Cockpits One Step Closer To Becoming Paperless

The paperwork pilots need to carry can weigh up to 35 pounds, but an iPad weighs only 1.5 pounds, so using an iPad as an electronic flight bag can save paper and pilots’ backs. American Airlines (AA) and the Allied Pilots Association (APA) are testing the use of iPads to replace paperwork and navigation maps, the Washington Post reports.

The final testing phase began on June 17 with Los Angeles based pilots using iPads on two flights bound for Shangai and Tokyo. The testing will occur for six months. A spokesperson for American Airlines said it is testing the use of iPads from “gate to gate during all phases of flight.”

American Airlines estimates that replacing paperwork with iPads could reduce fuel costs by about $1.2 million a year. Other benefits of using iPads include:

  • Providing pilots with electronic charting capability, which gives them a digital image of flight routes
  • Giving more accurate information which may help reduce flight delays
  • Improving employee safety because pilots will not be carrying 35 pound flight bags


“The tablets simulate what we do in the paper world, but makes it much easier to load the pages you want and not lose or misplace anything,” said AA Capt. David Clark. “With the navigational maps, you can expand the image to see it more clearly, you can see pathways more clearly, and that can be an advantage at complicated airports like LAX,” he said.

“By eliminating bulky flight bags filled with paper, EFBs mean less weight for pilots to carry, reducing the possibility of injury on duty,” First Officer Hank Putek, a member of the APA Safety Committee said. “In addition, they enable pilots to immediately download updates, rather than waiting for paper versions of required documents to be printed and distributed.”

Other airlines testing iPads

Alaska Airlines began distributing iPads to its pilots earlier this month. The airline had a successful test by 100 line and instructor pilots this past winter and spring. The iPads given to the pilots includes the GoodReader app, which will be loaded with PDF versions of all the necessary paperwork. Alaska Airlines estimates it could save 2.4 million pieces of paper by using iPads.

Executive Jet Management announced in February it received authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to use the Jeppesen Mobile TC App for iPad as an alternative to paper aeronautical charts.

“Executive Jet Management was pleased to collaborate with Jeppesen and the FAA on this leading-edge iPad EFB solution and to support the introduction of this technology to the industry,” said Executive Jet Management President Robert Garrymore.

U.S. Marine Corps pilots in Afghanistan are using iPads containing maps, the Shephard Group reports. Marine Corps pilots have used iPads with digital maps since November.

“It’s a game changer,” said Capt John Belsha. “In the past we have had to carry all the paper charts and the grid reference graphics we use as a reference for the ground forces in the area.”

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by

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