∞ United Airlines deploys 11,000 iPads to pilots

United on Tuesday said it is converting its flight decks to be completely paperless and will deploy 11,000 iPads to all United and Continental pilots.

[ad#Google Adsense 300x250 in story]The iPads will replace paper flight manuals and things like aeronautical navigational charts, which will now be done through an iPad app. Pilots began receiving the iPads earlier this month — all pilots will have the device by the end of the year.

“The paperless flight deck represents the next generation of flying,” said Captain Fred Abbott, United’s senior vice president of flight operations. “The introduction of iPads ensures our pilots have essential and real-time information at their fingertips at all times throughout the flight.”

Here’s some perspective on what an iPad on the flight deck means.

Each iPad, which weighs less than 1.5 pounds, will replace approximately 38 pounds of paper operating manuals, navigation charts, reference handbooks, flight checklists, logbooks and weather information in a pilot’s flight bag. A conventional flight bag full of paper materials contains an average of 12,000 sheets of paper per pilot. The green benefits of moving to EFBs are two-fold—it significantly reduces paper use and printing, and, in turn, reduces fuel consumption. The airline projects EFBs will save nearly 16 million sheets of paper a year which is equivalent to more than 1,900 trees not cut down. Saving 326,000 gallons of jet fuel a year reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 3,208 metric tons.


  • Anonymous

    Not that I am in a position or in possession of enough knowledge to critique, but, as I am a blog commenter and thus have 100% credibility…

    What are the fallbacks in the event of a pilot’s iPad malfunctioning? Are the data within these apps updated over-the-air in real time, or are they static enough to not need in-flight updates? Over 300,000 gallons of jet fuel saved based on the removal of 38 pounds per flight?

    • John

      “What are the fallbacks in the event of a pilot’s iPad malfunctioning?” At least two iPads would have to fail as there are at least two pilots on a flight.  More on overseas flights. There are also on board flight systems that have navigation information. Pilots are in contact with air traffic control as well. Not to mention the many thousands of hours worth of flight time and training the pilots have. I’m sure there is more that I can’t think of since I’m not a pilot. Seems like a lot of things would have to go wrong at once to make me worry. I’d love a pilot’s perspective on this.

      Are the data within these apps updated over-the-air in real time, or are they static enough to not need in-flight updates?” Is paper updated over-the-air? The iPad will be at least no better than paper in regards to updates.

      “Over 300,000 gallons of jet fuel saved based on the removal of 38 pounds per flight?” It would be interesting to see the numbers on this, but 38 pounds per pilot per flight probably doesn’t amount to much on it’s own, but add them all up over a year and it’s pretty significant.

      • Anonymous

        Good points, I’m probably over-thinking. But you’re also right, paper doesn’t update over-the-air…so what if the iPad DOES? Would that not make the data vulnerable to attack by nefarious no-good-niks?

        Actually, I would be interested to know what the mechanics are: use wifi to download the relevant flight charts/weather maps, then disable the networking to lock out outside access.

        Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must continue my search for evidence of the 100-year light bulb that the energy companies have been hiding from us.

        • Anonymous

          They wouldn’t have to do it over the air. It could be a plug in game at the terminal. But in the end even that has the potential to be way more up to date than the paper books. 

          Plus with an app you could possibly get to information quicker, especially in a crisis when you might blank out on what book you need to look in. Just search the keywords and it would come up. 

          That said, how often would they actually need to look at those books or the ipad. Perhaps a pre flight check list that they fill in, each pilot enters a pin number to ‘sign’ it and it is transmitted to the terminal. Then stow it and it isn’t needed again until they do the post flight check list at the other end. No worries about paperwork being lost because ATC won’t give them a go to leave until they have sent the details. No worries you can’t read something cause the pilot has shit handwriting (also know as the Doctors writing conundrum) and so on

  • Melanie Garber

    As a professional flight attendant for United Airlines, how about giving all the flight attendants ipads as well? United could save thousands of sheets and pounds of paper and thus fuel on every flight. Every flight attendant carries pounds of paper in our manuals and every month needs to update these manuals with more paper. Take a 777 with 11 flight attendants and you could save lots of money and make our mauals easier and cheaper to maintain.

  • Mark Dalrymple

    United + Continental do about 6000 flights a day flights a day, that’s about a tenth of a gallon per flight to haul the paper against gravity and hundreds-to-thousands of miles.

    I think in times of trouble, I’d prefer the pilot being able to search docs electronically than digging out big binders and flipping through 12,000 pieces of paper.  Assuming all pilots get one, that means at least two on the flight deck (pilot / co-pilot), presumably chargers up there too.  ipads are pretty reliable devices.  If lady luck is frowning enough that both have crippling failures, the flight is doomed anyway.

    • John

      “If lady luck is frowning enough that both have crippling failures, the flight is doomed anyway.”

      That seems a bit drastic to say that a flight is doomed if a couple of iPads fail. They aren’t flying the plane with them.

