We have seen a number of airlines trial iPad-based electronic flight bags. A regular flight bag, the one you see pilots pull behind them at the airport consists of all the necessary ground maps, in-flight charts and manuals they need to get you safely from one point to another – that’s 12,000 sheets of paper in total. Now, United is the first airline to completely switch to iPad-based flight bags for all of its pilots. By the end of the year, all United and Continental pilots will have switched to iPads loaded with Jeppesen’s Mobile FliteDeck software. This software, by the way, is freely available in the app store for anybody, though you have to pay a subscription fee to get access to all of Jeppesen’s data.
FliteDeck only launched in July, so United is definitely on the cutting edge here. It’s interesting that United chose to go with the iPad-based Mobile FliteDeck, as the company is only marketing this product to general and business aviation customers. For commercial customers, the company offers FliteDeck Pro, which runs on Windows-based tablets PCs.
To get an idea of what Mobile FliteDeck looks like in practice, here is a short introduction video from Jeppesen:
In total, United expects to save about 326,000 gallons of fuel by using iPads instead of heavy paper manuals. On an airplane, after all, keeping every extra pound up in the air costs money.
It’s worth noting that United is relatively far behind when it comes to bringing WiFi to its fleet, so chances are that your pilot will actually use the iPad for its designated purpose and won’t be watching YouTube videos. It’s also worth noting that these tablet-based systems are really just stop-gap solutions, as both Airbus and Boeing, as well as various third-party manufacturers offer built-in electronic flight bags that integrate with the airplane’s existing screens and avionics systems. Chances are, if you are flying on a modern Airbus today, for example, your pilots have a full keyboard to access all this data as a built-in solution already.