Have you ever wondered why flight crews all carried those bulky, black flight bags into the cockpit and what was in them? It is not a change of clothes but reams of reference material needed for the flight — lots of it. They include the aircraft’s operating manual, safety checklists, logbooks for entering airplane performance data, navigation charts, weather information and airport diagrams.
Tablet computers and mobile apps continue to show up in places that are unlikely but also possess the potential to be radically remade to become more cost and time efficient. A recent landing spot for mobile technologies has been the cockpits of commercial airlines the world over.
American Airlines was the first commerical carrier to win regulatory approval for pilots to use iPads as electronic flight bags for aviation regulations, manuals and other paperwork they carry. Every other large commercial carrier has followed suit and will in the near future.
The Fort Worth-based airline estimated that removing pilots’ 35-pound bags from planes will save at least 400,000 gallons of fuel a year and $1.2 million in fuel costs a year. The initial phase of the program eliminated 24 million pages of paper as more than 8,000 Apple iPads were distributed to flight crews.
Customer care is also a beneficiary of mobile technology as American put tablets in the hands of 16,000+ flight attendants so they can access customer information during flights and use the tablets for in-flight transactions.
The Federal Aviation Administration has continued to authorize commercial and charter carriers to use the tablet computer as a so-called electronic flight bag. Private pilots, too, are now carrying iPads, which support hundreds of general aviation apps that simplify preflight planning and assist with in-flight operations.
Tablets allow pilots to quickly and nimbly access information,which can be critical when they need to a make a decision in real-time in the cockpit and minutes spent fumbling with paper can become stressful.
The electronic manuals accessed via the tablets include hyperlinks and color graphics to help pilots find information quickly and easily whilealso obvaiting the tedium of updating the manuals by swapping out old pages with new ones because updates are downloaded automatically.
Beyond the efficiency and cost savings that the tablet and apps bring to operation of the airplances, switching to the tablets is also expected to reduce health care costs and absenteeism from shoulder and back injuries associated with hoisting heavy flight bags. Airplane cockpits are small and awkward lifting in the confined area can cause damage, particularly when you consider a lot of pilots are over 40.
Cabin crews can also use tablets to process digital versions of passenger incident forms, seat defect forms,customer feedback and an array of other paper workduring downtime on the aircraft. They can also use their tablets to access digital training and certification courses, making the most of the time spent inflight.
As more and more systems within the industry go mobile, the potential to personalize the passenger experience will continue to grow. So, too, will the opportunity to increase efficiency, while reducing operational costs.
There’s no doubt that the power of tablets will continue to transform a wide array of airline operations. When combined with the right applications, connectivity and management, tablets present huge opportunities for the industry.