I have a PC running my server application and several iPad Clients, and therefore need a WLAN to connect them.
Can I simply plug an access point such as a Cisco Aironet 1602i into the LAN port of the PC to accomplish this?
I'm not sure how Joel means it wouldn't be simple - it would be about as simple a wireless network as you can get.
You would need to get an AP which provides DHCP and DNS services (so a basic router would probably be better). Turn off any firewalls or allow access through them for the services you want and the iPads should be able to see the PC.
Make sure that the IPs for wireless devices are in the same subnet as those for the wired, so that the machines can see each other (or just connect the "server" over the wireless connection) and job done.
It is possible to set it up this way, but it would not be "simple", and would include several caveats, including that your iPads would not have any other internet access.