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AA is first major airline to gain FAA approval for use of tablets in lieu of paper flight charts
Actor and extreme Words with Friends enthusiast Alec Baldwin recently got kicked off an American Airlines flight for refusing to stop playing his favorite brain-teasing word game on his iPad. But now, according to reports, airline pilots will soon be using iPads in the cockpit to help them fly the plane. Oh, the injustice of it all!
American Airlines is the first airline to gain Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval to use tablets "as electronic chart and digital flight manual readers" in B777 aircraft, according to reports. This is significant, because current FAA rules say that tablets, even those of the pilot, need to be stowed away before a flight can take off.
The iPads will replace paper flight manuals and will be equipped with JeppTC, a flight charting app that is available for anyone at the App Store. Aforementioned FAA regulations concerning in-cockpit tablet use stipulate that an extra battery be held at the ready before take-off. Both iPad and iPad II have been approved for use in AA planes.
The integration of the iPad into FAA-approved navigation procedure underwent a six-month testing period, according to one source, with "thousands of hours" of evaluation of the tablet's viability as a paper alternative.
Pilots usually carry hefty paper flight manuals with them in the cockpits of planes, weighing about 25 lbs. Each of these in-cockpit iPads have been estimated to save about 35 pounds of paper per year, which translates to $1.2 million dollars in fuel costs.
The American Airlines iPad upgrade has been reported to be starting as soon as Friday, December 16, with inside sources indicating that Delta and and United will also soon be jumping on the tablet bandwagon. Delta, in particular, however, has been reported to be seeking out an Android-based tablet for their cockpits.
The use of tablets for in-flight calculations were widely tested in airlines, but so far only American Airlines have gained FAA approval. AA had tested the use of tablets back in June, in two flights from Los Angeles to Tokyo and to Shanghai.
Alaskan Airlines also ran tests all year and had been hinting at making the switch from paper manuals to tablets as far back as May. The airline evaluated the tablets with 100 representatives from the Air Line Pilots Association, indicating that iPads would be passed out to all pilots this year.
Meanwhile, smaller, charter flights have been approved to use tablets in lieu of bulky paper flight charts since February.
No word yet on whether the FAA will update regulations to allow passengers, like poor Words With Friends-junky Alec Baldwin, to similarly access their tablets during in-flight hours.
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