Surface 2: Coming to a cockpit near you soon

Surface 2: Coming to a cockpit near you soon

Summary: Microsoft's Windows RT-powered tablet can now form part of a pilot's electronic flight bag.


Microsoft's Surface 2 tablets can now be used as part of airline pilots' electronic flight bags — replacing paper maps and manuals.

Microsoft's director of Surface Cyril Belikoff said Surface 2 tablets have achieved Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) authorisation for Class 1 or 2 electronic flight bag projects.  Airlines are looking at using tablets to cut weight (paper manuals are heavy) while keeping information up to date.

How tech's giants lost the tablet and smartphone war, even if they don't know it yet

How tech's giants lost the tablet and smartphone war, even if they don't know it yet

How tech's giants lost the tablet and smartphone war, even if they don't know it yet

Belikoff said Microsoft has completed the environmental and situational testing of the Windows RT-powered Surface 2 tablet, which will streamline the approval process when airlines want to use Surface 2 tablets in electronic flight bags in future.

While airlines will still need to get their own specific approval from the FAA depending on exactly what they want to do with the devices, he said the completion of these tests for Surface 2 satisfies a lengthy part of the authorisation process, "so when airlines look to select Surface 2 for their [electronic flight bag] initiatives, their timeline to deployment can be significantly decreased".

Microsoft said because the FAA authorisation includes all phases of flight, airlines don't have to limit use to the devices to serving just as simple document readers.

Microsoft's Surface 2 uses its Windows RT operating system — a stripped-down version of Windows that has found little success in the market, leading to speculation that it is probably going to be merged with Windows Phone at some point.

Late last year Delta revealed it is rolling out Surface 2 devices to more than 11,000 pilots for use as electronic flight bags in the cockpit.

The airline said the initiative will cut weight by replacing at least two, 38-pound flight bags containing paper-based flight manuals with one 1.5 pound tablet, which across 700 aircraft could lead to 1.2 million fewer gallons of fuel burned each year. The move to electronic manuals should also remove the need for 7.5 million sheets of paper each year.

Delta is starting the Surface 2 rollout with its Boeing 757 and Boeing 767 flight crews and aims to be paperless by the end of 2014.

The Surface 2 is not the only tablet approved for use in this way: Apple's iPad got its FAA approval back in 2011 with American Airlines leading the charge.

Further reading

Topics: Mobility, Emerging Tech, Tablets

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  • They better have that thing in airplane mode!!!

    After years of telling us peons we had to power all our electronics down, right down to turning off iPod shuffles lest the terrorists win.....
    • They cert with radios off.

      Given I make a living investigating avionics software and hardware that goes burp during flight (cosmic radiation being the #1 issue at altitude) I keep my electronics off during flight. I have a single old iPad I will use that has no data except a few movies and I don't mind if I loose any data on the device.

      We have also seen hints of slightly increased incidence rates with a huge number of personal electronics running.

      It is frustrating when politics overrides engineering.
    • not sure thats an issue but if it was

      They could use an RF shielded case. I worked for a company that made/modified computers for gov agencies (the alphabet soup) and military for specialized applications to prevent and counter sophisticated electronic interference, eavesdropping, and other anomalous or undesirable conditions.
      ... but they probably just use unsecured public WiFi in the cockpits... :-)
      • It's called "Tempest"

        ...which means there is no electro-magnetic leakage that could be capturing through spying efforts.

        This is not necessary however. There are commercially available tablets that pass EMI certs for the Air Force, though I don't suspect consumer grade equipment like ipad and surface would pass.
        • Consumer tech tends to have better EMI than most avionics.

          And the number of both military an commercial avionics flying with dispensations for specific frequencies on EMI tests is astounding.

          The issue is the production test runs on devices like a GS IV or an iPhone can be larger than the life time buy of most electronics used of aircraft. This gives a significant advantage to top tier manufactures like Apple, Samsung, Sony and others to get things like EMI pretty darn good. Since CE cert is almost always needed, consumer tech is actually outstanding.

          That said, there are some massive EMI lemons out there.
  • I think I see a plot for a catastrophe movie...

    ...stewardess, blond, well endowed, in tight out fit burst through doors of captains cabin..."IS THERE A WINDOWS TECHNICIAN ON BOARD??? WE HAVE A BSOD!!!

    Next 90 minutes of movie has George Clooney and Sandra Bullock narrowly escaping death in a hopelessly lost plane.

    Movie ends with Bullock the only survivor.
    • And Tim Cook plays

      the evil terrorist forcing them to use an iPad for a heavy price.
      Sean Foley
    • Windows technician

      I think, they have better luck to find Windows technician in BSOD situation than Linux when kernel panic appear :-)
    • Luckily the only thing that would crash would be the Surface

      as opposed to if they used an iPad, then your movie has a chance of becoming reality, since we've all seen by now how Apple works with anything "direction related", right Frank?

  • Surface 2: Coming to a cockpit near you soon

    38 pound flight bags seems quite heavy. I wonder what exactly is in those manuals besides the obvious flight checklist and airport listings.
    • A lot of things are needed for pilots

      Those navigation charts aren't light. >_>;
      Michael Alan Goff
  • Cool but...

    Why not build a screen into the planes dashboard? All those dashboard controls and they still need a Microsoft Surface to tell them where to go?
    Sean Foley
    • Manual step #1 is the problem:

      "Turn on the power."
    • It is expensive

      It is very expensive to have certified electronics (also called avionics) installed in the airplane. Even for small airplanes cheapest in-panelGPS costs tens of thousands and for airliners that could reach 100K or so per unit. Also airlines have to make sure that their entire fleet is as uniform as possible and all pilots are trained to use it. So... simple tablet as a standalone device would be about $500-1000 per airplane. For installed avionics price starts at $100K and just goes up from there.
    • Cost of retrofitting

      While I agree with Sean Foley, the cost of retrofitting and certifying any built-in screens and relevant software would probably be prohibitive. Also I'd be a lot happier flying in a plane in which there was no built-in Microsoft software! Blue Screen Of Death might have a much more literal meaning if MS software were built-in.
      • As opposed to what? The Sad Mac face popping up?

        Yeah, I'd be sad too if I knew I was going to die....
      • Funny

        Blue Screen of Death isn't a wide occurrence any more than a kernel panic is for OS X and Linux-based devices.
        Michael Alan Goff
    • Dashboard

      The only issue I'd have with having it built into the dashboard is that there would be no redundancy. If the plane loses power its going to lose the display. Having a separate device isn't a bad idea in this case.
      • But...

        If the plane looses power, what good is a surface RT going to be?

        "Well at least I can get in one more hand of solitaire before we die!"

        • That is why god mad RATs.

          Cool little backups of backups of backups. No software just highly reliable hydraulics and power.