It’s somewhat ironic that American Airlines is loading more of its cockpits with iPads at roughly the same time that Alec Baldwin got kicked off for using his iDevice.
But, American Airlines insists there are a lot of benefits to using Apple’s tablets as opposed to paper. First and foremost, the iPad replaces 45 pounds worth of paper for each pilot on a plane. If American is able to use iPads on every flight — its eventual goal — it stands to reduce its fuel usage by 500,000 gallons each year.
“That’s a significant savings,” said David Clark, the American pilot that is heading up the iPad effort. For the past six months, American has been testing iPad use on 777 flights out of Los Angeles–some 300 flights in all.
As of last Friday, American has approval to use the iPads on all of its Boeing 777 aircraft for all phases of flight and Clark said the airline expects approval to use the tablets on 737s next year.
To answer every frequent flyer’s question, no, Clark isn’t really sure why the rest of us can’t use our iPads during takeoff and landing.
“I think that’s a fair and a good question,” Clark said. “First and foremost, the FAA makes the rules and we follow them.”
That being said, though, Clark notes that American Airlines did a lot of testing with the iPad and it is used only with all of its transmitting functions — including WiFi — turned off. At the back of the plane, Clark said, there can be any number of devices in use by dozens of passengers, making it hard to test for every possible scenario.
As for the pilots and their iPads, Clark said everything has gone swimmingly, Clark said. In general, even those who have never touched an iPad only need a half-hour or hour of training.
“That speaks to the operating system,” Clark said.
Nonetheless, pilots that want to carry paper manuals for a bit will be able to do so. During the six months of testing, paper backups were carried on every flight.
American also makes sure that the iPads are fully charged and properly loaded before each flight.
As to concerns that pilots will be playing games rather than reviewing flight manuals, Clark says not to worry.
“Absolutely not – no Angry Birds in flight,” he said. Indeed, there are only two apps loaded on the iPads — the customized program for reading flight charts and a PDF reader for reviewing the plane’s manual, if needed.