iPads Replacing Pilot Flight Bags?

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Is there a more natural partnership than mobile technology and traveling? Look around the next time you're in an airport, or other public transportation hub and you'll see more people with mobile devices than you can shake a stick at. In fact, the idea of going somewhere without a mobile device seems almost unthinkable in this day and age. Sure, there have been reports and stories of people taking a vacation from their electronic world, but by and large, traveling in today's world includes taking some kind of mobile device with you.

So why haven't pilots, both professional and amateur, made the switch? Why bother carrying around reams of pilot-and-flight-related material when there are a number of mobile applications that can do the same thing as the materials contained within these flight bags? Enter the iPad. According to a report in the New York Times, these carry-on bags used by pilots have started to be replaced by Apple's mobile tablet.

The report reveals that these bags can weigh in excess of 40 pounds. Compare that to the pound and a half iPad, and even before the applicable applications are mentioned, there's already reason enough to make the switch. Portability should count for something, and the FAA agrees:

The Federal Aviation Administration has authorized a handful of commercial and charter carriers to use the tablet computer as a so-called electronic flight bag. Private pilots, too, are now carrying iPads, which support hundreds of general aviation apps that simplify preflight planning and assist with in-flight operations.

But wait, aren't all personal electronic devices supposed to be switched off during takeoff? Does that make the claims of devices interfering with airline functions null and void? Questions for another day, apparently. As for the iPads in the cockpit, not only are pilots saving forests by reducing the amount of paperwork, the devices also make their jobs a little easier:

"The iPad allows pilots to quickly and nimbly access information," said Jim Freeman, a pilot and director of flight standards at Alaska Airlines, which has given iPads to all its pilots. "When you need to a make a decision in the cockpit, three to four minutes fumbling with paper is an eternity."

One of the first airlines to receive federal approval for iPads in the cockpit -- hey, it's better than Snakes on a Plane, right? -- was Alaska Airlines. It's estimated that 25 pounds of paper are reduced from the pilot's carry-on, but conservation and weight management are not the only reasons the idea receives support. In fact, Alaska Airlines pilots want to expand the duties of the iPad in the cockpit to include reading aeronautical charts.

The article also mentions health costs are impacted by the iPad's use, because of the reduction of weight these pilots are forced to carry. All-in-all, it sounds like a brilliant marriage of technology and the needs of the workplace. Let's just hope the pilots don't use the iPad in such a manner, it puts them on a list like this one.

Image and video courtesy of ForeFlight.com.

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