United Airlines converts to iPads

The end of the PC era proceeds apace.

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.

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20 Responses to United Airlines converts to iPads

  1. Bubblehead Les says:

    However, United will have to spend $28 million a year in Advertising to TELL everyone that they are going “Green” by using iPads. ; )

  2. Jake says:

    They just need to remember to keep them charged. It would really suck to be pulling up the “loss of engine power” checklist and suddenly have the iPad shut down because somebody forgot to plug it in.

  3. kx59 says:

    Jake’s scenario is worse than what I was thinking: My first thought was “can’t wait for the flight delay due to the navigator not having the FAA required power cord for the ipud.” I’ve been delayed because the FAA required trash can was missing from the plane.

  4. Borepatch says:

    This is like heading out to sea without your paper charts “because you have a GPS Chartplotter”.

    Paper is like a gun: if you don’t need it, you don’t need it at all. If you need it, you need it BAD and RIGHT NOW.

    This is bad, bad juju.

  5. gator says:

    What Borepatch said… bad, bad. I wonder what’s the MTBF for an iPad?

  6. Old NFO says:

    I’m betting they will require they be plugged in the entire flight… Just sayin…

  7. Keeping a lithium-ion battery-powered device like a laptop or iPad constantly plugged in and charging is a sure way to kill your battery. I cannot tell you how many times I had someone call in tech support just past the 1-year battery warranty expiration date. They’d left their laptop plugged in for a year and went to use it on battery to find that the battery was toast.

    So to keep them plugged in, they’ll have to adhere to a frequent battery change schedule. And, since the batteries aren’t easily accessible for service, this means specialized technicians and man-hours spent changing batteries. Then there’s the disposal of all those environmentally-unfriendly batteries.

    Seems like the fuel savings will likely be offset by maintenance and disposal costs.

  8. alan says:

    I’ve had an iPad for over a year now and it’s easy to manage the battery. You use it until it needs recharging and then you plug it in and let it recharge. When it’s charged you take it off the charger.

    There’s no need to keep it on a charger and even with constant use the battery lasts for 10 hours or longer.

  9. Jim says:

    My guess is BOTH members of the flight crew will have an iPad. So it is twice as likely that one will fail and half as likely that both will fail.

  10. Dwight Brown says:

    “…approximately 38 pounds of paper operating manuals, navigation charts, reference handbooks, flight checklists, logbooks and weather information in a pilot’s flight bag.”

    I’m not a pilot, and I’m curious. Maybe Old NFO or someone who knows more than I do can answer this: do those black bags that pilots carry around with them really weigh 38 pounds?

  11. Alan, I’m quite aware of how to properly manage a battery. My laptop batteries generally last around 5 years before they need replacement.

    However, I see bureaucracy requiring that they always be fully charged, since they’re essential devices. You don’t want to lose power and have your manual run out of battery, you know.

  12. Jake says:

    It’s not even the battery management issue – it’s managing Finagle’s Law. You know that the one time you really need a critical manual or checklist will be the one time that everybody’s iPad has a dead battery because they didn’t get plugged in when they needed it.

    @ Dwight: I could be wrong, but I assume a good portion of that weight is stuff that stays with the aircraft – manuals and checklists specific to that particular model or variant, or for avionics that one plane has that is a slightly different model than others in the fleet, for example. That way a pilot doesn’t end up accidentally using the checklist for the 747-100 he flew last week on the 747-400 he’s currently flying.

    Which makes me wonder how they plan to address that possibility with the iPads. Will they be assigned to the crewmembers, or to the aircraft?

  13. Phssthpok says:


    So what happens when a rogue solar flare EMP’s the plane’s systems?

  14. alan says:

    It crashes.

  15. Bill says:

    I love me my IPad, but I don’t count on it getting me to my vacation spot in my car, much less count on it for vital information regarding piloting a plane in 3 dimensional space and dealing with potential failures.

    This will end badly.

  16. alan says:

    They’re not using it for navigation. They’re using it for all the reams of documentation the pilots usually carry around with them.

  17. Bill says:

    I wasn’t implying they were, sorry it wasn’t clear. I was trying to say I wouldn’t count on it working to get me to something as unimportant as my vacation spot, much less something critical.

    The fact that they will rely on it to help with inflight emergencies is scary.

    PS, what happens on flights that last longer than 10 hours?

  18. DirtCrashr says:

    Two is one and one is zero…

  19. Matthew Thull says:

    first time commenter: my question is will this mean that I can keep my tablet on during take off landing if they could possibly be referencing theirs during the same time?

  20. alan says:

    I would bet no, you still can’t use yours.

Comments are closed.