Airlines Replace Pilots’ Flight Bags With Greener iPads

Two airlines, Alaska and American, are saving on paper and fuel consumption by using iPads in the cockpit

Alaska Airlines and American Airlines (AA) are both investigated introducing Apple iPads into the pilot’s cockpit. AA said that, if its trials are successful, it could save $1.2 million(£745,000) in fuel and reduce its paper consumption by millions of sheets.

Pilots carry between 25 and 35 pounds (11-16kg) of flight details and navigational maps in their flight bags. Replacing these with an iPad reduces the burden to 1.5 pounds (0.7kg) and the weight reduction saves on fuel. It also means less space is taken up by paper in the cramped environment of the average airplane cockpit.

Electronic Flight Bags Find A Holdall

Alaska took a step ahead of AA in completing the introduction of iPads mid-month but it only uses them for the various manuals that pilots are obliged to carry. AA’s more complete electronic flight bag is just being tested on flights between Los Angeles (LAX) and Tokyo or Shanghai.

The Federal Aviation Administration has approved iPads for all phases of flight, allowing for the first time use of the device during takeoff and landing. Previously, use of the iPad was banned, as are all electronics devices, during these phases for fear of affecting flight controls. Whether this means that airlines will remove their ban on passengers using iPads is not yet clear.

“With the navigational maps, you can expand the image to see it more clearly, you can see pathways more clearly – and that can be an advantage at complicated airports like LAX,” said American Airlines captain David Clark.

“The tablets simulate what we do in the paper world, but makes it much easier to load the pages you want and not lose or misplace anything,” he said.

The use of tablets has disrupted several airlines’ plans to introduce notebooks and netbooks into the flight bag. Several airlines have been testing these since 2007 but the lightness and ease-of-use of the iPad has made many of them re-evaluate their aims.

“We’ve been exploring the idea of an electronic flight bag for several years, but never found a device we really liked,” said Gary Beck, Alaska Airlines’ vice president of flight operations. “When the iPad hit the market, we took one look at it and said this is the perfect fit.”