Surface 2: Coming to a cockpit near you soon

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

The Kindle Fire, iPhone, and Samsung S4 show how upstarts have outpaced and out thought the dinosaurs of enterprise tech. The big question now is whether there can be any way back.

Read More

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