FAA Authorizes iPad as Flight Manual Replacement

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The Federal Aviation Administration has authorized the use of Apple’s iPad as a replacement for what’s called the Flight Bag, a 40 pound collection of flight manuals, logs, checklists, and other assorted paperwork that pilots must have with them in the cockpit of commercial flights.

The New York Times reported that the FAA has authorized a “a handful of commercial and charter carriers” to use Apple’s media tablet in lieu of the printed materials, ejecting as much as 38.5 pounds in the process.

“The iPad allows pilots to quickly and nimbly access information,” Jim Freeman, a pilot and director of flight standards at Alaska Airlines, told The Times. “When you need to a make a decision in the cockpit, three to four minutes fumbling with paper is an eternity.”

Alaska Airlines received permission back in May to begin the iPad replacement program, and the FAA has since approved other airlines, too. The airlines even calls its effort Operation Bye, Bye, Flight Bag, and hopes to receive permission to replace other printed materials, including aeronautical charts in the future.

In order to consider approval, the FAA requires airline to submit its own, “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,” according to John W. McGraw, the FAA’s deputy director of flight standards.

In addition to saving weight, which saves fuel, accessing material on the iPad is quicker and easier than doing so in reams and reams of paper. Documents can be searchable, hyperlinks can be used to take pilots directly to where they need to go, and of course everything can be in living color.

There are possible health benefits, too, as some airlines anticipate being able to reduce absenteeism from stress injuries related to hauling around all these documents for each and every flight.

“I don’t remember a time when one product seemed to get so much buzz and acceptance,” Ian Twombly, spokesman for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, told The Times. “Many pilots approach new toys with skepticism, and the iPad seems to be almost universally appreciated as a cockpit device.”

Believe it or not, they’re able to do all this without Flash, too.