Tablets take to the skies

Airlines across the world are starting to arm their pilots with tablets and the weighty carry-on flight bags full of papers and manuals could soon become a thing of the past.

Airlines around the world are issuing pilots iPad 2’s for use on the flight deck as an Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) to replace weighty carry-on flight bags filled with paper documentation and manuals.

I flew on a domestic flight recently with South African budget carrier 1time www.1time.co.za, the first airline in Africa to deploy Apple’s iPad 2 in the flight deck as an EFB.

Instead of carrying a 22.6kg fully loaded flight bag of paper manuals and documentation, 1time pilots synchronise the data on their 601gram iPad2 to the server prior to flights.

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The iPad 2 has been tested and certified as a device that doesn’t interfere with aircraft avionics by the USA Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) and its 10 hour rated battery life allows use by 1time pilots throughout a flight without requiring recharge.

iPad 2’s used by 1time contain all the information aircraft pilots need including Exchange Mail, rosters, weather updates, passenger information and loads, system and performance manuals, as well as  applications  that assist with pre-flight planning and in-flight operations such as fuel calculations.

1time First Officer, Sascha Hohenberger notes that the iPad 2 has markedly reduced his workload.

 “Having all relevant documentation readily available in a streamlined format ensures our jobs are considerably easier to perform. Subsequently, we now have all our information readily available at our fingertips, and only spend five minutes updating iPads wirelessly in operations prior to take off.”

Continuing this global trend Delta Air lines is testing the iPad 2 as an EFB vs the Motorola Zoom Android tablet and United Airlines will issue iPad 2 EFB’s to all 11,000 United and Continental Airlines pilots by the end of the year.

A Qantas spokesperson told Technology Spectator  that “no final decisions have been made but we believe tablets have considerable potential as a tool for pilots”. The Qantas flight operations department is investigating ways of using iPad-like technology in the cockpit and exploring a range of options.

1time CEO Rodney James told us that the use of an iPad2 as an EFB is helping his pilots perform their duties more efficiently and they are proud to be the 3rd airline in the world (following the lead of Alaska Airlines and American Airlines) to use an iPad2 EFB.

“The EFB application for the iPad2 is truly unique, and will help our flight crews perform flight management tasks more easily, swiftly, and efficiently. It also results in the creation of a paper-less environment.” 

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