R44 iPhone and iPad Power and Mount

What you need to get the job done — and how I did it.

One of the great things about the R44 is the DC power port located rather conveniently between the two front seats facing backwards. At first glance, it seems as if it would be the perfect accessory for charging any number of devices.

Well, it is — but not without jumping through a few hoops. The trouble is, on a Raven II, that port is connected to the 28v DC power system and puts out 24v to 28v of power. Plug the wrong kind of DC accessory into it and you can fry your device.

Seven Years of Struggle

Like most pilots, I can certainly use that power port to charge any number of devices: cameras, phones, and, most recently, an iPad. And since buying my helicopter more than seven years ago — has it really been that long? — I’ve tried numerous devices to make it work.

I should state right here that I’ve had passengers simply plug car chargers for their phones into that port. They did it without asking me — you know how passengers can be — and I never heard about any harm coming to those phones or the chargers. But not only does the label on the port assure me that it’s 28v, but a call to the Robinson factory confirmed it. I was not about to plug any 12v charger or power cable I owned into it without stepping down the power.

To that end, I purchased a little box that supposedly made any conversion I wanted. I dialed in 24v (which is apparently close enough to 28v to make everyone happy) to 12v, plugged in my devices, and it worked.

Until the day I was warming up the engine with two photographers on board and began to smell burning electronics. (I have a very good sense of smell. I once woke up in the middle of the night smelling smoke. In the morning, I learned that a building about a mile away had burned down overnight. But I digress.) I reached back and felt for the box. It was melting. I pulled the plug, glad that I was still on the ground, and later threw it away.

When I got my Moitek Mount, which has three Kenyon KS-8 gyros, I bought Kenyon’s 28v dual inverter to power two of them. (The third is powered by a battery pack.) To date, that’s the only device-specific power supply I’ve found that accepts 28v input.

Bestek MR-C21ANext came “the turtle.” My friend Don recommended it to me and that’s what he called it. It’s actually a Bestek USB Charger, model C21A. It’s a DC to USB charger that has 4 USB ports. It accepts input of 10v to 30v and supposedly outputs up to 2.1 amps. By that time, that’s what I needed — I had an iPad 2 and was beginning to use it for Foreflight. As the manufacturer advised, however, you should only use one port when charging an iPad. What I discovered is that if I used the iPad in flight, even with just one USB device plugged in, I could not maintain a charge on the iPad. Although it said it was charging, the power was still trickling away. Yes, I was able to stretch the iPad’s use out to 12 hours on a very long cross-country flight, but that’s because I kept shutting it off when I didn’t need to consult it. And it irked me that I couldn’t charge my phone at the same time.

I should mention here that I tried a variety of other solutions for DC to USB. I must have more of these damn devices than anyone on the planet. The turtle worked best — but it didn’t work good enough to make me happy. The others mostly didn’t work at all.

When I bought a new iPad, the problem came to a head. The turtle couldn’t provide enough power to even indicate that the iPad was charging. On a recent day-long charter with several off-airport stops and long waits, my iPad went completely dead. Not acceptable.

Mediabridge to the Rescue!

With another very long cross-country flight ahead of me, I decided to stop screwing around and find a solution that worked flawlessly. So I began a search for a DC to USB charger that could charge both my iPad and my iPhone at the same time.

Mediabridge USB ChargerI found the solution on Amazon.com: the Mediabridge High Output Dual USB Car Charger for iPad and iPhone. This device takes input from 12v to 24v and outputs a total of 3.1 amps: 1 amp on one USB port and 2.1 amps on the other USB port.

Long iPhone/iPad CablesI coupled that with a pair of KHOMO Extra Long USB Sync Cables for iPhone/iPad. These cables are 6 feet long. I needed the length to safely run the cables from the middle of the aircraft to the place I’d mounted my devices. More on that in a moment.

This afternoon, I went out to the helicopter, plugged everything in, and flicked the Master Battery switch. Sure enough, my iPhone and iPad both indicated that they were charging.

Total cost of this power solution: $12.99 + $9.99 = $22.98.

Cockpit Management

Empty Mounts
Here are the two RAM mounts, empty, mounted on the Robinson GPS bar. You can see the tray behind the iPad mount.

