Apple's iPad my soon find its way onto your next commercial flight, and not just in the cabin as an entertainment device. Major airlines and a charter jet company are considering using the tablet as a way to replace paper navigation charts and laptops both on the ground and during flight.
So far, no U.S. airline has adopted iPads exclusively, but Delta Airlines and Alaska Airlines are testing the device for navigational purposes. Alaska spokeswoman Maryanne Lindsay told the Seattle Times that the carrier is running a trial program with a select group of pilots. Calls made by CNET to the Alaska Airlines press office were not returned at the time of this writing.
Switching to iPads or other tablet devices would cut down on paper, and on the equipment pilots have to carry. While some specially designed laptops, or "electronic flight bags," can weigh up to 18 pounds, the current iPad weighs just just 1.5 pounds (the recently announced iPad 2 is a tad lighter). What's more, it should save airlines money as well.
Yes, there's an app for that
To power the iPads, Englewood-Colo.-based Jeppesen has developed an iPad app called Mobile TC that delivers electronic charts (available now for free in the iTunes App Store). At the the time of this writing, Mobile TC covers only airport terminal charts, but Jeppesen spokesman Brian Rantala told CNET that the app will be expanded to cover in flight use.
Last month, the Federal Aviation Administration authorized private jet charter Executive Jet Management to begin using the app as an alternative to paper aeronautical charts. A wholly owned subsidiary of Boeing, Jeppesen also developed an iPhone and iPad app called CrewAlert manage airline crew fatigue.
And back in the cabin, Qantas subsidiary Jetstar is close to using iPads as in-flight entertainment units on selected Airbus A320 and A330 aircraft. Though JetStar initially announced its iPad plans last summer, Flightglobal reported today that the airlines airline has compiled a presentation for major movie studios.