Tablet PC Installation with Weather, Charts, Terrain and DVD Movies


I recently decided to install a Motion Computing M1400 tablet PC (and assorted hardware and software) to satisfy two objectives: 


·        Greater situational awareness for the pilot

·        An entertainment center for the passengers. 


The pilot objective is accomplished by loading the tablet PC with XM weather, JeppView FliteDeck electronic flight bag, and Mountainscope 3D terrain avoidance:  in other words, all the goodies available through Cirrus/Avidyne, but at a fraction of the cost.  The entertainment objective is accomplished by having the tablet PC serve as a nice size video screen to watch movies using a standalone DVD drive or to play games like Free Cell or Minesweeper (to name a few).


As others on this forum have noted, “homebrew MFD” setups such as this cost a fraction of the factory version:  roughly $5K versus the $25K which the factory charges for XM weather, CMax and TAWS.  And by installing a mounting bracket and buying a DVD drive (roughly $1.5K), this “homebrew MFD” can double as an entertainment center in VFR conditions.   


Unlike other tablet PC installations discussed on this forum that sit on the pilot’s lap or are propped up against the backup steam gauges, my tablet PC is mounted to a bracket on the co-pilot’s bolster, below the “No Smoking” label on the right portion of the panel.  This placement allows the tablet PC to swivel in portrait view angled toward the pilot for access to the charts, weather and terrain applications; or to swivel in landscape view in front of the front seat passenger to watch movies or play games.  I haven’t yet tried it with passengers in the back seat, but I believe it can be positioned so that all of the passengers can have a good view of the movie screen. 


Please note that the tablet and its mounting arm are positioned right in front of the analog engine gauges and temperature controls, but it can be easily swiveled away in order to reach the gauges and temperature controls when necessary.  On the other hand, since I already have the engine data excerpted in the corner of the MFD map page, the analog gauges are largely redundant.


Tablet PC running FliteDeck in portrait view, angled toward pilot


Tablet PC running WxWorx radar in portrait view


Tablet PC running DVD movie (Escape from NY), in landscape view


Here is a list of the hardware and software that I used:










View of center console, with adapters for WX receiver (left) and tablet PC (right) plugged into new 28V convenience outlets








View of Targus DVD drive and XM receiver, attached with velcro to left side of the co-pilot’s leg space.  Note wrapped wires just to the side of the center avionics stack.




1.                  60-249-200-01  Black vertical mounting base bracket

2.                  45-135-200-02  Black 5” extension with pivot interface (up/down and left/right)

3.                  60-321-009-01   Black 6” vertical adjustment extension, with portrait/landscape interface (see note 1)

4.                  60-486-101-00   Black interface for M1400 tablet PC (see note 2)


Installed view of Ergotron mounting bracket system, without tablet PC


Rear view of Ergotron mounting bracket system, with tablet PC attached and wires wrapped together and tied in place


Note 1:  The mounting bracket parts listed above cost roughly $200; but upon installation I found that the 6” vertical adjustment extension was not really necessary and cluttered up access to the engine gauge and temperature controls.  So I tossed it and attached its portrait/landscape swivel directly to the 5” extension arm.  In other words, I shouldn’t have bought the 6” vertical extension:  I should have gotten part #47-011-085 instead (single pivot with portrait/landscape).  Go to this web page for more information.


Note 2:  Pilots who wish to use an Ergotron mounting system with a different model of tablet PC (e.g., Sony, HP) should consult the Compatible Monitor Tool at the bottom left corner of Ergotron’s home page:  as you can see, they carry an interface plates for dozens of manufacturers.





The mounting bracket system weighs roughly six pounds; together with the tablet PC drive the total weight for this setup is just under 10 pounds.  Of course, its a non-permanent installation and everything except the mounting base bracket can be removed in less than two minutes.  Note that the tablet PC can be removed from the plane by unscrewing four thumb-screws, which have neoprene rubber washers that are essential to dampen virtually all of the vibration. 


Interface plate for M1400 screwed onto the back of the tablet PC


Installation of the Ergotron mounting bracket:  In order to properly mount this bracket system on the co-pilot’s bolster panel a custom metal stiffening piece (weighing less than one pound) was bent and fabricated to match the radius curves of the existing sheet metal, and then riveted over the existing bolster panel base.  The Ergotron mounting base bracket was shortened by an inch to match the height of the existing bolster panel base, and two new holes were drilled in it.  Finally, a hole was cut in the gray plastic panel cover, so that upon completion the installation has a very professional appearance.  Two days of shop labor was required to do this installation and add the two 28 volt convenience outlets and 5 amp breakers.


Front view of stiffener, with cutout hole for eyeball air vent


Side view of stiffener, showing radius curves that conform to existing shape in the plane


Installed view of stiffener riveted in place, with Ergotron base mounting plate attached; note that there is a second, square stiffener piece installed behind the base mounting plate for added strength and support



·        GPS receivers from Holux and WxWorx.  I’m still road-testing these alternatives.  The WxWorx unit comes with a USB cable and draws its power from the tablet PC.  Others have written about the difficulty in getting Mountainscope 3D terrain software and FliteDeck to all share the same GPS unit, so I may very well end up needing more than one GPS for my installation.  I’m hopeful, however, that the Holux GM270 Ultra unit will do the trick:  it fits into a PCMCIA slot on the tablet PC, which totally eliminates the extra wires or worries about batteries.   


·        Electronic flight bag using JeppView and FliteDeck software from Jeppesen ($738).  This software is georeferenced based on input from the GPS receiver, so it shows the airplane’s position on the enroute, approach and taxi charts.  Very slick.  It is updated every two weeks, either via the internet or CD sent by mail.  The Jepp license covers four computers, and prior to use each one has to be authenticated and receive a site code.  Bob Anderson has posted extensively on the many excellent features of this software, and my experience to date certainly mirrors his.


·        MountainScope 3D terrain software from PC Avionics ($495, including six months of database updates).  This software is of course also georeferenced based on input from the GPS receiver, and the screen can be split to show both a windshield and overhead view, with color coding to show terrain that is within a given distance from the aircraft.  The software can also be set to show altitude above the ground (as can FliteDeck):  in effect, a poor man’s radio altimeter.  The software also includes an XM weather overlay, which I haven’t yet explored. 


·        GPS Gate software from Franson Technology ($29.95), which lets you share the output from one GPS receiver among several applications.  Word of caution:  don’t install this software on the tablet PC until after the WxWorx XM receiver installation is completed; otherwise, it will grab the receiver’s comm port and create endless confusion and error messages from the operating system (e.g., “unable to update driver” or “comm port in use by another device”). 


·        DVD player codecs from Intervideo, if you want to be able to watch a full assortment of DVD movies.  Several studios have installed anti-piracy software on their DVDs (e.g., Disney), so the standard Windows Media Player or RealPlayer software won’t show those movies.  The WinDVD Gold 6 software ($39, download the trial version and then type in the activation key) contains all of the codecs necessary to play those movies.  Incidentally, I used a simple audio cable to connect the headphone jack on the tablet PC to the audio jack in the center console.  On first try, I was unable to get the audio to work through the headphones, so I suspect that I’ll need to install an impedance device.


For now, I opted to not install an independent power supply or a gyro, as others on this forum have done.  My entire system runs off the ship’s power, using the convenience outlets or, in the case of the DVD drive, the USB ports on the tablet PC.  But I may well do so in the future, as I get more comfortable with the concept of a paperless cockpit and using the tablet PC for backup flight instrumentation.