updated 10:18 am EDT, Fri May 17, 2013
Apple tablet replaces 40-pound paper-based flight bags, maps
A move by the US Air Force last year to replace maps, charts, logs and other paperwork contained in a kit with iPads is expected to save more than $50 million over next 10 years. The 18,000 deployed iPads form an "electronic flight bag" that can hold flight manuals, weather and navigation charts and volumes of technical and procedural information -- eliminating the need for the 30- to 40-pound flight bag pilots used to have to carry with them, resulting in savings ranging from fuel costs to printing costs to even reducing pilot back injuries.
The Air Mobility Command estimates that the replacement of the heavy flight bag kits will save the service $750,000 annually in fuel alone, and not having to make new printouts of manuals as revisions or copies need to be replaced will save another $5 million per year. The cost of the iPad program, just over $9 million, will be offset in savings in around a year and a half. The 18,000 units are Wi-Fi only, 32GB versions of Apple's iPad, which were purchased at a bulk discount of around $520 per unit (a savings of about $80 each).
In an interview with The Street, Major Brian Moritz told reporter James Rogers that on a C-5 military aircraft, using the iPad instead of the traditional kit may save as much as 490 pounds in weight, which creates a noticeable savings in fuel. Currently the Air Force has around 16,000 third-generation iPads in use with the Air Mobility Command, with the remaining 2,000 deployed across other Air Force units.
The Air Force joins many commercial airlines in switching from the bulky manuals to EFBs, as the Federal Aviation Authority approves more widespread use of tablets to replace the traditional flight bag. American Airlines was the first to use the new system, but it has quickly caught on amongst the other major airlines for its obvious cost advantages.