Alaska Airlines Goes Digital With iPad Flight Manuals

Your average coach airline seat won't have a power outlet, but you can bet the pilots have access to a couple of them. At least, we sure hope they do over at Alaska Airlines, because the company just green-lit a new program that will allow their aircraft to use iPad flight manuals instead of bulky, wasteful paper ones. They're claiming to be the first domestic airline in America to make the switch, and as with paperless billing, we suspect it will only snowball from here. Airlines tend to follow each other, and now that the iPad has their first subject, everyone else is probably considering following suit.

According to the report, a 1.5lb. iPad will replace a 25lb. paper flight manual, and they are being distributed to all Alaska Airlines pilots, with the complete transformation due to be complete by the middle of next month. This follows a successful trial by 100 line and instructor pilots and Air Line Pilots Association representatives, who evaluated the feasibility of using iPads as electronic flight bags this past winter and spring.

The iPads contain an app called GoodReader that is loaded with PDF versions of 41 flight, systems and performance manuals, reference cards, and other materials. The electronic manuals include hyperlinks and color graphics, enabling pilots to find information faster and easier. Updating these reference materials can now be accomplished with one tap on the iPad screen instead of the former, labor-intensive process of replacing individual pages with new ones. The iPad is considered a Class 1 electronic device, meaning it is stowed during takeoff and landing under Federal Aviation Administration regulations. Pretty strange that even pilots have to abide by this (arcane) rule.

In conjunction with replacing paper manuals, Alaska Airlines is exploring the replacement of paper aeronautical navigation charts with electronic versions on the iPad, eliminating the need for every pilot to carry their own copy. The two initiatives, dubbed "Bye, Bye, Flight Bag," will save about 2.4 million pieces of paper. Not too shabby, but hopefully it doesn't lock up or crash mid-flight!