iPads to replace flight manuals on planes

iPads to replace flight manuals on planes

Summary: An airline has been given the Federal Aviation Administration's permission to use iPads in the cockpit.


The FAA recently gave American Airlines the go-ahead to use Apple's tablet device during "all phases of flight", the Register reports.

iPads will be used to replace the heavy, cumbersome flight manuals that every plane must have aboard. Collectively, these weigh roughly 35 pounds. Using iPads to store flight manual data -- minus the possibilities of device failure -- is expected to make the process more efficient, and save the airline $1.2 million in fuel annually.

The airline's pilots are now no longer restricted after the FAA found that iPads posed no danger to the safety of an aircraft. If the electromagnetic radiation emitted from a device is deemed safe amid the confines of the cockpit, questions may be raised over why devices at the back of the plane have to be turned off during take-off and landing. However, as pilot Patrick Smith noted, the current ban on devices is more a 'safe than sorry' approach -- to stop devices becoming missiles in the case of turbulence.

American Airlines will begin using iPads in its 777 aircraft immediately, with plans to eradicate paper manuals completely by 2013.

The airline is also considering tablets for its cabin crew, saying that "our Flight Attendants have also been piloting an initiative on handheld tablets, which will give them better information about the customers on their flight and their travel needs."

This isn't the only use iPads have in the aviation industry. Singapore Airline Scoot recently removed all of its aircraft entertainment systems, and instead is offering fliers the option of renting iPads on their trip for entertainment purposes. In addition, technology does have a less palatable side -- as some airlines use Google's search function to research their passenger list.

Topic: Apple

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  • Is that the best way forward? Maybe co-existence is the better answer?

    Hmmm...not sure an eletronic device should replace a paper manual, at least paper manuals don't have to have battery power, and they don't get broken....or fail....but on the plus side, I guess they could find information more quickly using a search function... I would keep both the hard copy and the electronic version at hand :-)
    Carl White
    • 35lbs

      that is a lot of weight in an aircraft, you can either carry more cargo or need less fuel.

      Plus, in an emergency, do you want to thumb through thousands of pages, trying to find the right entry, or do a quick search? Plus, if the cockpit is breached, the pages on the screen of the iPad are less likely to be flying around the cabin and out of the window - that said, a flying iPad might do more damage that thousands of loose pieces of paper...
      • My first thought was the same as Carl's

        I'm all for a digital flight manual that makes it easier on the staff to do things, but at the same time, it's a fragile device. An iPad can break, a book won't.
        • Times 2

          I could be wrong, but don't both the pilot and co-pilot carry a set? Having 2 tablets would greatly reduce risk.
      • Not sure about the removal of "all" that weight.

        35 lbs. Let's see here. That's about 4.4 gallons of fuel. That's 1 to 3 minutes of flying time depending on the aircraft. That's 0.035 percent of a 100,000 pound aircraft and 0.0046 percent of a 750,000 pound fully loaded 747 flying over the pond. That's, what, 70 cans of pop?

        In terms of the weight I'm not sure about the fuel cost per pound per mile. For updating manuals it would certainly have an advantage. The captain should be required to carry 2 and the copilot one. That should take care of redundancy.
        • Not to mention the actual cost savings

          Sorry, but $1.2 million just isn't a really big number anymore, especially if they're saying that's industry-wide. And it's not clear if they're saying that reducing the weight saves them the $1.2 million, or if that's the net savings after they've bought all of the iPads (i.e. "We would really save $5 million, but replacing the manuals with new iPads will cost us $3.8 million in purchases").

          Yes, fossil fuels are non-renewable, & we should be cutting fuel usage... but the big question is whether they'll let passengers make up the extra 35 pounds or not in their baggage. After all, that's the first reaction you'll hear from the general public: "Hey, if they're saving weight on their fuel, I can bring a heavier bag on board!".... which then wipes out any fuel savings
    • You ask, "Is this the best way forward?" Yes, of course!

      Flight manuals are always crashing and running out of juice. This is much safer.
  • Procedures

    So will the flight procedure now require checking of the ipad battery? Who will be responsible for checking the ipad has been charged and boots okay? Not normally an issue I know but I'd want to makes sure it was functioning before each flight, just in case.

