Flying By iPad

Wednesday, August 24, 2011 - 9:02am

United Airlines pilots use iPads to help navigate planes.

All United and Continental pilots will soon use iPads to help navigate their planes.

It's part of an effort to go paperless in the cockpit.

The airline is starting with 11,000 tablets that use a digital version of the same navigation charts typically printed on hundreds of sheets of paper, which means pilots can quickly access critical information.

The iPads are loaded with software developed by Jeppesen, the same company that prints paper navigational charts.

Instead of waiting for paper charts to get shipped by mail, pilots can receive updated and current charts automatically over the web.

General aviation pilots have been able to use the Mobil Flight App for some time now, but United is the first major international network carrier to go paperless.

In May, Alaska Airlines was the first U.S. domestic airline to start testing iPads for navigation charts and aircraft manuals. Delta Air Lines also recently started testing iPads.

Aside from being able to access information quicker, the iPads are considerably lighter than the thousands of pages of paper pilots typically have to carry.

A typical binder filled with navigation charts, aircraft manuals and performance data can weigh close to 40 pounds.

United Continental says an iPad weighs only about a pound and a half.

Without all that paper, the airline hopes to save 326,000 gallons of jet fuel a year, and annually save nearly 16 million sheets of paper.

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