Mount with iPad & iPhone
Here are the mounts with the iPhone and iPad installed and turned on. No, the glare isn’t much of an issue in flight. (Overheating in direct sunlight is another story, though.) As you can see, the bar does not interfere with my use of the pedals. Remember, the bar is a Robinson component; not something I whipped up and installed myself.

cable ties
Here are the wire tie pieces I use to keep the wires tidy.

Tidy Wires
I attached the wire ties to the side of the instrument panel with the adhesive pieces. I looped the ties wide enough to pass the end of a USB plug through.

more tidy wires
I did the same along the side of the pilot seat. This keeps the wires from getting tangled in the collective, which would be a serious problem.

Of course, my solution isn’t limited to just the power accessories discussed above. I’m a strong believer in having a tidy cockpit — especially when flying solo or flying long distances. I already have mounts for my iPhone and iPad that keep them within reach without blocking my view of any instrument or what’s outside the cockpit bubble.

My solution has multiple components:

  • A customized version of the GPS mounting bar Robinson offers. Mine was installed by the folks at Helicopters Northwest at Boeing Field in Seattle. It includes the bar and a semi-useful tray that I clip duty sheets onto when I fly. (Before I got the iPad and Foreflight, I used it to display charts or lists of airport frequencies.)
  • A RAM mount for iPad with glare shield clamp. I clamp it to the base of the tray on the bar.
  • A RAM mount for iPhone with U-Bolt Rail mount. A friend of mine customized the U-Bolt mount to remove the U-Bolt and add a plate he made in his shop. A pair of straight bolts attaches it to the bar.
  • A number of adhesive wire tie holders with wire ties. I found these gems in a great little hardware store in Chelan, WA and bought a ton of them.

Let me take a moment to talk about RAM mounts. I love RAM mounts. It’s a component system, so you can mix and match parts. What works for you today might not work for you tomorrow in a different aircraft or with a different device. But RAM has you covered. You just get the pieces you need and use them with other pieces you already have. For example, I already had the custom U-bolt thing for another purpose; I just repurposed it with the iPhone mount. Ditto for the iPad mount; it came with a kneeboard. Mix and match. Well made stuff, too.

So if you think you need to enlighten me on how RAM mounts suck and how what you’re using is so much better, save it. I have a sizable investment in RAM equipment and will not switch now or anytime in the foreseeable future.

At the same time, I’m not saying that my solution, as outlined here, is “the best.” It’s the best (so far) for me. But it all hinges on the availability of that Robinson GPS bar. It’s not easy to get; for a long time, Robinson wouldn’t sell them. I’m not sure if they’re selling them now. But it’s a great add-on for any Robinson. Rock solid, bolts onto the frame, great platform for any equipment you need handy but out of the way.

I do, however recommend mounting your devices with sturdy but easily removable mounting components affixed to something that won’t vibrate like crazy, is within arm’s reach, and doesn’t block your view of anything.

I ran the wires — including an audio cable so I could listen to music in flight — through the loops I made in the wire ties and made sure they were tight. (I’m thinking of braiding them to keep them all together but haven’t decided if that’s a good idea yet.) I wrapped any excess around the bar over my feet. I can then plug in the devices on both ends.

It’s a temporary solution that is extremely effective in keeping everything neat without any modification to the aircraft.

Works for me.

27 thoughts on “R44 iPhone and iPad Power and Mount

    • I haven’t seen any problems that could be tied to vibration. These devices don’t have any moving parts, so I don’t expect the low level of vibration I experience to be a problem.

    • Just be sure to turn off The “Shake to Shuffle” feature on your iPhone. I had mine enabled and could not figure out for the life of me why every so often the song would stop and start with a new one. As for damaging anything, I agree with Maria, no moving parts=no problems.

    • Nice solution! Your mount looks as if it uses RAM mount parts. Is that so? I’d be interested in the piece that attaches to the windscreen, but can’t see buying the rest of it if it’s something I already have. Do you sell just that part? Or is it RAM, too?

