Commercial airlines look to Apple's iPad for paperless cockpits

Posted:
in iPad edited January 2014
With the Federal Aviation Administration granting early approval for the use of the iPad in airplane cockpits, major commercial airline companies like Delta are exploring the possibility of using Apple's touchscreen tablet to ditch paper maps entirely.



Delta Air Lines, the second-largest carrier in the world, is pursuing approval to test iPads and other tablet-style devices in its airline cockpits next quarter, a spokesman for the company told Bloomberg. The news comes just after the FAA endorsed the use of the iPad in a test project at Executive Jet Management.



The FAA began granting approval for "electronic flight bags," or computers for aviation use, in the last decade. But current options are bulky and heavy, with one aviation computer from Astronautics Corporation of America weighing 18 pounds. Apple's new iPad 2 weighs just 1.3 pounds.



On Feb. 1, the FAA granted the first approval for professional cockpit use of the iPad to Executive Jet Management. The Cincinnati-based company, owned by billionaire Warren Buffett's NetJets, made 250 flights as part of the certification process with maps and accessories created for the iPad by Boeing's aeronautical and charting company Jeppesen.



The FAA decision only applies, for now, to Buffett's company. But the report noted that "commercial carriers now have a template for winning permission for iPad use."



While Delta plans to begin exploring the use of the iPad next quarter, other major carriers like Alaska Airlines remain largely paper driven for charts. But the Alaska Air Group operation, with 116 aircraft, said it is already testing the iPad for some functions.



Officials with Jeppesen said they began developing iPad flight navigation software partially because pilots themselves requested it. The company said it plans to release similar software for tablets running the Google Android mobile operating system.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 90
    So, first we get frisked and groped and now we have to ask if they're using old fashioned paper, Android or an iPad?



    I' not getting on the plane if they're using an Android Craplet.
  • Reply 2 of 90
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    With the Federal Aviation Administration granting early approval for the use of the iPad in airplane cockpits, major commercial airline companies like Delta are exploring the possibility of using Apple's touchscreen tablet to ditch paper maps entirely.



    Delta Air Lines, the second-largest carrier in the world, is pursuing approval to test iPads and other tablet-style devices in its airline cockpits next quarter, a spokesman for the company told Bloomberg. The news comes just after the FAA endorsed the use of the iPad in a test project at Executive Jet Management.



    The FAA began granting approval for "electronic flight bags," or computers for aviation use, in the last decade. But current options are bulky and heavy, with one aviation computer from Astronautics Corporation of America weighing 18 pounds. Apple's new iPad 2 weighs just 1.3 pounds.



    On Feb. 1, the FAA granted the first approval for professional cockpit use of the iPad to Executive Jet Management. The Cincinnati-based company, owned by billionaire Warren Buffett's NetJets, made 250 flights as part of the certification process with maps and accessories created for the iPad by Boeing's aeronautical and charting company Jeppesen.



    The FAA decision only applies, for now, to Buffett's company. But the report noted that "commercial carriers now have a template for winning permission for iPad use."



    While Delta plans to begin exploring the use of the iPad next quarter, other major carriers like Alaska Airlines remain largely paper driven for charts. But the Alaska Air Group operation, with 116 aircraft, said it is already testing the iPad for some functions.



    Officials with Jeppesen said they began developing iPad flight navigation software partially because pilots themselves requested it. The company said it plans to release similar software for tablets running the Google Android mobile operating system.



    This is exciting and very practical. Hospitals, doctors and nurses are doing similar things in their respective fields as well.



    I sold iPAD for a large electronics chain ... and one day a charter owner wanted 25 iPADs to hand out to his passengers, so they could watch movies. The uses are unlimited. The new iPAD2 is awesome.



    The android app community needs to make sure their apps are safe. A recent post noted 200000 android phones got root kits, and other sneaky coding that steals everything... they republished 21 apps after changing the code. I think that the way Apple scrutinizes the apps this wouldn't happen. It is scary since the users are trusting ...
  • Reply 3 of 90
    asciiascii Posts: 5,941member
    Maps and such should be built in to the airplane cockpit displays, not on an iPad. And emergency procedures should be on paper (even if they are on iPad also) in case the battery is flat.
  • Reply 4 of 90
    paulmjohnsonpaulmjohnson Posts: 1,380member
    There's already some nice apps out there for charts - I use SkyCharts Pro myself and have been very happy with it.



