Delta Airlines is testing 22 iPads, loaded with custom apps to enable better communication with pilots.
These iPads are being used as electronic flight bags (EFBs), a device intended to replace the pilot’s flight bag, which includes documents like Aircraft Operating Manual, Flight Crew Operating Manual, and Navigational Charts.
Steve Dickson, Vice President of flight operations says that the iPads are pre-loaded with:
“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. 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.”
In case these apps aren’t sufficient, pilots can always download additional apps to enhance the functionality of their device and aid in better communication. Delta’s domestic fleet has been fitted with Gogo’s air-to-ground-based in-flight Wi-Fi solution, and they are looking at similar options for its international fleet.
Unlike traditional EFBs, iPads and modern tablets in general enable better real-time communication, which is one of the primary reasons of testing such an arrangement. In mid-September, when the iPad tests are done, Delta plans to swap them with 16 Motorola Xooms to see how Android fares when it comes to such purposes.
Dickson says that Delta, and other airlines as well, see a huge potential for tablets:
“We are going to pursue real-time security advisories, reroute information and electronic auto sign-in when [pilots] are in range of the airport or a specific gate. A tablet device sets the foundation for a paperless cockpit of course with flight plan and charter packet uploads, theatre guides and trans-oceanic step by step information, simplified NOTAMs, e-Checklists, and instant reporting access just to name a few opportunities. Essentially, we have only begun to identify the limitless possibilities, and there is no question that we see this as a potential to change the way we do business both immediately and long-term.”
He also adds that quite a few pilots aren’t technically savvy and hence they need to ensure that a pilot’s technical prowess doesn’t matter in the usability of these devices. We think that the iPad would surely fare better than Xoom in this area, which could possibly mean that iPads find a permanent place in Delta’s aircrafts.
Delta Airlines aren’t the only ones using the iPad on flights, American Airlines pilots are also using the iPad to pack more than 35 pounds of paperwork in a 1.5 pound device. And on a larger scale not just the airline industry but many other businesses are also using the iPad to better serve their needs. Apple in fact maintains a page on its website to highlight some of the interesting areas where the iPad is being used. The areas include banking, health, hospitality, sports and construction.