Airline Ditches Paper For iPad

Dennis Faas's picture

Alaska Airlines will soon issue its pilots with iPads as a replacement for paper documentation.

The main reason for the switch is that the 1.5 pound iPad is lighter. Compared to flight manuals that are roughly 25 pounds, the iPad 2 offers a significant savings in weight. Often the paper bundles are so large that it must be carried in a special bag.

Among the documents are manuals for specific flights and the systems used on particular aircraft. There are also documents about the procedures that flight crew must follow during a flight.

Heft Printing Costs Wiped Out

Although buying the iPads will come with a hefty bill, the airline believes it will wind up saving money because it won't have to pay for the costs of buying more than a million sheets of paper a year, printing them and then distributing them to pilots.

It will also be possible to update the documentation automatically rather than have to print off new sheets and have pilots keep track of them. And it believes pilots will be able to locate specific information more quickly in electronic form, where indexing and contents lists will be more sophisticated.

Eliminating Excess Weight Amounts to Big Savings

The airline believes eliminating the excess weight will help the company in two other ways.

First, it will slightly reduce the weight of the aircraft, reducing fuel requirements. And while 25 pounds probably won't make for major savings, it could add up across thousands of flights.

Second, Alaska Airlines also believes that not having to carry the weighty paper bundles could reduce the risk of injury to pilots. (Source:

Navigational Switch A Possibility

That benefit would be even greater if the company is able to carry out the same switch with flight navigation plans, which make up the rest of the bulk in-flight bags.

The problem, however, is that Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) rules mean such plans can only be carried in electronic-only form on devices that can work at any altitude, even if a cockpit becomes depressurized. That may require expensive modifications to existing iPad models.

FAA rules also mean that the iPads will have to be stowed during takeoff and landing, as happens with passengers' electronic devices. (Source:

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