In my recent blog, “7 things every renter-pilot needs,” I touted the value of having an iPad or Garmin area 760 tablet in the cockpit. And I stand by that. One thing I neglected to mention is the need for an external power source, especially on longer flights.

Running all of the airport, weather, charts, and traffic apps hour-after-hour on the unit’s internal batteries alone may well cause the usefulness of this valuable tool to end before the flight does.

That’s the number-one reason why installing USB ports in the panel has quickly become a “must-have” addition to practically every airplane that comes through our shop. It’s not a hard installation at all. Our experienced avionics technicians can do it in an hour or so.

If you have an instrument you’re not using; many just drop in. If not, it’s as simple as drilling the appropriate hole. Either way, once it’s in, you just hook up the power and ground, and you’re good to go.

We currently sell various USB connectors from three top manufacturers: Garmin (what don’t they make?), Mid-Continent, and Appareo Stratus. Here are a few features of the most popular model from each manufacturer:

 

Garmin GSB 15 USB charging hub:

• Dual 3.0 amp port, runs/charges two full-size iPads/tablets/phones at one time.

• Built-in protection against circuit and temperature overloads.

• Configurable “halo” lighting makes them easy to access in darkened cockpits/cabins.

• 1.5” square format and less than one-inch panel depth.

• Comes in two formats: One hard-wires into the aircraft power on the back of the unit, the other connects through the bottom of the case.

• Optional mounting plates enable it to fit into existing 2.25” or 3.125” instrument cutouts.

• MSRP: $245.00 (installation not included).

 

Mid-Continent MD93H dual-hub USB charger with digital clock:

• Dual 3.0 amp port, runs/charges two full-size iPads/tablets/phones at one time.

• Built-in protection against short circuits, power surges, and current overload.

• Six-digit, seven segment LED clock with five different time modes.

• 2” size fits standard instrument cutouts.

• External lighting control and built-in photocell for auto-dimming.

• FAA/EASA TSO certified to C71.

• RTCA DO-160G qualified.

• MSRP: $595.00 (installation not included).

 

Appareo Stratus Power Pro charging port with USB-A and USB-C:

• Dual 3.0 amp port, runs/charges two full-size iPads/tablets/phones at one time.

• USB-A and USB-C ports for interface with legacy and new-generation units.

• Backlit ports for easy location in low-light cockpits and cabins.

• Provides 20-percent more charging power than the original Stratus Power Pro.

• Radio shielded, will not interfere with NAV/COM.

• FAA TSO certified to C71.

• Five-year warranty.

• MSRP: $399.00 (installation not included).

 

One last thing, though, while I’ve concentrated on the usefulness of having USB charging ports in your panel, the fact is, today they can actually be more valuable when you put them back where your passengers can plug-in.

Don’t believe me? Well, then close your eyes and imagine you’re two-hours into a three-and-a-half-hour flight, and your spouse or child(ren)’s phone, iPad, or whatever suddenly goes dark. No doubt, flying in solid IFR with ice at night would make for a more pleasant experience.

If you have any questions about how the right USB port can keep unthinkable things from happening, give me a call at 863.709.9714 (x 112), and I’ll be happy help you make the right connection.

 

Until next time, fly safely and have fun,

Matt

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