Delta Airlines has begun testing Apple’s iPad as electronic flight bags (EFB). EFBs help reduce paper by digitizing on-board flight information that has typically been printed out. This includes reference material such as operating manuals and navigational charts. Moreover, EFBs also enable pilots to automate calculations that would typically be done by hand and access up-to-date weather information.
Delta senior VP of flight operations Steve Dickson explained that the carrier had already deployed 22 iPads for in-flight testing.
Each test device is loaded with an identical suite, and pilots involved in the programme have the capability to download additional apps that customise the product and lend to Delta’s capabilities.
“We’re loading Jeppesen Mobile TC charting software, a GoodReader document viewer that contains all of our manuals in an electronic format, and the Journey browser, which allows access to iCrew. A Delta Meteorology app provides access to pilot-tailored graphical weather information and real-time looped Delta radar. Each pilot will have access to their Delta e-mail account and calendar,” said Dickson.
“The tablets have also been loaded with a writing app for notes, an Atomic web browser, a PDF viewer, a Wi-Fi finder app, and crew rest and cruise rest period calculators. Both Wi-Fi and 3G are available domestically.”
This of course isn’t the first we’ve heard of an airline being so iPad friendly. In early June we reported that Alaska Airlines was doing away with paper manuals and replacing them with iPads pre-loaded with all the useful software a pilot would need before and during a flight. While Alaska Airlines’ iPads don’t currently house navigation charts, the long-term plan is that iPads will completely replace paper on-board.
While Delta’s current test only involves 22 devices, Dickson appears to be gung-ho about the iPad, stressing the utility in being able to dispense important information updates such as security advisories and reroute data to pilots in real time.
“Imagine having searchable information for all facets of the operation that is always up to date with ‘pushed’ information. We can use a tablet device to transform our training and eliminate different operating system limitations,” he said. “Our IROP [irregular operations] recovery time will decrease with instant communication capability.”
Dickson believes the sky is the limit (sorry, couldn’t help it) when it comes to how iPads, and tablets in general, can change air travel.
That said, this isn’t an iPad-only operation.
Dickson says that once the airlines iPad trial run is finished, Delta will be swapping out those Apple tablets for 16 Motorola Xoom’s running Android.
A’ha! So that’s who purchased those 16 Motorola Xoom’s.
All kidding aside, Dickson views tablet-based EFBs as complete game changers.
“We have expanded our vision beyond how other carriers are utilising tablet devices and see its potential as a complete two-way communication tool.”