How to Use an iPad in Airplane Mode

  Matt Cone       June 11, 2012      Tutorials iPad

Flying somewhere with your iPad this summer? You may need to learn about an important iOS feature called Airplane Mode. Turn this setting on, and your iPad will be compliant with federal regulations that prohibit the use of certain wireless technologies while the aircraft is flying. This tutorial provides a comprehensive look at Airplane Mode and how you can use an iPad on an aircraft.

During Takeoff and Landing, Turn Off the iPad

The first and last part of the trip is the most annoying. Due to current FAA regulations, you will be asked by the flight crew to turn off your iPad when the aircraft is preparing to takeoff or land. Here’s how:

  1. Press and hold the power button on the top of the iPad’s case, as shown below.

    Turning off an iPad

  2. A red slide to power off slider appears on the screen. Slide the button to turn off the iPad.

  3. Your iPad will turn off.

Note that it’s not entirely clear why turning off your iPad during takeoff and landing is a federal regulation. In fact, the FAA is currently reviewing whether or not passengers should be allow to use iPads during takeoff and landing. Unfortunately, you must still comply with this regulation for the time being.

How to Enable Airplane Mode

Once the plane is airborne, and the flight crew has given the green light to use portable electronic devices, you can turn the iPad on. But before you can use it, you must enable Airplane Mode. Here’s how:

  1. From the iPad’s home screen, tap Settings. The screen shown below appears.

    iPad Airplane mode

  2. Slide the Airplane Mode switch to the On position. The iPad is now in Airplane Mode. You can always tell whether or not the iPad is in Airplane Mode by looking at the top bar - the airplane icon will be visible when Airplane Mode is enabled.

Congratulations! You may now legally use your iPad during the flight. Feel free to watch movies, listen to music, or use any of your apps.

What Happens When You Enable Airplane Mode?

When you enable Airplane Mode, the iPad disconnects from any cellular and wireless networks and prevents you from automatically reconnecting to those networks. Bluetooth, Location Services, and GPS will also be disabled. All of those wireless technologies could potentially interfere with the avionics in the cockpit.

Connecting to Wi-Fi Networks and Bluetooth Devices

Airplane Mode automatically disables Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, but most federal regulations allow you to reenable these wireless protocols while airborne. This is useful when connecting to in-air wireless networks, or using Bluetooth devices, such as a Bluetooth keyboard. Here’s how to reenable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth while your iPad is in Airplane Mode:

  1. From the iPad’s home screen, tap Settings.

  2. Tap Wi-Fi on the sidebar. The screen shown below appears.

    Using iPad Wi-Fi while in airplane mode

  3. Move the Wi-Fi slider to the On position.

  4. Select a wireless network from the list. Your iPad will connect to the network.

  5. To enable Bluetooth, tap General on the sidebar. The screen shown below appears.

    Enabling iPad bluetooth while in airplane mode

  6. Tap Bluetooth.

  7. Move the Bluetooth slider to the On position. You can now connect Bluetooth devices to your iPad.

You’ve successfully enabled Wi-Fi and Bluetooth while using the iPad in Airplane Mode.

How to Turn Airplane Mode Off

Once you’ve arrived at your destination, you’ll want to disable Airplane Mode so your iPad can start using all of its wireless technologies again. Here’s how to turn Airplane Mode off:

  1. From the iPad’s home screen, tap Settings.
  2. Slide the Airplane Mode switch to the Off position.

You have successfully disabled Airplane Mode. Now Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Location Services, and GPS are enabled again.

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© 2021. A Matt Cone project. CC BY-NC-SA 4.0. Made with 🌶️ in New Mexico.