    I can see the pro's and con's for this but ultimately, I'd prefer to know that there was a failsafe backup (printed text very rarely fails) when something went wrong rather than something that could fail to provide the information. Yes I know the chances are very slim but in an emergency situation I'd want to be sure.
    Little Old Man
    • I don't think charging the battery will be a problem

      Considering most planes these days are flying Wifi hotspots, they probably have power to spare. I do agree that they should have a printed backup, just in case though. Heaven forbid you drop it or it gets corrupted or something.
      • Creeping dependency. Oh well.

        We're all acting as though flying though the air at 35,000 feet is not an exercise in trusting our lives to machinery. Why the sudden fear of an iPad when the whole plane is a fly-by-wire computer with wings? There are probably 50,000 moving mechanical parts that are far more likely to fail catastrophically, plus an entire cockpit full of electronics of every sort.

        They could take three 'electronic manuals' on every plane and still save a lot of money.
        Robert Hahn
  • Aircraft electronics

    Have you ever seen the flight deck in a modern aircraft? Nothing but electronics. One more electronic device (the iPad) shouldn't be a concern. The crew will still need to complete their checklists, with the additional item of assuring the iPad is connected to its recharging bay.
    I also assume there will be a backup iPad just in case.
    • And just pray....

      That there aren't any EMP bursts or solar flares that take out the electronics, otherwise there will be nothing for the pilots to reference as they hurtle towards the ground...
  • tis is your pilot speaking

    we will return to the Terminal so I can down load the fight plan again or dam I just drop my flight book is there a tech on the plane this is a emergency
  • RE: Non I-PAD tablet

    What about the "tough" tablets coming out lately?
    • Non-curated devices

      are way too flakey for critical operations.
  • iPads interferring with aircraft electronics

    Let's see; First they told us that using a cellphone and other electronic devices would interfere with aircraft electronics. Now, we read that flight personnel sitting in the cockpit using a tablet will not interfere with aircraft electronics. But, wait, we already knew that. Cellphones don't operate on the same frequencies as the aircraft electronics. Myth Busters proved no interference. It isn't the FAA driving this ban. It is the FCC. Too confusing for ground-based cell sites is the latest reason. Now, that one is out. But wait, there is more: A pilot doesn't want us using these devices because they could become airborne missiles in case of turbulence? What about all the laptops, hand-held game devices, food trays, books, etc. I can't wait for the next feeble excuse.
    • Something to think about

      If only you understood the complexity and how sensitive some of the instruments that are used in the critical stages of flight are, and how important it is for the antennas to receive an interference free signal from the ground during a CAT 3 ILS Approach in IMC Conditions. The Myth busters told you that there is no interference from cell phones, I am telling you that on rare occasions I have seen FULL SCALE deflections of CDI needles in VOR receivers in small aircraft as text messages have been sent from a phone. On a regular bases I hear interference and electronic noise in the aircraft intercom and radios when calls come into GSM Phones, I have not heard this from CDMA Phones. On the other hand have been using an iPad to go paperless, for 2 years now and with the device in airplane mode have never had a problem with interference from the device in flight. So in the proper mode the devices ARE safe, however the problem is there is no way to make sure ever passenger will have their device in the proper mode, so as of now the rule is to shut them off completely. The emails, and phone calls can wait, if the aircraft doesn't get back on the ground in one piece you wont need to worry about them anyway.
      • hmm

        At least you have a real study to back you up and not just anecdotal evidence
        Turd Furgeson
      • Re: how important it is for the antennas to receive an interference free

        I know something about digital signalling, and about how to make it robust against errors. Even basic consumer technology like CDs DVDs and digital TV sets can manage to implement robust encoding/decoding, such that, for example, turning on your mobile phone doesn’t interfere with your ability to watch “Romania’s Funniest Home Videos”. Surely it’s not too much to ask that human-life-critical systems can manage the same?
        • True but

          It would cost millions and millions of dollars upgrade to both land and aircraft based equipment on a system that is slowly being phased out. The certification and testing time required to implement upgrades would far exceed the time that the new systems like ADS-B and Sat Nav take over. So its either spend a ludicrous amount of money the government doesn't have or have everyone turn off their phones...