American Airlines replacing bulky paper maps with iPads

Airline estimates potential $1.2M in annual fuel savings


First of all, who knew that commercial airline pilots lug 35 pounds of paper onto every commercial flight?

That was news to me ... and may soon change at American Airlines if a test program that replaces the bags of paperwork and maps with a specially designed iPad application leads to standard deployment.

(2011's 25 Geekiest 25th Anniversaries) 

From a press release issued by the Allied Pilots Association:

Electronic charting provides pilots with a digital image of their flight route. The final testing phase is a prelude to FAA approval of the devices to serve as Class 1 Electronic Flight Bags (EFBs) during all phases of flight.

"By eliminating bulky flight bags filled with paper, EFBs mean less weight for pilots to carry, reducing the possibility of injury on duty," (First Officer Hank) Putek said. "In addition, they enable pilots to immediately download updates, rather than waiting for paper versions of required documents to be printed and distributed."

American Airlines estimates that it could save $1.2 million a year in fuel costs by leaving the paperwork on the ground.

The iPad is already reportedly fulfilling this function at Alaska Airlines and in some circles of the U.S. military.

I'm OK with the FAA deciding whether this is a good/safe idea or not. But here's what one self-described pilot had to say about the prospect in the comments section of Apple Insider:

It's a big worry. Consumer rubbish has no place in the cockpit.

I'm a pilot - the cockpit is a place where everything is perfectly designed, perfectly reliable and responds immediately to commands, exactly as intended.

The iPad is far from this. I can think of nothing worse than battling with a flaky consumer device (freezing, apps quitting, et al) while trying to fly the plane.

One little "flake-out" and the plane (and people/structures on the ground) are at risk. I don't have time to battle with device resets or force-quitting or "Please verify your iTunes account password" when I'm trying to intercept the glide slope! Is this a joke?

I won't take to the air without the paper! Sorry - no way. Thankfully, I don't work for American.

I'm all for electronic maps, but they've got to be on a specialized device that is as reliable as the flight avionics.

He might want to take that up with the FAA and his union.

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