Despite using advanced technology that lets planes practically fly themselves, airline pilots are still bogged down by a lingering 20th-century artifact: Paper. Now at least one commercial airline is adopting cockpit iPads, after the FAA approved their use earlier this year.
By the middle of this month, all Alaska Airlines pilots will receive iPads with the GoodReader PDF app, containing PDF files of all their flight manuals and reference material. If all goes well, the iPads could eventually replace pilots' Jeppesen navigational charts, too. The company must prove to the FAA that the pilots are proficient with the tablet-based manuals; until then, they'll be carrying their flight bags along with their new gadgets, according to the pilots' union.
Tablets and laptops have been used in the cockpit for some time, and Alaska has reportedly tried out Kindles, Sony e-readers and netbooks in the search for a lightweight information-management system, according to Wired. But nothing stood out until the iPad came along, Alaska says.
Executive Jet Management, a charter company, became the first to use the tablets in cockpits earlier this year and used them to replace navigational charts.
For now, pilots don't get any special iPad privileges, as PC World notes. They're Class 1 electronic devices, which means the FAA requires them to be stowed during takeoff and landing — even in the cockpit. But if the iPad is the only way to access flight manuals, this would have to change. Alaska wants to integrate the tablets into the cockpit and classify them as a Class 2 device, used for critical flight procedures, as Wired reports. The FAA will have to test how the devices interfere with other electronics in the cockpit, and that process is ongoing, Wired says.
Beyond that, airlines will have to work out procedures to be sure the gadgets don't become a distraction. Remember those Northwest pilots who overshot their runway by 150 miles because they were distracted by their laptops? Let's hope no one misses a flight connection because of a particularly engrossing game of Angry Birds.
I think one would have to be a complete fool to trust their life with off the shelf commercial stuff.
Manuals don't run out of electricity, blue screen, break, get hacked.
This isn't anything new, Lufthansa pilots have been using iPads since a while now..
This is no good. If pilots want a touchscreen for that, they should get it not as a personal item for the wealthier pilots, but as standard, certified aircraft hardware implanted in the cockpit. I assure you researchers are on the case of developing a very user-friendly system that is integrated with all the other software on board. iOS is not aircraft compatible out-of-the-box and Apple doesn't make products for aerospace. There are specific companies for that.
Just to be clear, the reporter is mixing up an EFB (Electronic Flight Bag) and a Class I device. An EFB stores all the aircraft and company manuals and performance charts and must be turned off during takeoff and landing like any other portable electronic device. A Class I device displays airport diagrams and approach charts, has to have its own power source (a battery) and is certified for use during takeoff and landing, it just can't be attached to the aircraft permanently.
Yeah, it sounds like a bad idea unless your plane is spinning out of control and you've got only thirty seconds to restore flight systems. Then being able to hypertext jump instantly from one procedure to another instead of having to juggle bookmarks while flipping through multiple three-ring binder paper volumes seems like a very good idea.
Sounds great. It's really cool how the iPad is changing every industry. Industries like education, Medical and now aviation. I myself have trashed all paper, removable media and photos. And converted everything digital. And the iCloud will put everything in my digital life anywhere I am and anytime. Brilliant!
The iPad is NOT the solution to every tech problem we can come up with (real or imagined).
Military aircraft have had electronic checklists, integrated into the dash, for quite some time now. The checklists do not display full time, but can be called up on a secondary screen for the pilot's convenience. However, manual checklists are still required items for every flight for the reasons @jefro stated and many more. Emergency procedures must be readily available at all times. Take-off, landing, and other critical phases of flight require a sterile cockpit environment, meaning necessary call-outs and radio calls ONLY. The iPad as the sole checklist doesn't make sense since it must be powered off and stowed during said critical phases of flight. Paper checklists, flight manuals and navigational charts will always exist in the cockpit.
I can see why they'd want to move their manuals into a less cumbersome format, and more environmentally friendly to boot.
But this is a marketing ploy by Apple before all else. This was not done out of environmental concerns OR to lighten the load of overburdened pilots; it was done with commercial interests in mind.
If this were actually focused on addressing the issues of paper waste or pilot carry-on, they would have gone with a much cheaper, lighter option, like an e-reader. A Nook or Kindle would read all manuals fine, without needing to be charged on a (generously) weekly basis, while remaining lighter. Any e-reader, branded or not, would do a better job at what these iPads are claiming to be addressing. The iPad outclasses e-readers only in terms of heavy media consumption, something which pilot should ideally not be doing while, you know, piloting.