FAA approves using iPads in airplane cockpits, means big savings on fuel for airlines

Dec 14, 2011
Tech

You wouldn’t know it from being a passenger on an airline, but pilots use a lot of paper every day. They get all kinds of reports on their planes, weather conditions and other things and all that paper is heavy. Having to lug all that through the air means airlines are actually spending more on […]

You wouldn’t know it from being a passenger on an airline, but pilots use a lot of paper every day. They get all kinds of reports on their planes, weather conditions and other things and all that paper is heavy. Having to lug all that through the air means airlines are actually spending more on fuel than they would if they didn’t have all that paper weight.

Airlines have been asking the Federal Aviation Administration if they could do away with all those pounds of paper – about 35 per plane and replace it with one single 1.33-pound device: Apple’s iPad.

ZDNet has the story, which states that the FAA has approved the iPad for use in all stages of flight. The elimination of paper charts and reports from airplanes could save upwards of $1.2 million in fuel per year, although it isn’t specific as to whether that’s industry-wide or just per airline. The first airline to use iPads in all phases of flight will be American Airlines, which tested the idea of using iPads earlier this year and will start using them regularly as early as Friday.

Apple’s tablets are having a big impact on a lot of industries where one might not have expected to see them. They might help airline pilots cut down on fuel costs and the weight of the stuff they need to lug around, and it was recently reported that iPads are being used heavily in the medical industry to help with record-keeping.

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GigaOM has that story, which details that unlike in other enterprise segments of the market, Apple has been actively encouraging doctors to use iPads in their professions. Apple has a marketing manager for the iPad just for the medical industry, and has been encouraging its use in trial programs across the U.S. According to a recent Wired story, The Veteran’s Administration is also planning to spread as many as 100,000 iPads across 152 VA hospitals, after a successful trial program that included 1,500 iPads.

The world is increasingly paperless – or it would be for many industries that could benefit from reducing their dependence on paper, if only they could find good ways to do so. The iPad represents a powerful tool for many people, and in the cases of the airline industry and the medical industry, it might be the device that helps them reduce the need for printed documents. That might mean better, more accurate charts for pilots and stricter, more accurate record-keeping for doctors.

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Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw is a freelance writer, editor and author living in Los Angeles, dividing his time between playing video games, playing video games on his cell phone, and writing about playing video games. He’s also the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel, which attempts to mix time travel pop culture with some semblance of science, as well as tips on the appropriate means of riding dinosaurs. Check out his profile.

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