPro Navigator—which is an articulating clipboard and iPad cradle—utilizes the RAM yoke mount clamp, RAM double-socket and one-inch ball. When the clipboard is in the down position, it provides a hard writing surface. When it’s up, it’s designed to shield the iPad screen—minimizing the problems of overheating and shutdown caused by direct sunlight—a long-standing wart for cockpit iPad use. We found that it also helped reduce screen glare, but not completely.
The clipboard hangs in the downward position on two stainless steel pins and plastic tracks that we initially found awkward, but once we figured out how it’s supposed to work, we liked it—especially for writing. To access the iPad, simply swing the clipboard upward and slide it into position across the top. This provides complete access to the iPad while shielding it from sunlight. The clipboard easily slides forward and backward in this horizontal placement. Since it is perpendicular to the iPad, you sees only the edge of the clipboard, in most seating positions.
During our evaluation, the assembly blocked the sun without blocking the view of the instrument panel in a Cessna twin. The clipboard is easily pulled down again, allowing it to drop into position for use.
Speaking of dropping, we thought we would have the piece broken in short order, given our clumsy cockpit habits, but the clipboard was designed for clumsy pilots—and for crashes—since it’s engineered to break free of the mount under forward or downward force.
The $99 MyGoFlight Sport is a durable polycarbonate cradle with aluminum mounting rails on the underside, for mounting a leg strap. The Sport, for full-size tablets, allows for flexible mounting options, adapting to a seemingly endless variety of MyGoFlight hardware—much of it made with high-end machined aluminum parts. MyGoFlight makes a $138 yoke mount for Beech applications and includes a wide attachment clamp, extension arm and adapter, which fits the Sport cradle.
Strapping the iPad to the knee can be a good solution, and a few companies bring good ingenuity to the design. ForPilotsOnly.com first developed a custom iPad kneeboard in 2010 and has since expanded the knee-mount line with several new models.
The $139.95 iPro Aviator/A houses the iPad 2/3/4 models in a durable, T4 aluminum housing with an external clipboard. On the inside, the assembly uses flush rivets and rubber padding that’s gentle on the iPad. The $79.95 iPro Aviator/M fits the mini. This would be one of our favorites; it didn’t get the way while strapped to the leg, it’s durable and it has a writing board. The only problem we have is that the iPad can only be viewed in portrait mode.
Sporty’s offers the FlightGear tri-fold case—an option we like for storing small accessories, including a flashlight and GPS receiver, for example. The case tilts the iPad up for a better viewing angle, but we couldn’t pull a traditional control yoke full aft without it getting in the way. For a more simplistic approach, they offer the $27.95 rotating Slimline iPad kneeboard. It has an adjustable elastic strap and a built-in swiveling mechanism for using the iPad in either landscape or portrait mode.
Of course, the simplest mount of all is the $39.95 MyClip from Tiet. This is nothing more than a leg strap with two padded clips on elastic. The clips attach to either side of the iPad—in either portrait or landscape—and hold it securely.
The $45 Sky High Gear Genesis X iPad kneeboard and case has been made to fit all generations of iPads, and it accommodates all plug port locations. The main frame is made of ABS and the corners are made of Polyurethane. When not flying, the case converts into an iPad stand with unlimited angle adjustments.
MyGoFlight’s $189 Kneeboard C has a thin clamshell with magnetic clipboard. Depending on which leg you strap to, you can set up the case with the iPad and clipboard on the left or the right, or you can have the iPad inside and the clipboard on the cover, similar to the Genesis. Our favorite, the $139 Folio, is made of leather and has the aluminum rails on the underside. The C-model, with clipboard, starts at $159.
Gizmos recently introduced a version of the panel dock for the iPad mini, plus a surface mount for full size iPad’s. The $99.95 surface mount secures to the panel using the standard instrument mounting holes.
The mini panel dock fits the standard 6.25-inch radio stack width and occupies 8 inches of stack height. This, of course, is a lot of real estate, which will likely require sizeable amounts of rework to accommodate. The mini dock can work with the Gizmos angle adapter, helpful when mounting the unit on the copilot panel, for example Speaking of accommodations, Gizmos built a cooling inlet to the back of the dock to accommodate an avionics cooling fan. Given the heat that builds up in most panels—and the issue with iPad shutdown— this is a smart idea.
For the original iPad and iPad 2, Gizmos makes the $149.95 knee dock—an articulating (tilting) kneeboard that’s based on the panel dock design. It has a drop-down writing surface with chart holder, similar to the iPro Navigator product.
Trial by Error
That’s what it might take to find the iPad mounting solution that suits you. The iPad mini will present less of a challenge than a full-size iPad. Fortunately, the market is blossoming with a lot of mounting options for both. Unfortunately, we don’t think any of the solutions we tested here is perfect, although we do have favorites.
Our top pick for mounting a mini on a control yoke is the RAM ball-and-socket with RAM EZ-Roll R cradle. The ForPilotsOnly iPro Navigator/M comes in second.
We prefer strapping the iPad to the leg. For that, we like MyGoFlight’s Sport case for full-size iPads and the MyGoFlight Folio-series for the mini. The Folio—which is available with a clipboard—has a high-quality feel, easily rotates the iPad for portrait, landscape and all angles in between, plus it works well outside of the cockpit.