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Cleaning Out the Cockpit: First Airline Gets Approval for Pilots to Use iPads in Flight

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Could add up to millions in fuel savings.

American Airlines has become the first airline approved to host an iPad in the cockpit by the Federal Aviation Administration. The iPad, as reported by TechCrunch, is set to replace bulky binders weighing up to 40 pounds in an effort to save fuel.

TechCrunch reports that while the fuel savings are small, it adds up. American Airlines expects to save more than $1 million per year with this move. TechCrunch also notes, just for your peace of mind, that the iPads have undergone six months of tests to ensure things like battery life and other functions won't go on the fritz mid-flight. The iPads will also not be connected to the Internet during takeoff or landing. 9to5Mac reports that the iPad 2 as well as the original iPad have been tested and approved for use.

This announcement that iPads could be gracing AA cockpits as early as this Friday, comes on the heels of the National Transportation Safety Board recommending states ban use of all portable electronic devices by drivers operating a motor vehicle, except when necessary for operation of the vehicle or in emergency situations.

TechCrunch has more for an anonymous pilot filling them in on some more details:

AA is certainly using JeppTC, as a commenter suggested they were. It’s actually available in the App store, but licensed pilots (and presumably those from specific airlines) have access to extra charts.

By charts, our pilot informant wishes to emphasize that it’s not just a big book. There are a number of binders covering departures, approaches, runways, operating manuals, and so on. And they must be kept up-to-date with biweekly inserts, which mine informant describes as [...] taking hours, whereas the iPad app is automatically updated.

The iPads (and AA is sticking with iPads, the FAA has not approved any other devices, though Delta is looking at Android ones) must have backup batteries, and although I was joking about requisitioning a passenger’s iPad, it could be done if they had internet access.

It is also worth noting that these charts are duplicated per pilot, meaning that on a transatlantic flight you may have four such chart bags, which must be as much a drag on the cockpit’s closet space as it is on fuel consumption.

Some have begun to question why use of iPads by pilots continually during flight, even during takeoff and landing, is safe while passengers have to power down. The Daily Tech reports the FAA as saying that only two iPads will be in use by the pilot and his co-pilot:

"This involves a significantly different scenario for potential interference than unlimited passenger use, which could involve dozens or even hundreds of devices at the same time," said the FAA.

It seems the FAA has a point, but critics still point out that the two iPads in the cockpit will be inches away from the sensitive airplane electronics in question.

American Airlines, which recently filed for bankruptcy, also announced recently that it would be installing Samsung Galaxy tablets for entertainment in premium cabins.

[H/T Gizmodo]

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