U.S. Air Force to spend $9M on iPads for flight manual reboot

Under a new, multimillion dollar contract, the U.S. Air Force plans to replace a chunk of its printed in-flight materials with iPads.

An iPad being used in the cockpit of an Alaska Airlines flight.
Alaska Airlines

The U.S. Air Force plans to replace some of its paper manuals with digital editions in the cockpit, and has just laid down the funds to make that happen.

Bloomberg reports that Phoenix-based Executive Technology was awarded a $9.36 million contract from the Air Force today, which it plans to use to purchase iPads that will then be loaded up with flight manuals and navigation software.

The move follows a request for proposals put out by the Air Mobility Command last month, asking for digital replacements for in-flight materials.

In an interview with Bloomberg, a military spokeswoman said the firm would be purchasing the 32GB, Wi-Fi-only model of the iPad at around $529 as opposed to its $599 sticker price. The funding allows for the purchase of up to 18,000 tablets, Bloomberg said.

Apple is expected to debut a new version of the tablet at a special event next Wednesday. Bloomberg notes that Executive Technology has a year to make the purchases with the funding, but has already purchased 63 iPad 2s from the firm.

Apple's tablet has made inroads among private airline carriers in the past year. Both Delta Airlines and Alaska Airlines began testing iPads for navigational purposes in early 2011 as part of a trial program. In August, United Airlines said it was switching over to iPads entirely, doling out the 11,000 of the tablets to all United and Continental pilots, a move it said would save an estimated 326,000 gallons of jet fuel a year.

"Each iPad, which weighs less than 1.5 pounds, will replace approximately 38 pounds of paper operating manuals, navigation charts, reference handbooks, flight checklists, logbooks, and weather information in a pilot's flight bag," United Airlines said at the time. "A conventional flight bag full of paper materials contains an average of 12,000 sheets of paper per pilot."