  1. Maria,
    Nice setup..I hope your FSDO is more accommodating than mine.. whole “new” section in FSIMS for 135 operators on mounts. Last inspection out went the ram mount until engineering approves it! If your 91 then who cares..or say they replied. But 135 everythjing from the wiring.. breakers..fuses I pad cables needed approval. Love the FAA

    • My FSDO hasn’t challenged it yet. I’m pretty sure my POI saw my iPad setup on my last Part 135 checkride. Which “engineering” has to approve it?

    • Oh they said a DAR could approve the engineering..problem is according to the avionics guy nothing isapproves or TSO’d ..ram admits their mounts are not ..neither is any of Apples wiring ..so like anything if your 135 the rules change. The issue was not from my POI it was from teh maintenace and Avionics asking who signed off on the mounts and wiring..at least the Robinson support bar is approved. Check out FSIMS it’s the FAA’s bible and apprently they have issues with all the new mounts and wiring..but not for 91.

    • “Designated Airworthiness Representative” Generally an PE Engineer with expertise in whatever area you’re trying to get approved, who has been himself approved by the FAA.

  2. Hello Maria,
    i am also looking for a solution in my R44. I ordered the robinson mounting bar at my dealer.
    Where did you find the information that this charger is suitable for 24 volts? Amazon says is is a 12 V car charger

    • I know I saw it somewhere; probably in the specs. Look for input range in volts. There is a chance that this device has been changed since I bought mine. Also, I’ve since switched to a different 12-24v USB charger, although I can’t get my hands on the info now. For the iPad, you definitely want 2 amps output from the device via USB. GPS use with Foreflight sucks battery power and less than 2 amps simply won’t come close to keeping up with the power drain. Good luck!

  3. Does:

    “This afternoon, I went out to the helicopter, plugged everything in, and flicked the Master Battery switch. Sure enough, my iPhone and iPad both indicated that they were charging.”

    tell me whether this “Car charger” actually worked with the aircraft running?

    I have just burnt out several different models marked 12-24v. An R44RII or R66 runs at about 29.4 volts – so I am wondering if yours has continued working?

    The Turtle is specified to 30v but it’s current output is low.

    Amazon list the charger you featured as 12v. Specifications for these are generally poor, often people say 12-24v when they mean both systems. 24v is often used as the description for twice a 12v system, a “12v system” is normally just the “name” , the actual voltage is generally 14.7v. So imprecision in the use of these terms make finding a “car charger” (DC/DC USB Cigarette Socket Adapter) a bit of a challenge – anyone found a 30v High current output device yet? (BESTEK (spec’d at 30v) do one that has been working well in the H500 – but it has a lead, and I am looking for just a plug with 2 or more USB outputs.

  4. The “TopG XS Tri-Port 25.5W / 5.1A USB Universal Car Charger” from Amazon looks ‘beefy’ but specifies 12-24v.

    although the picture of the device clearly has 12-18v written on the product itself, this is just sloppy, nobody give a spec acurately enough to buy something, just have to try it and see if it works I guess.

    • Wow! That does look good! There were far fewer options available when I set up my system. I’ll order one of these and give it a try. My current solution simply isn’t keeping my iPad charged and that’s a real issue on long flights with it being my official FAA electronic flight bag. Thanks for the tip.

    • That product seems to not be available. Any of you actually tried it yet?
      A new MediaBridge lasted 1 sec before it popped. Just glad I didn’t plug my Ipad in before I tried it :/

  5. I am quite nervous about plugging anything in since I burned my ipad mini up attempting to charge it out of the 14v ciggie socket in my heli. It was attached to a 4 port system but only had the ipad plugged in. The specs on these USB adapters is dubious, as your other commenters have said. I also have a 28v plug so the MYGOFLIGHT 28v charger for $29.99 is a dual port that hopefully won’t wreck anything, but I’m still hesitant to plug anything in… an expensive and time consuming problem. I did take a voltage meter to both plugs and they are both rock solid 14v and 28v under generator or 14v and 25v under battery only. I’ll let the thread know how the MYGOFLIGHT does.

    • The only thing my helicopter has fried so far is an adapter that was supposed to take the 28v power down to 12v. I had a gyro plugged into it at the time. Scared the crap out of me; glad I caught it while we were on the ground.

What do you think?