updated 12:50 pm EDT, Tue August 23, 2011
United swaps pilot manuals, charts for iPads
United Airlines and its soon-to-be-joined partner Continental staked out a first for flight by making itself the first major carrier in the US to completely drop paper among its 11,000 pilots by using the iPad. Along with shedding paper flight manuals, it's now the first of its size to replace its charts with the Apple tablet as well. Each iPad will carry Jeppesen Mobile FliteDeck (free, App Store) to provide worldwide maps in context.
Like other airlines, United is keen to show that it's both helping the pilots as well as pushing its green credentials. The combined savings on manuals and charts should eliminate about 38 pounds of weight from a typical flight bag. It may save as much as 326,000 gallons of fuel every year and theoretically spare 1,900 trees' worth of paper over the same space of time.
United isn't the first start moving in the paperless direction and was preceded by Alaska Airlines among majors getting manuals. FAA testing, however, has prevented most carriers from going the same route for charts until now.
Apple so far has almost complete control of tablets' use in the air. With the exception of American Airlines' Galaxy Tabs in the passenger section, the iPad has been the predominant choice both for pilots and for actual customers. Both its advantage as first on the market as well as its wider app catalog have been considered crucial where rivals have only been an option for the past few months and don't have the equivalent in apps.