Alaska Airlines plans to replace paper manuals and flight charts with iPads

Fri, Jun 3, 2011


With a “Bye, Bye Flight Bag” slogan in tow, Alaska Airlines is preparing to replace voluminous paper manuals with iPads and become the first domestic airline to use Apple’s tablet in lieu of tried and true paper. The first phase of the plan has reportedly already begun in the form of iPads pre-loaded with the GoodReader app and PDF versions of manuals and a host of other materials. Soon thereafter, Alaska Airlines has plans to completely do away with paper on board by also using the iPad to access aeronautical charts.

Now a common theme we’ve been hearing is that Alaska Airlines is planning to pay for this initiative via reduced fuel costs that will result from not having to carry flight bags that, with an avalanche of paper, can weigh as much as 50 pounds.

Okay, that sounds all well and good, but I’m reminded of an old Physics principle. Actually, one might say it’s a common sense principle. The gist is that iPads will do nothing to improve fuel costs for Alaska Airlines. 50 pounds relative to the entire weight of a plane is insignificant and will have a negligible affect, if any at all, on fuel efficiency. In other words, this type of spin is akin to saying that Airlines will cut down on fuel costs by using pilots that way 50 pounds less than the average pilot. Pure nonsense.

Makes for a good sell, we suppose.

In any event, Alaska Airlines press release on the matter is below.

Alaska Airlines Pilots Go Lean And Green With iPads

First major domestic airline to use iPads to replace flight manuals
5/27/2011 9:12 a.m.

SEATTLE – As part of an ongoing effort to use technology to enhance flight safety, improve efficiency and protect the environment, Alaska Airlines is issuing iPad tablet computers to its pilots. The 1½-pound iPads replace up to 25 pounds of paper flight manuals that pilots are required to carry when they fly.

The iPads are being distributed to all Alaska Airlines pilots, a process that will be complete by mid-June. 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 Airlines is the first major domestic airline to use the iPad to replace paper manuals.

“We’ve been exploring the idea of an electronic flight bag for several years, but never found a device we really liked,” said Gary Beck, Alaska Airlines’ vice president of flight operations. “When the iPad hit the market, we took one look at it and said this is the perfect fit.”

The iPads contain an app called GoodReader that is loaded with PDF versions of 41 flight, systems and performance manuals, reference cards, and other materials. The electronic manuals include hyperlinks and color graphics, enabling pilots to find information faster and easier. Updating these reference materials can now be accomplished with one tap on the iPad screen instead of the former, labor-intensive process of replacing individual pages with new ones. The iPad is considered a Class 1 electronic device, meaning it is stowed during takeoff and landing under Federal Aviation Administration regulations.

In conjunction with replacing paper manuals, Alaska Airlines is exploring the replacement of paper aeronautical navigation charts with electronic versions on the iPad, eliminating the need for every pilot to carry their own copy. The two initiatives, dubbed “Bye, Bye, Flight Bag,” will save about 2.4 million pieces of paper.

The cost of the project is expected to be offset by lower paper, printing and distribution expenses and reduced fuel consumption as some weight is removed from the aircraft. Further savings are expected from fewer back and muscle injuries caused by pilots carrying flight bags that can tip the scales at 50 pounds or more fully loaded.

Note to news media: A high-resolution photograph of an Alaska pilot with the iPad on the flight deck of a Boeing 737 is available in the airline’s online newsroom image gallery at

Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air, subsidiaries of Alaska Air Group (NYSE: ALK), together serve 90 cities throughout Alaska, the Lower 48, Hawaii, Canada and Mexico. For reservations, visit For more news and information, visit the Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air Newsroom at



1 Comments For This Post

  1. janey Says:

    50 lbs per pilot isn’t really much, no, but the 2,700,000 pieces of paper for all of them, plus the costs to buy them, plus the updates to manuals… that stuff can add up.

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