iPads, tablets and various handheld and panel-mounted GPS gadgets are frequently used in NTSB reports for their forensic data. Investigators often can reconstruct flight tracks or view the page the pilot was looking at when the crash occurred. They also can reconstruct other user history, including how recently apps were open, if databases were updated, what weather information was available, etc. In some ways, the NTSB can get much richer data sets about GA accidents than they get from an airliners black boxes.
Even after a post-crash fire, the memory on solid-state devices often can be recovered, building a more complete narrative of what occurred before the crash. Just as with the black boxes in the commercial airline world, the data can both exonerate and incriminate.
At right is a flight-path plot produced by the NTSB as part of its investigation into the fatal crash of a Cessna Caravan 208B at Pellston, Mich., on January 15, 2013. Data like that depicted often is recovered from wreckage and analyzed as part of an NTSB investigation.