Tablets in the Flight Deck

  • Sep 25, 2013 1:29pm GMT

There has been an explosion of tablets on the market in the past few years and the commercial aviation industry sees their usefulness as well. Pilots need access to all sorts of maps, charts and manuals during every phase of flight. Depending on the airline, pilots are required to carry their own copies or have manuals that are kept strictly on the plane. This could mean hauling around flight bags with 40 pounds of books. Pilots must also keep their manuals updated. Bi-monthly revisions are required for navigation charts while aircraft and company manuals are updated as changes are made.

Alaska and United have already implemented electronic flight bags (EFBS) in the form of iPads for their flight crews. American Airlines finished distribution of iPads to their pilots this summer while Jet Blue will be distributing theirs in the next few months. These tablets are able to hold all of the required materials and can be updated via the internet. A normal paper revision could take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour depending on the number of updates. The tablet only takes a matter of minutes to update all pertinent information.

The tablets also save a great deal of weight. Weight on airplanes translates to fuel, one of the biggest costs for airlines. United saves 326,000 gallons of fuel per year due weight reduction. Environmental costs savings are made as well due to the reduction of fuel as well as all the paper used. On the job injuries have also gone down for pilots who no longer have to lug around a 40 pound flight case.

Jet Blue plans on using the onboard Wi-Fi once they’ve implemented their EFB program for real time weather and documentation update in flight.

Airlines are even supplying tablets to flight attendants to replace their required manuals as well. With WiFi access they can help check the time and gates of passengers connecting flights.

UPDATE: On September 30, Delta announced all of their cockpits will be paperless by the end of 2014. Delta's 11,000 pilots will soon be equipped with Microsoft's Surface 2 tablet. Crews will begin using the tablets later this year on the Boeing 757 and 767 while the rest of the fleet will undergo the changes throughout the next year.

Photo courtesy Alaska Airlines