December 14, 2011

American Airlines First To Allow Pilot iPads on the Flight Deck

Devin Coldewey, writing for TechCrunch:

“If you’re flying American on Friday, there’s a chance your pilot will be using an iPad instead of the traditional paper flight charts. The airline has reportedly become the first major one to get FAA approval for the device, though smaller charter lines have had it for a while. American announced their intention to make the switch back in June, joining Alaska and Delta and probably a few others by now.”

Great news.

Digital, video-displayed instruments replaced analog dials and indicators on the flight decks of modern aircraft years ago. It only makes sense that charting and aircraft manuals follow in that way, appearing in electronic form on the popular iPad.

Presumably these iPads will be used after the doors are closed and the aircraft is moving about the airport, and during the critical departure and arrival and departure phases of flight. The same periods when passengers are admonished to fully shut off anything with a power switch.

It's evident, then, that the prohibition against using electronic devices during critical periods of flight, and during the taxi out to the runway, is all about getting and keeping passengers' attention, and has nothing whatsoever to do with interfering with cockpit equipment.

Getting and keeping passenger attention is essential for effectively communicating emergency instructions on the first try. Why don't airlines just come out and say so?