Microsoft Surface 2 approved by FAA for use in airline cockpits

Yesterday evening the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) authorized the Microsoft's popular Surface 2 and Surface 2 Pro tablets for use in all stages of flight on airlines as a Class 1 or 2 Electronic Flight Bag (EFB); paving the way for paperless flight decks with all required documents instead being accessed via the Surface.

Many commercial airlines are actively looking to embrace the idea of a paperless cockpit and using mobile devices instead, despite the evolution required in the work of pilots, flight attendants and ground crew to facilitate the change without compromising airline security. Many airlines believe that operations could be massively simplified if the pilot filed documents digitally via a tablet computer, however.

Microsoft's recent work with Delta Air Lines, which involved the trial use of the company's Surface tablets on flight decks, has been largely positive with many pilots saying that despite the varying light conditions within the cockpit during flight, the Surface's display offered very low reflectivity whilst still claiming high contrast. They also noted the 10 hour battery life, quoting it as being more than enough for the majority of flights and the easy multitasking of side-by-side apps is especially useful for viewing weather and flight information at the same time. As a result, the Surface 2 is now used actively by all Delta Airlines pilots in full-time use.

Yesterdays developments mean that it is now a lot easier for other airlines to start using Surface tablets on their planes. Previously, vast amounts of paperwork was required before the Surface could be used as an EFB by airlines such as Delta but now the time to deployment of a Surface 2 tablet to flight decks has been massively reduced although the FAA must still be notified of the specific usage of the device before it is authorized for use.

The news is also accompanied by the arrival of Jeppesen's FliteDeck Pro app on Windows 8.1 which makes it easier and safer for pilots to work with charts whilst in the air. Microsoft has also officially partnered with RAM Mounts, the makers of a very effective holder for the Surface that can be used to fix the tablet onto the flight deck of an aircraft.

Jeppesen's FliteDeck Pro app is used by airlines to display charts to pilots in the air

The RAM Mount makes the job of fixing a Surface 2 to an aircraft's interior much easier

Although it is likely to be a while before all commercial airlines use paperless cockpits, airlines are expected to greatly increase their IT budgets within the next year with the majority of the new funding being spent on tablets. The 2013 Air Transport Industry Insights IT Trends Survey also expects that by 2016 87% of commercial airlines and 71% of all airlines will also be deploying tablets to ground crews for use in vehicle maintenance and upkeep as well as to the stewards on board passenger aircraft to facilitate the easier organising of passengers.

Source: Microsoft | Images via Microsoft

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Let us hope that some kind of alternative backup is available. The Surface is way too "twitchy" to be considered a very reliable piece of hardware with its version of Windows-8. It really needs a couple of years to mature and earn its reliability.

Have a couple running rock solid here so I'm intrigued. Twitchy in what sense exactly? The firmware issues on the Pro? Agree there but I dodged a bullet by skipping that broken firmware update and I think they finally fixed it with the latest round of patches a few days back. Metro on a touch capable device is awesome, nothing like the somewhat underwhelming experience on a desktop (although they seem to be on their way to fixing it). As for the build quality I have absolutely no complaints. A family member dropped one on the floor and I wouldn't have even known had I not been told (quick look helped me calm down quickly 'cos my blood really started boiling!). I think with stable firmware, their own well-written app and even without waiting for 8.1. Update 1 Delta made a good choice here.

Edited by Romero, Feb 12 2014, 3:50am :

We already could since the new FAA regs went into place and airlines started adopting them. Crews consider them tablets and not "Laptops or devices of similar size" you hear them telling you to put away during take off and landing. Of course a snarky crew member could still decide otherwise, but generally speaking they can already be used.

A single anonymous pilot comments to an Apple blog how they really wanted iPads and that is enough proof that the only reason Delta went with Surface is because it is "in bed" with Microsoft. Apple folks can only accept that people don't want to use their products if there is something wrong with the decision making or decision maker. It couldn't possibly be price, security, capability, etc.

Looks like at Delta, they actually wanted iPads:

"We fought hard for iPad," a pilot working for the airline told AppleInsider. He described the Delta deal as being about money, travel contracts, and Delta's Information Technology staff historically being "in bed" with Microsoft.

Delta began trials with Apple's iPad as an EFB in late 2011, shortly after the Federal Aviation Administration approved Apple's tablet for cockpit use. It further began purchasing thousands of iPads for use in its airport restaurants last year.

stevan said,
Looks like at Delta, they actually wanted iPads:

I am not sure why they wanted ipad? Windows RT has ability to give corporate control what you install from store and better integrate with windows servers plus access to shared windows programming libraries as an obvious advantage. what advantage ipad would have?

stevan said,
Looks like at Delta, they actually wanted iPads:

An anonymous source, quoted by AppleInsider, and reblogged all around the Apple blogosphere.

Yeah, real believable.

trojan_market said,

I am not sure why they wanted ipad? Windows RT has ability to give corporate control what you install from store and better integrate with windows servers plus access to shared windows programming libraries as an obvious advantage. what advantage ipad would have?

Not even sure. I guess they tested the iPads before any other device and possibly the pilots wanted to keep using them. I can definitely see the company going with whatever option is cheaper. Apple isn't really known for their discounts.

stevan said,
Not even sure. I guess they tested the iPads before any other device and possibly the pilots wanted to keep using them. I can definitely see the company going with whatever option is cheaper. Apple isn't really known for their discounts.

If the pilots wanted iPads, it's probably because it's the toy they're used to. The Surface can be more easily managed and monitored by enterprise products such as System Center.

stevan said,

Not even sure. I guess they tested the iPads before any other device and possibly the pilots wanted to keep using them. I can definitely see the company going with whatever option is cheaper. Apple isn't really known for their discounts.


