Alaska Airlines bids farewell to bulky flight manuals and introduces the iPad to their pilots as a replacement. At this point roughly 3/4 of their pilots have made the shift to go paperless in the cockpit while the remaining pilots are expected to have their own iPad by June at the latest.
Since last winter numerous evaluations have taken place to ensure that the iPad would in fact be a better alternative for airline pilots. It’s now official that the device meets all of the regulation requirements by the Federal Aviation Administration. After plenty of testing it has been proven that using an iPad does in fact have many advantages over the traditional use of paper flight manuals.
Up until now pilots have had to haul bags with flight manuals that typically weigh on average between 25 to 40 pounds. Using the iPad that weight drops down to roughly 1.5 pounds. So, not only is an electronic device like the iPad more compact, it’s also highly capable of making typical tasks for pilots safer and more efficient.
According to Gary Beck, VP of Flight Operations at Alaska Airlines, the search for an electronic flight bag has been one that has lasted for several years. That’s up until now of course, and he went on to say:
When the iPad hit the market, our airline had taken one look at it and knew right away it was the ideal fit.
An app called GoodReader comes preloaded on all iPad’s being distributed to airline pilots. It’s currently about 400 megabytes in size and contains important PDF versions of essential information required by pilots. This includes reference cards, performance manuals and flight systems among other things.
After lots of testing it’s a no-brainer that using an iPad can assist pilots in many beneficial ways. One example being, pilots are able to access information such as approach maps for different airports much quicker than before. When pilots find themselves in situations where weather conditions are unsafe they need to make detours and quick decisions. Now such decision making is more simplified which is critical when every second counts.
Officially, Alaska Airlines is the world’s first ever domestic air carrier to make a tablet pc their primary flight manual. It still needs a few additions and improvements of course, but it is in the early stages and nonetheless it’s a great start. It’s not far fetched to say that it’s only a matter of time before other carriers follow suit and begin to integrate similar solutions. In this case the iPad is more convenient, weighs less and is more practical. Let’s not forget the amount of money such a device will (not might) save airline companies. In the case of Alaska Airlines alone the first phase of distribution will eliminate the need to print 2.4 million pieces of paper.
As the iPad and other tablet computers evolve so do their many different capabilities. Last year when the iPad was first released people were wowed by it’s dazzling touchscreen but many also brushed it off as being limited to simple tasks like watching videos and surfing the web. Each day it’s being proven that the iPad is not a device to be underestimated.