FAA gives nod to iPads in cockpits for American Airlines

The Federal Aviation Administration has approved the airline's use of Apple's tablet by pilots as a way of replacing unwieldy and hard-to update paper manuals. American will start using iPads in all phases of flights operations this Friday, according to ZDNet.

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On Friday, American Airlines will be the first carrier to start using iPads in all phases of flight. Alaska started testing the use of the Apple tablets in May. Alaska Airlines

Starting this Friday, American Airlines is expected to start using iPads in all phases of flight operation, replacing hefty paper charts and manuals.

That's according to a report today from CNET sister site ZDNet, which says that American has received U.S. Federal Aviation Administration approval to use Apple's tablets at any time during a flight.

According to a ZDNet source:

On Friday, American Airlines is the first airline in the world to be fully FAA approved to use iPads during all phases of flight. Pilots will use iPads as electronic chart and digital flight manual readers. The airline will begin iPad operations on B-777 aircraft, and then implement across all other fleets. By using electronic charts and manuals, the safety and efficiency on the flight deck is significantly enhanced. Both the iPad I and the iPad II have been approved for use. Other airlines such as United, Alaska, and UPS are also reviewing this potential, but none have been approved to conduct flight operations in all phases of flight except American. This FAA approval cumulates the results from a 6-month test period whereby American flew thousands of hours with iPads to test and evaluate the product.

The certification by the FAA comes several months after American completed tests of pilots using iPads in the cockpit. "American pilots started testing iPads as electronic flight [manuals] last year," reported the Seattle PI in June, "replacing paper manuals. Now, they have [FAA] approval to test iPads with electronic charts."

American Airlines spokesperson Andrea Huguely confirmed the FAA's move and said that the federal agency had certified the airline as the first to be able to use iPads from "gate to gate."

That means, Huguely said, that American pilots will be able to use their iPads from before leaving the gate all the way through the flight and until reaching the destination gate. Crucially, that means they can use the tablets--though without connecting to the Internet--during takeoff and landing.

Huguely also said the iPads will allow American's pilots to discard the huge paper manuals they have traditionally had to carry around with them--and update every 14 days. Now, they'll be able to push a single button on the iPad and update automatically.

Even better, Huguely said that once the iPad program is rolled out across American's entire fleet--it is currently being used on Boeing 777s and will soon be on Boeing 737s--it could save the airline as much as 500,000 gallons of fuel a year, simply from the lack of the paper manuals, which she said can weigh up to 40 pounds.

In May, Alaska Airlines announced that it was starting to roll out the use of iPads as a way of replacing its pilots' paper manuals, a process it said at the time could help pilots avoid having to carry 25 pounds of paper when they fly.

"This follows a successful trial by 100 line and instructor pilots and Air Line Pilots Association representatives who evaluated the feasibility of using iPads as electronic flight bags this past winter and spring," Alaska wrote in a release.

Updated at 5:05 p.m. PT to include comment from American Airlines.