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 find an iPad to be an excellent tool for cockpit management and navigate with ease.

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

Aviate, Navigate, and Communicate is a lot 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 how to fly the airplane.

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

Get used to with actual flying before investing on 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 fly 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 that always flies using the iPad tends to use the Foreflight app and know exactly what is 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 to 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 begin my flight training, the first flight was short. It was an orientation flight, and I did not touch the controls. I only felt the control.

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

When I finally got to fly the airplane, I understood how sensitive the controls are. A slight movement of the yoke 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 a lot of things like flying the airplane and use 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 properly 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 will 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?

The first few flights you will be puzzled with all the information you consume. Your mind will be all over the place.

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

Your mind will be busy figuring out:

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

Usually, a student pilot once gets his/her first solo, becomes familiar with all the tasks inside the cockpit. Likewise, getting your solo will boost your confidence in flying.

So all the tasks that seemed baffling in the beginning will become a lot easier then.

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

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

Why can the iPad be useful for student pilots after getting their first solo?

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

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

Additionally, after you get solo, you will have to fly cross country legs to fulfill requirements for private pilot licenses.

At this point, having an iPad to fly cross country flights will be a huge help. Now that you are already used to with multi-tasking and conducting safe flights, you will not be distracted by using the iPad.

Flying several times to the same airport is the right time to introduce an iPad in 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. Numerous apps, and many of them are perfect. Many of them will aid you in pilot training.

But if you have ten apps installed on your iPad and do not know which particular app to use at which situation, 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 Forefight app on your iPad, you may think you can practice using the app and habituate with its use during your flight. That is not the ideal thing to do.

Are you going to fly the airplane, or are you going to 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 am saying learn which section of the app will be useful at which phase of the flight.

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

How useful 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, getting the instrument rating without an iPad, I don’t recommend that at all.

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.

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 tap on your iPad.

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

  • The Electronic flight bag.

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

The reason for using an iPad in instrument flight is to increase a pilots efficiency. Not knowing how to use the apps efficiently will hamper the smooth flow of your flight.

If a 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 that can use 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 aircraft he/she is frequently flying.

I suppose, as a student pilot, 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 that has the most suitable size to fit in a trainer aircraft. 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 bigger space within the cockpit.

Have you noticed I mentioned to buy 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 are you going to 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.

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 is going to 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.