In airplane cockpits, iPads replace paper navigation charts

Airlines are testing Apple's popular iPad for use in the cockpits of airplanes to replace paper aeronautical charts for commercial flights.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor

Tablet computers continue to find new ways to make paper obsolete.

The latest success: airlines are testing Apple's popular iPad for use in the cockpits of airplanes during commercial flights.

But it's not Angry Birds that's of interest. Rather, it's a way for airlines to replace paper navigation charts and laptops used in flight and on the ground.

The Seattle Times reports that Alaska Airlines is testing the device in a pilot program with a handful of pilots, and my colleague Kent German at CNET reports that Delta Airlines is doing the same.

The advantages to a tablet device are clear: less paper to lose, less weight to lug around, more capability for less cost and a unified, connected system that can be updated on the go.

German writes:

While some specially designed laptops, or "electronic flight bags," can weigh up to 18 pounds, the current iPad weighs just just 1.5 pounds (the recently announced iPad 2 is a tad lighter).

The only obvious disadvantage could be the glare that such a device would have in the cockpit. But that's just an initial observation -- not having seen one in the cockpit myself, I can't say for certain if that's an issue.

With iPads in place, navigation charts become a software concern. Englewood, Colo.-based Jeppesen Systems is one company filling the role with its free iPad app Mobile TC.

It's a careful transition, as the Federal Aviation Administration must authorize digital device use to replace conventional aeronautical charts. But it spells opportunity for a company who wants to get into the B2B market selling services and support to the world's biggest airlines.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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