Charging your iPad: what you need to know

One of the standout features of the iPad is its long battery life – a fully charged battery should last you about 9 – 10 hours (more like 4 – 6 when using a wireless accessory and when the screen is on full bright). Even though most general aviation flights rarely last that long, it’s always a good idea to charge the iPad the night before your flight and start with a full battery. In fact, running out of battery power is about the only problem we’ve had in eight years of flying with the iPad.

Apple charger
Make sure you’re charging your iPad with a 10 or 12 watt charger.

Using the included wall charger

One of the few accessories included with the iPad is a USB Power Adapter, which will charge the device from a 110V wall outlet. If you look closely at the specs on the adapter, you’ll see that it’s a 12 watt/2.4 amp charger (or 10 watts/2.1 amps for older models). This is important to take note of since the iPhone, iPod Touch and other replacement USB power adapters are typically rated at 5 watts and 1 amp. The higher 2.1/2.4 amp charger allows the large battery in the iPad to charge more quickly than when using the traditional 1 amp adapter (it will take around 4 – 5 hours to charge a completely drained iPad battery).

A couple notes here:

  • You can still charge an iPad with a 1 amp USB power adapter, but it will take longer than 5 hours to fully charge.
  • The iPad’s 12 watt charger is still safe to use with your other USB devices (iPhone, iPod, etc.) and will not damage them. In fact, it will charge your iPhone faster.
Flight Gear dual USB charger
A dual 2.4 amp USB cigarette lighter charger is a must-have accessory in the cockpit.

Charging in the airplane with a cigarette lighter adapter

You can also use a 12-24V cigarette lighter charger in your airplane to charge your iPad. Pay close attention before just buying any USB charger though, as you’ll want to make sure it provides 2.1 amps for optimum charging. This model offers 2 USB ports, both rated at 2.4 amps, and works on both 12V and 24V electrical systems. It also has

Charging in the airplane with an installed USB port

If you own your airplane, you should consider a permanently installed, certified charging port. These are generally more reliable than portable devices, since they don’t rely on a touchy cigarette lighter charger. We like the Stratus Power from Appareo, which is TSO’d and includes dual 2.5 amp USB ports.

Charging from a computer

A third charging option is to connect your iPad to a computer that has a high-power USB 2.0 or 3.0 port (most newer Macs and PCs have this). This will not charge as quickly as when using the wall power adapter, but can often be more convenient. If you see the note “Not Charging” in the iPad battery status, your computer most likely does not have a high-power USB port.

Backup iPad battery
A portable battery pack is a great backup option.

iPad battery backups

You can also charge the iPad when on the go with a portable backup battery. This model includes 2.4 amp USB ports and a large, 12,000 mAh battery. These are great for airplanes without an electrical system or a cigarette lighter plug, and they can also be useful outside the cockpit. We keep on in our flight bag at all times as a backup.

“Accessory not supported”

If you see this notification on your iPad or iPhone, it usually means the charging device isn’t putting out enough juice to charge the iOS device’s battery. If you’ve double checked that it’s the right charging plug (and cable), try cleaning out the Lightning port on your device. Sometimes dust or other debris can interrupt the connection. Also try restarting your device.

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