    I'm sure the FAA will have a lot of say in what can and can't be done here. As an earlier poster mentions, emergency checklists will always need to be on paper, but there are a lot of things that could easily go onto a device like an iPad.
  • Reply 5 of 90
    Don't these airlines know that XOOM is Everything a Tablet Should Be?
  • Reply 6 of 90
    calfotocalfoto Posts: 58member
    I wonder if the GPS in an iPad will keep up with the flight speeds of a commercial jet? I tried using a car unit onboard a few flights but it couldn't handle the speed shortly after take off
  • Reply 7 of 90
    Maps might be a use, but I suspect that they will keep paper maps in tow for quite a while. However, procedure manuals, checklists, load and fuel reports would be ideal for iPad. Not only would it be more practical than paper, much of the logic and calculations that go into flight prep would be handled by the iPad, which would be much more accurate than manual calculations, and it would leave a nice audit trail.



    The aircraft already have extensive mapping and location capabilities; the iPad would only enhance route planning by the pilots, not replace it (at least, for quite some time).
  • Reply 8 of 90
    axualaxual Posts: 244member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ascii View Post


    Maps and such should be built in to the airplane cockpit displays, not on an iPad. And emergency procedures should be on paper (even if they are on iPad also) in case the battery is flat.



    Maps are built in, but the cockpit displays are for flying the airplane now and you don't want to change that. Pilots must carry paper maps for everywhere else they fly and plan ahead using those maps today. This is a good idea (each pilot would carry one).
  • Reply 9 of 90
    Not bad for a toy...
  • Reply 10 of 90
    nasseraenasserae Posts: 3,153member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ascii View Post


    Maps and such should be built in to the airplane cockpit displays, not on an iPad. And emergency procedures should be on paper (even if they are on iPad also) in case the battery is flat.



    The FAA approved the use of the iPad under the condition that that another backup to be used. That backup could be another iPad, paper based, or another electronic device.
  • Reply 11 of 90
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by madhatter61 View Post


    The android app community needs to make sure their apps are safe. A recent post noted 200000 android phones got root kits, and other sneaky coding that steals everything... they republished 21 apps after changing the code. I think that the way Apple scrutinizes the apps this wouldn't happen. It is scary since the users are trusting ...



    Now that we're seeing trojans on Macs, maybe Apple will start scrutinizing the software allowed for the Mac. We can only hope so. I'm not so trusting of these third-party developers - unless they pass Apple's scrutiny, I say forget it!
  • Reply 12 of 90
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 6,783member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Elian Gonzalez View Post


    Don't these airlines know that XOOM is Everything a Tablet Should Be?



    My thoughts exactly. DaHarder must be apoplectic over this news.
  • Reply 13 of 90
    I am an airline pilot for a large major US airline. Let me explain what these are really going to be used for...



    Electronic Flight Bags primarily replace paper charts and paper manuals first and foremost. Currently the vast majority of airlines use paper charts in huge binders that total thousands and thousands of pages. Each pilot has a set and the weight and cost of the service is very high. Every 2 weeks hundreds of those thousands of charts are updated and so a tedious and costly by hand change out of charts has to occur. The same is true for flight and maintenance manuals, also totaling thousands of pages with frequent updates. A few airlines have started to use or experiment with "EFB's" or electronic flight bags. These have been very, very expensive Windows tablet based, pen based solutions that are mounted where a pilot would typically clip the paper charts he/she would be using at the moment. The custom Windows tablets are really a small fortune (although in theory will be cheaper over the long run with cheaper electronic updates of the charts vs. paper printing and hand changeout of charts) and the pen inputs have not been a hit with pilots. Failure of these units is NOT a major concern because there are always 2 of the units available to the crew and even in the event of a dual failure, however unlikely, there are numerous other ways to get navigational or manual data out of other onboard computer systems like the Flight Management computers or even Air Traffic Control themselves.



    My airline uses paper charts / manuals but does use a Windows tablet based computer to run performance data for takeoff/landing and a few other situations. In the event that computer fails we can do the same thing by hand or having our dispatchers remotely calculate the data for us. The tablet we use is likely 8-10 pounds in a heavy duty case and fits into a huge charging cradle. Annoying.



