Pilots trade paper for iPads

Tim Grey
6 July, 2011
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Previously, we’d all assumed Apple’s iPad was only good for playing Doodle Jump, but a surprising, if sensible, new application has disproved that theory.

Until recently, airline pilots were required by law to lug around 20 kilograms of reference material, safety checklists, logbooks, navigation charts, weather information and airport diagrams. But, according to a report by the New York Times a number of pilots in the States have traded in their enormous black bags full of paperwork for a 600g iPad.

The Federal Aviation Administration has given the go-ahead for a small number of commercial and charter airlines to trade in physical for digital, while many private pilots have already made the change.

Instead of the many logbooks and manuals, the electronic versions feature the same documentation, plus a range of over 250 aviation apps which aren’t only easier to use, but provide additional information.

“The iPad allows pilots to quickly and nimbly access information,” Jim Freeman, a pilot and director of flight standards at Alaska Airlines, which has given iPads to all its pilots, told the Times. “When you need to a make a decision in the cockpit, three to four minutes fumbling with paper is an eternity.”

Alaska Airlines has not only replaced dead-tree manuals with digital, but is currently petitioning the F.A.A. to allow the iPad to be used as an aeronautical chart – a victory that American Airlines has already achieved.

Although no Australian airlines are currently using iPads on the flight deck Qantas pilot and vice president of the Australian and International Pilots Association Captain Brad Hodson believes that most good airlines would be considering a move to the iPad.

“The benefits of an iPad are that it’s lightweight, portable, good value, easy to use, cutting edge technology and it’s liked by pilots,” said Hodson. “Saving weight saves money on fuel burn. A holder could be installed for each pilot allowing much easier access to info. This could also reduce injuries in reaching for and passing heavy manuals.”

Hodson believes that while pilots would certainly appreciate the option of using an iPad instead of bulky manuals, older pilots might struggle to adapt the new technology.

“I am 43 and would love the iPad I the flight deck,” he said. “Older guys may need some training in finding and reading info. Most pilots, I believe, would welcome the move.”

And, even though we’re all forced to stop playing Hanging with Friends until the captain turns off the ‘Fasten Seatbelts’ light, airlines using iPads for navigation have demonstrated their devices don’t impair online electronics.

Flight Control finally got real.

One Comment

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  1. Mark says:

    Let’s hope they have the capacity to charge the devices in flight. Mine did not manage a Dubai to Frankfurt flight, although perhaps their use time would be less.

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