[This post has been updated]
Millions of tablet computers have sold since the launch of the iPad last year. The devices have found their way into kitchens, dens and classrooms. Now they’re headed for the commercial cockpit.
American Airlines and the Allied Pilots Association, the union for American’s pilots, are testing the use of tablet computers “from gate to gate during all phases of flight,” according to a spokesman for American Airlines.
The tests began on Thursday, with Los Angeles-based 777 pilots using iPads on two flights bound for Shanghai. American Airlines said the tests, approved by the Federal Aviation Administration, will last for six months.
The tests are a final step before FAA approval of tablets for use as electronic flight bags, which allow crews to perform a range of tasks that used to be handled by paper. The eletronic flight bags also include reference materials, such as navigational charts and flight manuals.
The iPads also provide the pilots with electronic charting capability, which provides a digital image of their route.
According to American Airlines, the benefits include:
• A weight reduction expected to save $1.2 million in fuel annually.
• More accurate information, which may help reduce flight delays and improve flight operations.
• Improvement in employee safety since pilots won’t have to lift flight bags weighing 35 pounds or more.
“By eliminating bulky flight bags filled with paper, [electronic flight bags] mean less weight for pilots to carry, reducing the possibility of injury on duty,” First Officer Hank Putek, a member of the APA safety committee, said in a statement last week. “In addition, they enable pilots to immediately download updates, rather than waiting for paper versions of required documents to be printed and distributed.”
Earlier this year, the FAA authorized a charter company, Executive Jet Management, to use iPads as an alternative to paper charts.