Do student pilots need an iPad?

do student pilots need an ipad

Student pilots are often confused about whether they need an iPad for flying or not.

This article will remove all the confusion, and you will know precisely at which stage of your pilot training you should buy an iPad.

Figuring out the suitable size of the iPad for your training aircraft is crucial too.

I didn’t know the importance of using an iPad in VFR flying until I got my first iPad.

Should you buy an iPad for flight training?

The answer to the above question differs significantly for different stages of flight training.

A pilot at an advanced stage of flight training can use an iPad to ease several tasks inside the cockpit.

A student pilot flying for a private pilot license might not find the iPad very useful. A pilot training for his Instrument rating will see an iPad to be an excellent tool for cockpit management and navigation with ease.

Generally, pilots have to multi-task while flying an airplane.

Aviate, Navigate, and Communicate are easier to say but quite hard to execute.

A pilot needs to do all these three tasks at the same time. There are various other things a pilot has to do while flying the airplane.

As a student pilot at an early stage of your pilot training, you need to focus on flying the airplane.

Without knowing how to fly the airplane and purchasing your first iPad will not be of any help.

Get used to actual flying before investing in an iPad.

On the first few flights, a student pilot must only focus on:

  • How to control and maneuver the airplane;
  • Learn to communicate;
  • And navigation using visual references.

But if a student pilot relies on the iPad too much in the early stages of pilot training, it might become dangerous in the long run.

All student pilots begin their flying lessons in VFR conditions. The primary thing about flying in VFR condition is to pass the airplane using visual references.

So at this stage of flying, a student pilot should focus on navigating the plane using a map and visual references.

Having an iPad instead of using a paper map is a good idea.

But the obstacle is beginner pilots can easily be distracted.

They spend so much time looking at the iPad and navigate, that they forget to learn about flying the airplane using visual references outside.

So in case, a pilot needs to fly using outside references, the student pilot unaware of the outside world will be lost entirely.

A student pilot who always flies using the iPad tends to use the Foreflight app and know exactly their current location and where they are heading.

When is the right time for student pilots to buy their iPad?

I don’t suggest student pilots rely on the iPad so much during their first 20 hours of flight.

Or at least a student pilot must wait until they get their first solo flight.

Getting used to with iPad while listening to your flight instructor can overwhelm you with information, and you may not learn anything at all.

Let me share a story with you first.

When I began my flight training, the first flight was short. It was an orientation flight, and I did not touch the controls. I only felt the power.

At that time, I did not know what would happen in the next few flights.

When I finally got to fly the airplane, I understood how sensitive the controls were. A slight movement pitched the aircraft up and down hundreds of feet.

I was banking left, and I was banking right. I was flying the airplane everywhere.

But it was OK. It is common for student pilots in their first few flights.

However, on my next flight, my flight instructor started to teach me many things like flying the airplane and using visual references outside.

Likewise, he threw a few questions at me, such as:

  • What happens if your pitot tube is blocked?
  • If the static port is blocked, which instruments will display incorrect reading?
  • What will you do if the engine fails?

Whatever my instructor asked me, he did it to test my awareness.

But I couldn’t answer him correctly because I was too busy holding the map in one hand and pitching up and down, rolling left and right.

I was overwhelmed with all the information, and I felt like I would never get back in the cockpit again.

Nevertheless, I did get back to the cockpit and got my pilot license.

So what do you understand from my story?

On the first few flights, you will be puzzled by all the information you consume. Your mind will be all over the place.

Until you receive your first solo, you will not get used to all the tasks inside the cockpit.

You will be busy figuring out:

  • How to fly the airplane well;
  • Communicate using the correct phrases;
  • Navigate using the map and look outside to find out your reference.

Usually, a student pilot, once he gets their first solo, becomes familiar with all the tasks inside the cockpit. Likewise, your first solo flight will boost your confidence in flying.

All the tasks that seemed baffling initially will become a lot easier then.

Aviate, navigate using visual reference, and communicate with air traffic will not be so difficult for you now.

Right at this stage, a student pilot can buy an iPad.

RELATED: Best iPad for aviation use.

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Why is the iPad useful for student pilots after receiving their first solo?

By now, the student pilot is familiar with the airspace and has learned a few things about actual flying.

The iPad, at this stage, will be a lot less distracting for the student pilots.

Additionally, you will have to fly cross country legs to fulfill a private pilot license application requirements after you get solo.

Having an iPad to fly cross-country flights will be a considerable remedy. As you are now used to multi-tasking and conducting safe flights. Thus you will not be distracted by the iPad easily.

Flying several times to the same airport is the right time to introduce an iPad to your flights.

However, I want to clarify another matter that most student pilots don’t realize.

Before even you get into the aircraft with your iPad, familiarize yourself with the apps on your iPad.

