Is the iPad in? It's the panel calling

September 10, 2013

It’s clear to anyone who regularly uses an iPad in the cockpit that we are working our way to tablets becoming the primary pilot-interface tool. Shadin Avionics and its partners have accelerated that revolution with flyTab, a direct connection between the cockpit and the iPad.

FlyTab takes real-time data from the panel in a number of forms, including AIRINC 429 and RS-232 and RS-422 to a box called an Aircraft Interface Module (AIM). The AIM then processes it and then sends it via a cable directly to the iPad. It also powers the tablet. The result is an FAA-approved Class II flight bag for considerably less than anything on the market, according to Shadin. And while the application that comes with the product includes charts and approach plates, it’s the customization and future applications that make the flyTab potentially unique.

Each flyTab will come with a software development kit, which according to Shadin’s Dan Nelson, enables each end user to develop native applications in only a few hours. An airline can develop crew optimization based on aircraft-downloaded duty information. A corporate customer can better track maintenance issues, and a general aviation pilot can log all sorts of flight parameters. “It allows them to dream about what to do next,” he said.

The ultimate goal for a technology such as the flyTab is to send data from the iPad to the panel. Clearly it’s technically possible today, but the FAA remains cautious about this approach. Hopefully flyTab can help to ease that concern as it seamlessly flows data from the airplane to the iPad.