    The iPad is HUGELY interesting to airlines at this point. First and foremost is cost. The idea of getting the low end $500 iPad (and likely cheaper at bulk cost) vs. $3000+ per unit is huge in the land of $100+ per barrel of oil costs. Second the hand touch interface is far easier than the pen based input on Windows tablets. Third the smaller size is just in another universe compared to existing EFB solutions. As more and more aircraft in our fleet and that of other airlines get Wi-Fi it could add to the functionality of the unit to perhaps even show radar data etc. (for example did you know most planes can of course see the radar picture ahead 100-200 miles using our own radar but have no access to NATIONAL radar pictures like you see on TV? We have to piece together a mental picture from text based and verbal descriptions but a Wi-Fi connected iPad could of course provide such real time data to us so we can make wise course changes 1000's of miles away from weather rather than 100's.)



    These devices are not, and will never be used for primary navigation of the plane etc. which is all done via very sophisticated inertial reference systems combined with triple redundant GPS that is far beyond anything in any consumer device and which alone costs more than a typical house.
  • Reply 14 of 90
    futuristicfuturistic Posts: 599member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by calfoto View Post


    I wonder if the GPS in an iPad will keep up with the flight speeds of a commercial jet? I tried using a car unit onboard a few flights but it couldn't handle the speed shortly after take off



    Seems like a better thing would be for the iPad to tap into the airplane's flight computer via wi-fi for realtime tracking.
  • Reply 15 of 90
    aaronjaaronj Posts: 1,595member
    To be 100% honest, I had no idea that airlines still used paper maps. I assumed they had gone digital eons ago.
  • Reply 16 of 90
    futuristicfuturistic Posts: 599member
    Watch out for Angry Birds!!!
  • Reply 17 of 90
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Futuristic View Post


    Seems like a better thing would be for the iPad to tap into the airplane's flight computer via wi-fi for realtime tracking.



    Well the main aircraft computers are never going to do Wi-Fi anything. You could create a custom wired connection to the computers but the cost of development and installation of such systems would be millions and millions and millions of dollars and defeats the point of these units (low cost but effective tools.)



    The real answer is many airlines are adding ground antenna or satellite based internet which then broadcasts Wi-Fi in the plane for passenger use. These cockpit devices will tap into the same to provide additional information to pilots we don't have today, like real time national weather radar and more and of course you can plot the plane position from tracking data that is provided to any typical "flight tracker" like website. It doesn't need to be perfect as you are talking about "big picture" data and none of this is going to be used for primary navigation or even primary weather decision making etc. it is just another tool in the quiver. In the event the Wi-Fi stops working no major crisis as that wasn't primary anyway and well we don't even have it today and everything works just fine!
  • Reply 18 of 90
    My brother is a pilot... I'll ask him if they are considering iPads. He's a PC guy, but I've almost convinced him to switch!

    I was at an education conference last week and the iPad was THE big deal.

    Viva la revolution!
  • Reply 19 of 90
    tjwaltjwal Posts: 404member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by calfoto View Post


    I wonder if the GPS in an iPad will keep up with the flight speeds of a commercial jet? I tried using a car unit onboard a few flights but it couldn't handle the speed shortly after take off



    My Garmin 255 worked OK until I pressed GO. It then started recalculating everytime it crossed a road The top speed was about 850 km/h. IIRC my first GPS was rated for 900 mph.
  • Reply 20 of 90
    curmudgeoncurmudgeon Posts: 483member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by madhatter61 View Post


    This is exciting and very practical. Hospitals, doctors and nurses are doing similar things in their respective fields as well.



    I sold iPAD for a large electronics chain ... and one day a charter owner wanted 25 iPADs to hand out to his passengers, so they could watch movies. The uses are unlimited. The new iPAD2 is awesome.



    The android app community needs to make sure their apps are safe. A recent post noted 200000 android phones got root kits, and other sneaky coding that steals everything... they republished 21 apps after changing the code. I think that the way Apple scrutinizes the apps this wouldn't happen. It is scary since the users are trusting ...



    Please, it's not an acronym. The product is called iPad, not iPAD. Sorry for being so anal.
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