FAA to allow iPads to replace airplane charts & manuals

It seems that on Friday American Airlines is getting the okay from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to use iPads in the cockpit at any time during a flight. The tablets would replace unwieldy charts and manuals that are often consulted over the course of a flight.

FAA to allow iPads to replace airplane charts & manuals

This past summer American Airlines began testing the use of the iPad during all phases of a flight. The testing was aimed at replacing all of the paper charts and manuals often consulted by pilots with digital versions of the same information on the tablet. It was noted back during this original testing that the 1.5 pound iPad could replace up to 35 pounds of paper books and charts. That equates to roughly $1.2 million in fuel savings a year and gives pilots far less to lug around with them.

A source at the FAA told ZDNet that the organization has given American Airlines the green light to replace their manuals and charts with iPads effective Friday, December 16. The statement to ZDNet from that source reads,

“On Friday, American Airlines is the first airline in the world to be fully FAA approved to use iPads during all phases of flight. Pilots will use iPads as electronic chart and digital flight manual readers. The airline will begin iPad operations on B-777 aircraft, and then implement across all other fleets. By using electronic charts and manuals, the safety and efficiency on the flight deck is significantly enhanced. Both the iPad I and the iPad II have been approved for use. Other airlines such as United, Alaska, and UPS are also reviewing this potential, but none have been approved to conduct flight operations in all phases of flight except American. This FAA approval cumulates the results from a 6 month test period whereby American flew thousands of hours with iPads to test and evaluate the product.”

A move like this makes a great deal of sense for any airline. The tablets are smaller and much easier to carry around than the manuals and charts currently used in cockpit. What’s more, the devices can be cached with any relevant information so they would not need to operate in WiFi or 3G mode during a flight. Not only is this more convenient but that estimated fuel savings is significant and could, eventually, mean ticket prices that either lowered or stabilized over time.

How do you feel about tablets being used in flight by the crew?