  • 767 Captain

    The jury is still out on this deal.  Yes, the thing will reduce weight, but what does it do to my privacy?  Will this thing have a “tracking device” installed to monitor my every movement?  Will I be responsible for another piece of company property that if lost or stolen, now I will have to replace at my own expense?  Will my every keystroke be monitored by the “Labor Strategy” department to ensure my total compliance with all of their “directives”?   Personally, no thanks.  Keep the paper.  

  • http://twitter.com/Moeskido Moeskido

    Interesting story. Now if only airlines would pay pilots a living wage.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steve-Riddle/1554147059 Steve Riddle

    I agree with Melanie. I too am a flight attendant with United & if “fuel savings” is what the company wants then I believe it is in the best interest of all for the f/a’s to receive ipads as well. Our In flight handbook or FAOM takes up a lot of room in my suitcase. Just multiply that with the other f/a’s on any given aircraft & it is a significant amount of weight.

  • 767 Captain

    Think this through…  If the company wants this, can it be “good”?  Trust me, go out and buy your OWN I Pad.  Do you really want to carry around a direct link to UCH 24/7?   

    • Anonymous

      You might want to get your tin foil lining redone. And have your meds checked. 

      I’m sure that UCH etc feel that their manuals are private info and thus they don’t want them on your personal anything. thus they are setting up ipads which they fill and then very likely lock down so you can’t be loading Angry Birds or whatever on it (yes this is possible, Apple stores do it all the time with their display ones). 

      Also who is to say that you would be carrying it around 24/7. Perhaps when you come into the airport, you would go to some kind of office and grab your “manuals” which have been updated if needed. And yes they would probably make you sign for it and yes there is probably some kind of theft tracking on it so if you don’t turn it in at the other end they can find out where it is. 

  • 767 Captain

    Well, my friend, you obviously don’t work for UCH.  The depths to which this corporation has stooped would amaze you.  This is a paranoid organization that tracks EVERYTHING it’s employees do and when you are on a layover, you are at their beck and call 24 / 7  – IF you choose to make yourself available through hotel or cell phones.  This device would simply bypass those and track exactly where you are.  Apple has already admitted to this capability on the I phone.  This device is no different and this corporation has a proven track record of invasion of the privacy of its employees.  In fact, they SUED the pilot group a few years ago and utilized every tracking device known to man to build their case against us including private computers, cell phone records, and “private” chat room activity.  There is ZERO trust between the employees and management of this company and that is something UCH has accomplished over 25 years of practice.   So, am I callous about something like this?  You bet, and for good reason.  Your “meds” comment was totally out of line, by the way.  Work here for a month, and you’ll have a little different perspective. 

    • Anonymous

      Sounds like you don’t need meds at all, just another job.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FMQU5RMDFFNSQRZAEC2CTVZO3Q Tim

      If you have a cell phone, they can track you.  If you are a pilot, then you are already on radar.  They keep tabs on you as a pilot because they are liable for your actions.  Blame the pilots who like to go out and get drunk before flying.  They’re the ones that got the suits all paranoid.

  • Globe Hopper

    Wow. And I can’t even get a freakin’ bag of peanuts.

  • Friend of Pilot

    Very Funny!  I know multiple United Pilots on all types of aircraft at United and not a single one has received an IPad – I guess they are handing them out to ghosts or something especially if they started early this month!  Too funny – More Bull crap P.R. from Fred Abbott

  • fjpoblam

    Think solitaire will keep the pilot awake?

  • http://twitter.com/BoGowan Bo Gowan Ciena

    I wonder if they’ll have to pay $10 to get the in-flight WiFi?

  • Philipday

    Cost saving: Its not the weight of the paper. It’s the savings in not printing, binding, shipping, throwing out the old (last weeks)schedule/warnings/maps. While we are at it, add in the saving of not having to physically distribute paper, not worry about deadlines ( departures ), paying people to reassemble this weeks copy. 

  • Philipday

    Cost saving: Its not the weight of the paper. It’s the savings in not printing, binding, shipping, throwing out the old (last weeks)schedule/warnings/maps. While we are at it, add in the saving of not having to physically distribute paper, not worry about deadlines ( departures ), paying people to reassemble this weeks copy. 

  • http://www.powerwatchers.com/ Dean Lewis

    I’m curious how they’re going to access them during takeoff and landing since all phones and electronic devices are supposed to be turned off. :)

    As for the rest, privacy is an illusion in this world. Hooray.

  • http://twitter.com/feralchimp feralchimp

    I bet a lot of pilots will keep carrying paper charts as a backup.  Can’t beat the battery life.

  • Hoylem9

    I just don’t get that this is a surprise, we’ve been paperless in our corporate jet for almost 10 years now. I am interested in what class of EFB they will operate under. Since our hand helds (Tosibas by the way) are directly connected to our electrical system we are allowed to use them at all times and get rid of all paper.

    If they can’t be powered at all times my understanding is that you must carry some minimal paper in case the batteries run out.

  • Shayperkins1

    I like it…. i wish f/a’s could have an ipad in lieu of our faom!!!!!

  • http://freeipadi.com John

    Wow, Wouldn’t it be great to work at United Airlines, damn I am looking for a free ipad from a very long time.