American Airlines testing using iPads for flight manuals

A couple of weeks after Alaska Airlines announced plans to ditch paper flight manuals for reading them via iPads, the much larger American Airlines has started testing the same concept for its own pilots. Marketwatch reports that the airline will allow pilots to use iPads for reading digital versions of their flight manuals and also their flight maps on two international flights from Los Angeles (one to Tokyo, the other to Shanghai). Alaksa Airlines has yet to replace their flight maps with the iPad.

Part of the reason for the move is that the Federal Aviation Administration has allowed the use of iPads for all aspects of an airline flight, including takeoff and landing, when normally all electronic devices must be put away during those time periods in a flight.

As with Alaska Airlines, the decision to use Apple's tablet device for flight manuals and maps were mainly weight related. The normal bulky paper flight manuals can weight up to 35 pounds and can be hard to access by the pilots in flight. Switching to a 1.5 pound iPad for such manuals will cut the weight down drastically on  flights. In fact, American Airlines says that the company could save as much as $1.2 million a year in fuel costs if it fully switches over to the iPad for its flight manuals. There's no word yet when or even if the company will move to have all their pilots use iPads.

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23 Comments

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I'd imagine, if the battery dies for some reason or the OS playing stupid (its an electronic device right? *bad thing* happens..)

And they were in the middle of.. emergency landing... surely that execs who approved the iPad will be getting some hard time explaining why their fanboy act wouldve cause this such a thing..

Oh right.. I remember a good reason.. that is "human error".

Why iPads though? Surely a more versatile and corporate friendly tablet would be more suitable. The stated purpose isn't to give the flight crew a toy; which the iPad is. An Android or Windows tablet would be better suited because they can be modified to suit enterprise use.

StBlockley said,
Why iPads though? Surely a more versatile and corporate friendly tablet would be more suitable. The stated purpose isn't to give the flight crew a toy; which the iPad is. An Android or Windows tablet would be better suited because they can be modified to suit enterprise use.

I agree. It seems like another case of execs seeing something shiny they like and getting talkedinto it by Apple enthusiasts...or worse, their kids.

umm... but did they count in how much they have to spend for iPads also? But yeah, maybe they need to charge the air ticket by weight instead of person.

$1.2 million in fuel cost savings due to a couple 35-pound manuals on board? How much in fuel costs would they save if they bounced one fat ass off each flight instead?

Skwerl said,
$1.2 million in fuel cost savings due to a couple 35-pound manuals on board? How much in fuel costs would they save if they bounced one fat ass off each flight instead?

As a rule of thumb, the incremental fuel required for a given weight is 1/3rd, so if you bumped someone who weighs 180 lbs, you'd save around 60 lbs of fuel.

However, that person is <i>paying</i> to be on the flight, so he basically pays for the fuel (and everything else required to get him there). The bag-o-paper-charts is dead weight with no compensating income for the carrier.

The amount of revenue they are projecting to get in fuel cost savings would be seriously reduced if they were to fully embrace iPads. Give with one hand, take with another.

I think this is a good idea. I'm almost certain that they'll have paper copies onboard anyway. The pilots will be able to search and find things MUCH faster with an iPad than flipping through an index.

FAA must have Apple stock. considering that iPads were never designed to MIL-spec, there is something seriously wrong with this.

leeoniya said,
FAA must have Apple stock. considering that iPads were never designed to MIL-spec, there is something seriously wrong with this.
Or maybe they want pilots to be able to find information much faster?

MS Lose32 said,
Or maybe they want pilots to be able to find information much faster?

Probably to use the Google Maps when the on-board navigation fails...

No, eInk wouldn't be better and Android can't be used. These are flight charts -- the only app (and hence device) approved by the FAA is exclusive to the iPad. eInk would be horrible for flight charts.

dp123 said,
No, eInk wouldn't be better and Android can't be used. These are flight charts -- the only app (and hence device) approved by the FAA is exclusive to the iPad. eInk would be horrible for flight charts.

Interesting, I didn't know that. That said, e-ink technology is getting better all the time. They're almost at the point where video is playable on e-ink.

Would a custom e-ink device not be better? longer battery life, even lighter and cannot be abused for other uses by the staff?

Teebor said,
Would a custom e-ink device not be better? longer battery life, even lighter and cannot be abused for other uses by the staff?

Indeed I thought the same. A kindle-esque type device would be much better suited, especially with light reflection and stuff.

Yea, I know American Airlines purchased 6000 Galaxy Tabs for use on their flights as well. Should be interesting how this works out. I am going to use one on a AA flight and root it on the plane...haha

http://technidroid.com/2011/06...as-in-flight-entertainment/

But seriously, iPad or Android tab...these things are going to get beat up whether customers, or employees, use it.

So it looks like AA is using iPads for manuals and Androids for inflight use?

techbeck said,
Yea, I know American Airlines purchased 6000 Galaxy Tabs for use on their flights as well. Should be interesting how this works out. I am going to use one on a AA flight and root it on the plane...haha

http://technidroid.com/2011/06...as-in-flight-entertainment/

But seriously, iPad or Android tab...these things are going to get beat up whether customers, or employees, use it.

So it looks like AA is using iPads for manuals and Androids for inflight use?

For what it does, they prefer spending enormous amount of money in iShit instead of the android way. I don't understand why people stick that much on Apple Products. Ahhh yeah, it makes people cool I Forgot"

The battery never fails on a paper manual.
I do documentation for a living, and while I think digital distribution is great, and we should be moving that way faster than we are, we have paper backups for critical procedures for a good reason.

threetonesun said,
The battery never fails on a paper manual.
I do documentation for a living, and while I think digital distribution is great, and we should be moving that way faster than we are, we have paper backups for critical procedures for a good reason.
I HIGHLY doubt that they won't have some paper backup copies onboard. I don't think the FAA would allow a plane to fly without paper copies.

MS Lose32 said,
I HIGHLY doubt that they won't have some paper backup copies onboard. I don't think the FAA would allow a plane to fly without paper copies.

They won't be saving money if they add 1.5lbs and don't cut back on the paper....They stated $1.2 million meaning they have already done the logistics and the math.

threetonesun said,
The battery never fails on a paper manual.
I do documentation for a living, and while I think digital distribution is great, and we should be moving that way faster than we are, we have paper backups for critical procedures for a good reason.

I'd imagine there's a socket in the cockpit somewhere.