Apple is known for creating products that revolutionize industries. The iPod changed the way we listen to and buy music; the iPhone redefined the cell phone; and the iPad is transforming the airline industry. This morning United-Continental Airlines gifted its pilots Apple's touchscreen tablets reports The Wall Street Journal. "Distribution of 11,000 iPads began earlier this month, and the airline expects all its pilots to have the gadgets by year end." Going digital seems logical for pilots who previously had to lug around pounds of paper charts. But the benefits of putting iPads at the helm might not outweigh the downsides.
Pilots will use the iPads in lieu of bulky navigation maps, reducing flight weight and thus fuel costs explains SplatF's Dan Frommer. "United estimates the switch to iPads from paper will save 326,000 gallons of fuel per year. At current prices, that’s about $1 million worth." It's not that airlines haven't searched for a way to move away from paper charts, but efforts have either failed or proved to be just as heavy, as Investor Place's Susan J Aluise details. "For the past decade, airlines have been looking for a more efficient, paperless chart system, but to no avail. The FAA does allow pilots to use so-called electronic flight bags, but these aviation computers are bulky and weigh as much as 18 pounds." By contrast an iPad weighs less than 1.5 pounds, and "will replace about 38 pounds of paper operating manuals, navigation charts and other pilot materials" continues The Wall Street Journal.