Its not about discount, as someone mentioned above its a toy. Surface RT might like a stripped down version of Windows but its still windows. System center, Application sideloading, bitlocker encryption, USB drive support, legacy windows driver API support, and hundred of more feature. If pilots wants to play angrybirds or temple run on ipad while flying the airplane its good that it never happened.

_dandy_ said,

If the pilots wanted iPads, it's probably because it's the toy they're used to. The Surface can be more easily managed and monitored by enterprise products such as System Center.

Or maybe they wanted them bc they're easier to use? Either way, shouldn't it be the decision or be pilots which device they use and not their IT staff? Last time I checked, it was the pilots flying the planes

stevan said,

Or maybe they wanted them bc they're easier to use? Either way, shouldn't it be the decision or be pilots which device they use and not their IT staff? Last time I checked, it was the pilots flying the planes

When was the last time you checked the cockpit to know that the pilots are flying the planes or the computers are? Most use the computers to take off and land if the conditions meets the specific conditions. It's been happening for over 25 years.

The FAA controls the decisions on what can be used in the cockpit as far as devices for the EFB. The Surface 2 makes much more sense than the iPAD. It wasn't cost related by any stretch of the imagination. The delta between the Surface 2 and the iPad isn't that big if at all. It was more the capabilities of the Surface 2 and its integration into their infrastructure and the usefulness of the Surface 2 overall that compelled Delta to make that decision.

I have both and in truth it doesn't matter to me what they use. I can tell you that my Delta friends like the Surface 2 better for the EFB and some use their iPads for personal use. Some of them are switching after using the Surface 2 though. I told them they would like it once they used it. The Surface 2 and the Pro are very productive tablets. The more hands they get to touch the more people will learn to like them for their capabilities.

stevan said,
Or maybe they wanted them bc they're easier to use? Either way, shouldn't it be the decision or be pilots which device they use and not their IT staff? Last time I checked, it was the pilots flying the planes

The IT staff's job is to evaluate, provide and maintain the hardware that's most appropriate for the job. The pilots will adapt. You apparently think very little of them. I think if someone's smart enough to have gone through commercial airliner pilot training, they're probably smart enough to figure out a Surface as opposed to an iPad.

It's the same in any business - IT vs staff. Would you get a Mac if that suits your fancy even though the rest of your coworkers are all using Windows machines? Probably not. It doesn't matter who "flies the planes" or performs the work to run a business, they use the tools that are provided to them.

_dandy_ said,

The IT staff's job is to evaluate, provide and maintain the hardware that's most appropriate for the job. The pilots will adapt. You apparently think very little of them. I think if someone's smart enough to have gone through commercial airliner pilot training, they're probably smart enough to figure out a Surface as opposed to an iPad.

It's the same in any business - IT vs staff. Would you get a Mac if that suits your fancy even though the rest of your coworkers are all using Windows machines? Probably not. It doesn't matter who "flies the planes" or performs the work to run a business, they use the tools that are provided to them.

You couldn't be more wrong. The business devices market is changing almost as fast as the consumer market. What used to be blackberries and windows phones are now Samsungs and iPhones/iPads. The BYOD market is huge nowadays and only becoming bigger. It is now up to the IT staff to adapt to whatever the workers bring to work or want to use.

It was unthinkable for corporations to use anything other than blackberries and windows machines 5-10 years ago. Now we know how that's changed.

stevan said,

Or maybe they wanted them bc they're easier to use? Either way, shouldn't it be the decision or be pilots which device they use and not their IT staff? Last time I checked, it was the pilots flying the planes


How could it be easier to use, all they will use few application and its up to the app interface to be easy to use or not. both have very sensitive touch screen, both have one button to get you to start screen/Home screen. Elaborate how Ipad is easier to use. needless to mention surface preferred orientation is landscape. ipad's is not designed to be used in landscape mode (which they intent to mount the tablet)

trojan_market said,

How could it be easier to use, all they will use few application and its up to the app interface to be easy to use or not. both have very sensitive touch screen, both have one button to get you to start screen/Home screen. Elaborate how Ipad is easier to use. needless to mention surface preferred orientation is landscape. ipad's is not designed to be used in landscape mode (which they intent to mount the tablet)

Notice the question mark after my sentence? I was more asking than answering. But when it comes to easines of use, you just have to use google to find out that Apple devices, since basically ever, have been much easier to use than their competitors.

stevan said,

Notice the question mark after my sentence? I was more asking than answering. But when it comes to easines of use, you just have to use google to find out that Apple devices, since basically ever, have been much easier to use than their competitors.


Except that the surface runs the exact same Jeppesen flight app that the iPad does. The difference for pilots is negligible.

So really neither is easier to use, for that particular app anyways.

stevan said,
You couldn't be more wrong. The business devices market is changing almost as fast as the consumer market. What used to be blackberries and windows phones are now Samsungs and iPhones/iPads. The BYOD market is huge nowadays and only becoming bigger. It is now up to the IT staff to adapt to whatever the workers bring to work or want to use.

It was unthinkable for corporations to use anything other than blackberries and windows machines 5-10 years ago. Now we know how that's changed.

Ok, you keep telling yourself that. When the business software you need doesn't run on the toys you bring into the office, just don't be surprised when the IT staff doesn't jump at the chance to cater to your every whim.

_dandy_ said,

Ok, you keep telling yourself that. When the business software you need doesn't run on the toys you bring into the office, just don't be surprised when the IT staff doesn't jump at the chance to cater to your every whim.

Google IPads and iPhones in the workplace, as well as top 500 companies testing Apple products. Should clarify some confusion.

stevan said,
Google IPads and iPhones in the workplace, as well as top 500 companies testing Apple products. Should clarify some confusion.

Great, now do that same search for Delta Airlines, which is what this article is based on, and see who decides what.