Mission-critical Apple iPads in cockpits may hasten end of era for paper charts

“Apple Inc.’s iPad won approval from U.S. regulators to display navigational charts for some charter pilots, a step that may speed the end of the decades-old tradition of paper maps in the cockpit,” Sonja Elmquist reports for Bloomberg.

“With the Federal Aviation Administration endorsing iPads in a test project at Executive Jet Management, a unit of Warren Buffett’s NetJets, the way is open for pilots at airlines and other commercial carriers to seek authorization for the devices, said Les Dorr, an agency spokesman,” Elmquist reports.

“iPad use by professional pilots would support Apple’s goal of winning more business buyers. The company’s total corporate sales may rise 51 percent to $11.3 billion in 2011, said Brian Marshall, a Gleacher & Co. analyst in San Francisco,” Elmquist reports. “‘This is mission-critical computing,’ said Marshall, who has a “buy” rating on Cupertino, California-based Apple. ‘For them to win this type of approval speaks volumes about the level of sophistication of what can be accomplished with the iPad.'”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: The first time an iPad wannabe is found in a cockpit, they’ll be digging it out of the crater during the search for the black box. Exhume, indeed. But, hey, at least it’ll actually be thinner than an iPad for once!

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Edward W.” for the heads up.]

Related article:
FAA authorizes use of Jeppesen app on iPad to replace paper aeronautical charts – February 16, 2011

29 Comments

            1. This would be an important point if (in the original story about the iPad flight certification) it hadn’t already been reported that the iPad had undergone, and passed, rapid depressurization testing.

            2. That is why I had the question. Official height limit is about 1.5 km, while planes fly at about 10 km.

              Does this mean that Apple names 1.5 km as “ceiling” for use just to have some formal limitation?

            3. Loss of cabin pressure is a a concern, but it only takes 5-6 minutes to descend to a lower altitude, and access to data on the iPad isn’t going to be a major problem during the descent. Then too, the iPad will probably work all the way down. Apple’s specs guarantee operation up to 10,000 ft (300m). They don’t promise failure above that.

  1. Pilots also have to go through cumbersome troubleshooting instructions, on paper, when dealing with various extremely rare, extremely critical WTF scenarios like how to prepare for ditching or deal with an onboard fire. Put it on a ipad and this should save them precious seconds and ultimately lives wasted just finding the information they need.

    The promise of the paperless workplace, words formerly said with a heavy dose of irony, is finally being realized.

  2. Almost everyone is familiar with the typical pilot’s flight bag:

    Majority of content of this bag is those Jeppesen charts. In addition to charts for airports of origin and destination, they must have charts of all potential alternates and diversion airfields, in case an emergency landing must be made along the way. The bag is full of (relatively heavy) paper (times two, for captain and first officer).

    Let us not forget that these paper charts have a very short shelf life and must be renewed all the time. The amount of paper waste is just massive.

    1. It’s not paper waste, it’s paper usage. It has the potential of saving many lives. It’s just as useful as the paper you use to wipe your ass.

      The greenies want you to think you are being evil when you use a paper product. Landing an airplane and preventing the spread of germs and diseases is a good thing, not a waste of paper.

      1. althegeo, you just had a major reading comprehension fail. Predrag was clearly saying that RE-printing material every time it changes is a waste of paper. Also, he was using the term “waste” in the context of an article saying that paper is no longer necessary. When paper is the only way to do something important, it isn’t waste to use it. When there is a superior alternative, then it becomes wasteful.

  3. Not only that, but all – ALL – of the maintenance information for a given aircraft type (e.g., 737, 767, etc.) can fit on a single CD. There’s absolutely no reason that the iPad could not be preloaded with that info as well to assist in any inflight problem handling.

  4. Need redundancy? Carry two or three iPads per flight. You’re still only looking at $1500 – $1800. And the Jeppesen app should be fully functional in Airplane Mode!

  5. Sorry to be a wet blanket – I love my iPad and all, but there are some issues. As long as the battery life on an iPad is, it can expire. Paper charts do not need batteries. It is one thing to approve electronic charts for use in the cockpit – quite another thing to approve NOT having paper there.

  6. No worries, Bubbler. As a copilot for a major airline, we’ve already had approval to use the ipad as a Class I EFB (electronic flight bag) It holds our company manuals. We’re required to also carry a backup external battery (I use the Hypermac Mini).

    We’re awaiting final approval for a Class II iPad that allows us to ditch our paper Jeppesen manuals. It can’t come soon enough!

  7. I LOVE using my iPad in my plane for my approach plates.

    I also keep all my checklists and emergency procedures on it as well, and have both on my iPhone as backup.

    I have cancelled my Jepp subscription, and am NEVER going back.

  8. And, if the airplane avionics suffers a glitch, the pilot can launch a GPS navigation app and find an airport at which to land!

    Plus, the iPad games will keep the pilot and copilot from falling asleep on the international flights.

    1. I am in full agreement with you on this and the comment sadly struck a raw nerve. I do however, believe MDN would Never do anything to cause anyone deliberate emotional pain.

  9. No kidding the navcharts are important. They have detailed data on airports one is flying into and those details include damned important stuff like obstructions off the end of the runway so you know what sort of glide slope is required.

    I remember flying into a small runway at night with my brother (who is a pilot). He hadn’t been there at night before, and flew pretty much the same approach he was used to at his home airport. He flipped on the landing lights about 1200 feet off the approach end of the runway. And… Whoa… there was a humongous oak tree just off our starboard wing several hundred fee ahead.

    This is serious business. That they are entrusting all this data to be reliably input and displayed on an electronic device is significant.

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