There are many useful apps for iPad to use for flying. Many of them will aid you in pilot training. Numerous aviation apps and many of them are perfect.

You have ten apps installed on your iPad and do not know which particular app to use in which situation, and then you will get lost during the flight.

You have a fantastic tool, which is the iPad. But not being familiar with the app you want to use will only be a distraction.

For example, if you install the Foreflight app on your iPad, you may think you can practice using it and habituate with its use during your flight. That is not the ideal thing to do.

Are you flying the airplane, or will you master how to use the iPad and the Foreflight app?

I understand you cannot practice the app for navigation while on the ground. But I say learning which section of the app will be helpful at which phase of the flight.

Knowing about the other iPad apps and acquiring them to instantly find them in your iPad will help you further during your Instrument flights.

How valuable is an iPad for student pilots during instrument training?

Not having an iPad until you get your solo is alright. Buying an iPad before acquiring a private pilot license is essential.

However, I don’t recommend getting the instrument rating without an iPad.

Having an iPad and using it for instrument training will ease many tasks for student pilots.

Using a cellular iPad with a portable ADS-B device will improve your situational awareness massively during instrument flight.

RELATED: Best iPad for pilots.

All the necessary charts you need for your instrument flight will be at your fingertip.

Instead of going through a pile of paper charts, you can find the required resource in just a few taps on your iPad.

Similarly, the iPad helps improve cockpit management. Hence the iPad has acquired another name:

Nevertheless, you have to practice using the iPad before taking it to the air.

Using an iPad in instrument flight is to increases the pilot’s efficiency. Not knowing how to use the apps efficiently will hinder the smooth flow of your flight.

If student pilots learn to use the iPad in a very early stage of their pilot training, this modern tool can be of great help during any flight.

Regardless of cross-country, VFR, MVFR, or instrument flight, a pilot using the iPad in the cockpit will have numerous benefits. The pilot can save time and do his tasks more efficiently.

Which iPad to buy as a student pilot?

Before a student pilot buys an iPad, the pilot must consider the frequently flying aircraft.

As a student pilot, I suppose you will not be flying a Boeing 737 to get your private pilot license.

Indeed most student pilot trainer aircraft are small and have a tiny cockpit.

Do you think having an iPad pro with a large screen will help you fly better?

Not so much in reality.

A student pilot must buy an iPad with the most suitable size to fit in a trainer aircraft. The Cellular iPad mini is the most ideal for a Cessna 172 cockpit.

If your iPad pro blocks your view of the panel and you can’t see your instruments, then what is the use of having an iPad?

Pilots flying in larger cockpits can use iPad pro due to the bigger space within the cockpit.

Have you noticed I mentioned buying a Cellular iPad mini?

It is because if you buy a cellular iPad mini, your iPad will already have a GPS chip installed in it. Otherwise, you will have to pay for an extra GPS.

Without a GPS tracker, the satellite cannot find your exact location.

Did you think:

  • How will you navigate accurately if the satellite can’t locate your aircraft?

Thus you will be unaware of your current location on the map. You will be lost.

So either you will have to buy a GPS tracker for your WiFi-only iPad, or you have to choose a Cellular iPad mini.

RELATED: Best iPad for aviation use.

Regardless, the iPad is an essential tool for pilots in modern aviation.

As a student pilot, if you learn to use the iPad during your pilot training, it will benefit you in the future as a commercial pilot.

But ultimately, a student pilot must decide whether to buy or not buy an iPad. My suggestion is to get your iPad immediately after you get your solo flight.

Why do I believe every student pilot must have an iPad?

The days of carrying a map to navigate and fly the airplane are long gone.

When I started flying, I did not know the essence of an iPad for pilots.

Therefore I went on my first few flights with a pen, paper, flight plans, and a map.

Do you want to know what I had to go through inside the cockpit?

I was only learning how to control the airplane while navigating using the flight plan and the map.

The result was a series of dilemmas inside the cockpit.

The amount of confusion I had inside the cockpit resulted in deteriorating performance.

Can you imagine the stress?

I was busier, arranging all the papers I had in the cockpit rather than learning how to control the airplane.

My instructor started asking me questions about the flight to make the situation even worse.

Fortunately, I might have been good at multi-tasking and learned to manage everything somehow.


Every pilot must be good at multi-tasking.

But why shall student pilots today have to face unnecessary challenges?

Owning an iPad can easily bypass unnecessary challenges inside the cockpit for pilots.

To me, it seems that the iPad is meant for aviation use.

You, as a student pilot, even if you are flying for your private pilot license, must enjoy the ease of an iPad.

The iPad you own will be a huge stress reliever for you inside the cockpit.

You will learn your flight instructions quicker because you will not be occupied only by arranging all the papers inside the cockpit.

If you deem you can manage it without an iPad, that is your call too.

But as a student pilot, you are already investing money in aviation, so why not just spend a bit more on an iPad?


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