OSHKOSH, Wisconsin — Apple’s iPad continues to find a very receptive audience in the aviation community. This week at Airventure, a number of companies are offering applications for the device ranging from simple study guides to weather and navigation tools aimed at pilots.
The most interesting use of an iPad is in the iCub. When we wrote about the cockpit use of the device last month, the idea was still just a concept. But Sportair USA flew its iPad-equipped light sport aircraft to Airventure and its been drawing a steady audience all week.
The airplane is modeled on the classic Piper Cub that trained generations of pilots starting in the late 1930s. SportAir has updated the airplane with some modern conveniences, including using the iPad as the glass panel display in front of the pilot.
Sportair’s Bill Canino has flown the iCub several hours now and says the iPad works great for for the light-duty panel needed in an LSA. In addition to using the iPad for GPS navigation, he can also use an app that replicates a more typical glass panel display with an artificial horizon, airspeed indicator, altimeter and compass.
The iPad is mounted on a bracket that makes it stick out about an inch from the existing panel. Canino stresses the device is not to be used as the primary instruments, but says he was surprised with how well the faux panel works. The iCub comes equipped with the minimum standard instruments required by the Federal Aviation administration.
Canino’s only real complaint (other than not being allowed to use the 3G in flight) is the glare on-screen. He says the company has been testing some anti-glare shields, and says it will be necessary to find one if pilots want to use the iPad while they’re flying.
Another new entry into the iPad marketplace is aviation stalwart Jeppesen. Founded by an airmail pilot in the 1930s who took notes about airports he flew in and out of, Jeppesen is the industry standard for airline pilots and many others who regularly use instrument approaches in bad weather.
Typically, a pilot would have to carry a few large briefcases filled with notebooks that contained the paper versions for the thousands of instrument approaches across the country. With its new app, Jeppesen says 965 megabytes is enough to have all of its approaches for the entire world.
There’s still a big debate amongst pilots on whether or not such a device should be counted on as a primary source of required navigation information. Commercial pilots still must carry a paper or certified electronic version of approach charts. But for flight planning and even in cockpit use, an iPad equipped with navigation charts is very convenient.