Alaska Airlines pilots using Apple iPads in cockpit

“For all of the technology in the modern cockpit, which includes a tremendous amount of computer technology, paper continues to play a major role. There are navigational charts, airport runway maps and manuals on everything from company policies to reference works on each button, switches and circuit breakers on the flight deck,” Glenn Farley reports for KING 5 News.

“All of that paper info is dragged around by pilots in bags that can weigh more than 40 pounds. Captain Jim Freeman and Captain Brian Holm are Alaska Airlines pilots who have the job of trying to move that paper and put it on a 1.5 pound iPad,” Farley reports. “‘What we’ve set up is a 400 megabyte file which contains all of the essential manuals and information we feel the pilot needs,’ Freeman said.”

“Right now at Alaska Airlines, the Federal Aviation Administration has approved using the iPad for viewing manuals in flight. Pilots are also allowed to download weather map information, not normally available on paper, while they are still on the ground,” Farley reports. “Right now, Alaska pilots only use the iPad on the ground and above 10,000 feet. They’re already finding it easier to flip through electronic pages. ‘Your decision making is phenomenal with a device like this,’ said Freeman.”

Farley reports, “About three fourths of Alaska’s pilots have the iPad in their hands and the rest should come soon.”

More info, including a video of the iPad in use in an Alaska Airline cockpit, here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Art C.” for the heads up.]

Related articles:
Mission-critical Apple iPads in cockpits may hasten end of era for paper charts – March 7, 2011
FAA authorizes use of Jeppesen app on iPad to replace paper aeronautical charts – February 16, 2011


  1. Sorry I feel safer with them lugging the paper around, because some day some pilot is going to overshoot a runway by 150 miles because he was busy jerking off to the porno he loaded into VLC.

    1. What’s funny is that you fail to see the irony or probably think no one ever said similar things about color magazines, horseless carriages, portable radios, cellphones etc.
      If anything you should be afraid of the iPads battery dieing or malfunctioning along with the pilot having no paper manuals.

      1. First of all, the FAA requires a spare battery for all EFB’s , electronic flight bags. Secondly, there are at least two on board the flightdeck. Thirdly, even if both ipads failed, we do not need the paper charts to safely conduct an approach, because most of the essential information that we need for the approach (except tower frequencies) are on the FMC or flight management computers, which there are least two built in to most boeings. With the emergency frequency 121.5 mghz being monitored by all towers that is not a problem.

        1. Thanks so much for the insight. I assume you work for Alaska Airlines. Being in Alaska, Alaska Airlines is our main lifeline with smaller regional carriers filling in the blanks. I admit to not having expected you on MDN.

      2. At the end of the article it mentions… some of the other airlines are using laptops… but this is the first widespread tablet computing usage.

        In my opinion, this kind of application would be perfect for an e-Ink reader. Battery power and backup is less of an issue. If only someone could make a viable color e-Ink tablet.

    2. Oh and I’ve sat next to a guy who jerked it under a blanket in the aisle seat….if you think the pilots arn’t up there having a wank you are sorely mistaken. Next time you fly just look around, I think you’ll find everybody is doing it.

    3. In your lurid imagination, do you actually think they wouldn’t have back up? I just talked to a UPS pilot week before last. Says they are switching to iPads, and he is thrilled. They carry back-up iPads of course, and they also carry a paper version in case of some unforeseen circumstance. But the magic of the iPad is it’s powerful efficiency and reliability in accessing critical information in an instant. So relax and go back to your own manual activity.

  2. I just notice that some airlines uses a compact disc player for the inflight announcements and some other uses a 40pound 8mm VRC for the entertainment.
    They can save so much weigh and time using a simple iPod. Now I know why obsolete tech is so popular in the enterprise, that is because of the dinosaurs that runs it.

  3. that’s remind me of the “Top 10 ways Apple’s iOS beats Google’s Android (and vice versa)” article early today.
    iOS beats android: iOs used in comercial flight.
    Android Beats iOS: Android lets you customize the home screen. (sarcasm)

    1. The Playbooks are tied to the undercarriage as skidpans on snowy days in Anchorage. When swiped from bottom to top by the bezel meeting the Tarmac, a picture of Bassillie & Lazaridis appears as wallpaper. That’s how you rub their noses in it.

  4. its the same thing in the Marine world. For $50 you can turn your ipad into a full-featured GPS Chart plotter with Navionics charts.
    Its better than chart plotters costing over $3000. Used it recently to deliver a boat to a n area I hadnt navigated before – perfect. The iPad is an Appliance, not a computer.

    1. “Paper doesn’t need batteries”

      Sure, but in addition to the weight and hassle, paper is difficult to deal with. You want to be able to get to the information you need as quickly as possible and know that it’s up to date and presented in the best way possible.

      With an iPad, you can get to information much faster and it can be presented in a much better format. While simple text documents will work well, taking advantage of links, animations, etc, in the future will be even better.

      And paper *DOES* need electricity too.

      You can’t read paper in the dark. So if it’s ok that paper has a light in the cockpit and flashlight backup, what’s the problem with an iPad having a charging port in the cockpit and battery backup?

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