Commercial cockpits are about to get much lighter beginning this Friday, according to insiders. The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) has apparently just given American Airlines the thumbs up to start using the iPad to replace the large, paper-based flight bags pilots traditionally carry.
Before you start worrying about pilots getting distracted playing Kinectimals or updating their Facebook status, the iPad in the cockpit will only serve to replace operational and navigational manuals in flight bags. They will not be used to control any aspect of the plane in take off, flight, or landing, so in theory they should remain stowed unless a reference question arises.
Reference manuals in the flight bags have been known to tip in at 12,000 pages and can weigh up to 38 pounds — the iPad is less than 1.5 pounds. The airlines have cited the environmental impact to the change — ditching the paper could save "nearly 16 million sheets of paper a year, saving an estimated 1,900 trees," according to figures published by United Airlines in August.
Lighter aircraft also means reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The projection is a savings of 326,000 gallons of jet fuel a year, reducing emissions by just over 3,800 metric tons.
This change comes after a six-month evaluation and thousands of hours of in-flight trials conducted by the FAA and American Airlines. While American Airlines remains the first airline to get the all clear for "all phases of flight," other airlines are also known to be testing the iPad with an eye towards the future of a potentially paperless cockpit.
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