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Pilot Use of e-Manuals on Tablet Devices Approved for Flying

Updated on November 16, 2016
janderson99 profile image

Dr. John applies his scientific (PhD) research skills & 30 years experience as an inventor & futurist to review technology, apps, software.

Have you ever wondered what pilots carry in those black bags with wheels that most pilots and co-pilots carry through the airport and take into the cockpit?

Perhaps they are carrying a change of clothes, or other personal items.

However, this is not correct, the bags contain the bulky pilot manuals and reference materials the pilot may need to refer to during the flight.

There may be 20 kg (40 pounds) of such reference materials that the pilot and engineer/co-pilot need to carry.

The pile of manuals include the operating manual for the aircraft, various safety checklists, logbooks for the aircraft, weather information, navigation charts, airport information and other materials and manuals.

The Federal Aviation Administration (F.A.A) in the USA has authorized several charter and commercial carriers to use tablet computers such as the iPad as an electronic flight bag to allow the reference material to be found more easily and to save weight. Will this become the accepted procedure?

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Use of iPads and Smartphone Apps by Pilots

A wide range of apps have been developed that enhance the standard paper manuals by providing lots of extra information.

The e-manuals and are generally much easier to use than avionics installed in aircraft and have enhanced capability.

The apps can be used to run various general aviation tasks that simplify preflight planning and assist with in-flight operations.

As well as the standard e-manuals, pilots can download more than 200 aviation apps and tools for the iPad and other tablets.

One app called ForeFlight is very popular and is one of the top income earners on iTunes.

Other similar and very popular products are Jeppesen Mobile TC, WingX and Garmin My-Cast.

ForeFlight is a wonderful app that helps pilots develop and file detailed flight plans. It also provides maps, airport information, electronic versions of aeronautical charts and weather - all in a easy to use layout.

The GPS tool installed on some tablet devices can be used to track the aircraft's progress and path during the flight.

The iPad allows pilots to rapidly and efficiently get all the information stored on the piles of manuals they have to drag out of their black bags and saves time and weight on the aircraft.

The e-manuals are much enhanced version of the paper ones that include color graphics and hyperlinks to enhance the pilot's ability to find information easily and rapidly.

The e-manuals can be updated in a breeze, and avoids the tedious tasks of having to insert new pages into the paper manuals.

With the e_manuals and iPad the updates are downloaded automatically as soon as they are available.

It also avoids the risk that pilots may not have manually update their manuals.

Using iPad manuals has other benefits, by potentially reducing the risks of having to carry and lift heavy bags.

Is the Use of iPads by Pilots Approved?

American Airlines has also gained approval from F.A.A. for its pilots to use the iPad to read aeronautical charts.

However under the rules of the F.A.A, pilots still have to shut down and store their iPads during takeoff, taxiing and landing because of the risk the tablets could impair the functioning of in-built onboard electronics.

The reliability of the iPad is also an issue, that needs to be tested, especially in emergency situations when the devices could be subjected to rapid decompression and other hazards.

Also there is the reliability and charge of the battery!.

Corporate and Private aircraft pilots do not have to go through the same approval process that applies for the major commercial airlines. Under F.A.A. regulations, individual pilots take the responsible for deciding what technologies are appropriate and safe for use in the cockpit. Consequently, iPads are rapidly becoming widely used tools in smaller planes.

This is but one of the many potential ways that iPads and Tablets, and smart phones are transforming the ways we do things.

© 2011 Dr. John Anderson

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