Today in Apple history: iPad takes to the skies with United Airlines


United Airlines iPad
If only they had known about the iPad Air...
Photo: United Airlines

23 Today in Apple history August 23, 2011: United Airlines says it will hand out 11,000 iPads for its pilots. It’s the largest rollout yet of Apple tablets as a replacement for the weighty flight bags previously carried by pilots.

Going paperless saves around 16 million sheets of paper each year, the equivalent of 1,900 trees not cut down. The weight difference between the 1.5-pound iPad and the 40-pound flight bag also saves 326,000 gallons of jet fuel per year!

iPad’s early airline adopters

United Airlines wasn’t the first airline to adopt the iPad. Delta Air Lines was technically the first a couple of weeks earlier, although it only tested 22 devices total.

“The paperless flight deck represents the next generation of flying,” said Capt. Fred Abbott, United’s senior vice president of flight operations, in a press release outlining the plan to distribute iPads to all United and Continental Airlines pilots. “The introduction of iPads ensures our pilots have essential and real-time information at their fingertips at all times throughout the flight.”

The iPads come loaded with Jeppesen Mobile FliteDeck, an industry app featuring interactive, data-driven navigation information and worldwide geo-referenced terminal charts. The app replaces flight manuals that contain around 12,000 sheets of paper per pilot.

The sky is the limit for iPad

Seeing the iPad find real-world applications in the commercial sector seemed heartwarming. Especially since the Mac struggled to make this kind of impact.

By 2011, the iPad was already outselling Apple’s Mac division and cementing its place as another home run for the company. With more than 100,000 iPad-exclusive apps already available in the iOS App Store, United Airlines’ iPad adoption provided yet more proof of how varied Apple’s “Jesus tablet” could be — whether it was used for reading newspapers and magazines, playing games, watching movies or helping fly planes.

When did you get your first iPad? Leave your comments below.