Delta Pilots Given iPads As ‘Electronic Flight Bags’

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Following the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s decision to allow airlines to use tablets as electronic flight bags, Delta has become the first airline to issue iPads to its pilots for in-flight access to equipment manuals, flight charts, and Wi-Fi.

The roll-out will begin with 22 pilots initially, who will replace their heavy flight bags, typically weighing around 40 pounds, with Apple’s 1.6 pound tablet. According to TechCrunch, Delta hopes that the device will make for stronger communications between the flight and ground crews by pushing up-to-the minute information to flights from the control center — leaving the flight crew to focus on changes in flight path, weather, and emergencies.

The devices have been pre-installed with a number of specialist apps, from Jeppesen flight charts to rest period calculators, but pilots will also be able to customize the device themselves. Delta’s senior vice president, Steve Dickson, says pilots can “download additional apps that customize the product and lend to Delta’s capabilities.” Though I don’t think that would include the latest Angry Birds release.

And don’t think these pilots get any special treatment just because they’re flying the plane: the iPads are only to be used pre-flight and when the plane is above 10,000 feet.

In September, the iPads will be taken away and replaced with Motorola’s XOOM tablet — which will also be replaced by a third device, which is yet to be decided, after an evaluation period. This will ensure Delta can later employee the tablet most suitable to its pilots.