Airline pilots swapping flight manuals for iPads

The Federal Aviation Administration has approved the use of iPads in the cockpits of commercial and charter aircrafts - in the US, at least. Traditionally, each plane would house a collection of bulky flight manuals, weighing up to 40-pounds. Now though, a pilot is allowed to store digital versions of the books on a tablet device.

That essentially means Apple's iPad, although the law allows for the use of other electronic devices.

Speaking to the New York Times, Jim Freeman,director of flight standards at Alaska Airlines (and also a pilot) explained the major benefit of switching over, “The iPad allows pilots to quickly and nimbly access information. When you need to a make a decision in the cockpit, three to four minutes fumbling with paper is an eternity.”

Alaska Airlines, like others including American Airlines, has received approval from the FAA to equip its pilots with iPads. And its new e-manuals contained thereon are much simpler to navigate thanks to hyperlinks and full-colour graphics.

The carrier also plans to add further applications, including one for aeronautical maps and charts. However, it will need to petition the FAA for further approval of such a system.

“Each airline must submit a unique proposal on how they want to use the iPad and prove that both the device and software application are safe and effective for that proposed use,” John W McGraw, the FAA’s deputy director of flight standards told the NYT. However, private and corporate pilots do not need to go through the same approval process.

We wonder if they have to ensure that they're iPads are in flight safe mode, and whether they have to switch them off for take off and landing.