updated 01:25 pm EDT, Sat May 28, 2011
Alaska Airlines uses iPad in place of paper manual
Alaska Airlines on Friday had the distinction of being the first large US carrier to use iPads as flight manuals on all flights and routes. All pilots will be receiving the Apple tablet loaded with the GoodReader app and PDF copies of all the aircraft manuals, reference charts, and other content they would need for their flights. Moving to the iPad not only saves a large amount of weight, dropping from 25 pounds to 1.5 pounds, but has active links between documents and color that normally wouldn't reach the printed copies.
The switch is treated as a green move that would cut out 2.4 million sheets of paper. Alaska Airline did admit, however, that the cost reductions are also a factor. It hoped to offset the cost both by eliminating printing costs but also through incidental factors, such as the lighter load on the aircraft. Even pilots might have better health since they wouldn't strain to carry the frequently 50-pound-plus bags needed to carry the manuals.
As a piece of electronics, the iPad does have to be put away during takeoff and landing much as with passengers' own gear. The use of iPads for flight manuals was only recently cleared by the FAA. Earlier testing of iPads as Electronic Flight Bags (EFBs) and flight manuals was done in a limited capacity by other airlines as early as June of last year, involving Executive Jet, American Airlines, Delta and Alaska among others.
Every pilot should have the new manuals by mid-June. Alaska Airlines is considering expanding the plan to include navigation charts and thus almost completely replacing paper in the cabin.