The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has given airlines the go ahead to ditch old fashioned flight bags in favor of the iPad — a move that promises to save paper, time and money.
Traditionally, aircraft cockpits are littered with a collection of flight manuals, log books, and other papers typically weighing around 40 pounds. With agreement from the FAA, however, pilots can now wave goodbye to their papers and take a half-pound iPad on board instead.
The new electronic flight manuals are said to be much easier to work with thanks to the introduction of hyperlinks and color graphics. Keeping the manuals up to date is also a much easier process and is now automatic, as opposed to the old laborious task of swapping old pages for new ones.
The first airline to be granted approval to use the iPad was Alaska Airlines back in May, whose pilots were given permission to use the device for digital flight, systems and performance manuals. The move reportedly cut around 25 pounds of paper from each flight bag.
Jim Freman, director of flight standards and a pilot for Alaska Airlines, believes the iPad saves time in the cockpit:
“The iPad allows pilots to quickly and nimbly access information. When you need to make a decision in the cockpit, three to four minutes fumbling with paper is an eternity.”
The company has plans to introduce more applications that will include aeronautical maps and charts, though it will need to consult with the FAA for approval. According to the FAA’s deputy director of flight standards, each airline will be required to submit a proposal on how it intends to use Apple’s tablet, proving that both the device and the software are safe and effective for their intended use.
In addition to saving time and weight, the iPad is surprisingly expected to also reduce pilot healthcare costs that arise from shoulder and back injuries. David Clarke, a pilot with American Airlines, told the New York Times:
“Cockpits are small, and lifting that thing up and over your seat causes damage, particularly when you consider a lot of pilots are over 40.”
So next time you’re at the airport and you see a pilot walking around with his iPad, don’t just assume he’s going to try and beat Angry Birds while you’re cruising along at 35,000 feet.