United Continental Holdings, Inc. is converting to paperless flight decks by issuing 11,000 iPads to all United Airlines and Continental Airlines pilots for use...

United Continental Holdings, Inc. is converting to paperless flight decks by issuing 11,000 iPads to all United Airlines and Continental Airlines pilots for use as electronic flight bags.

The electronic flight bags (EFBs) replace paper flight manuals by providing pilots with paperless aeronautical navigational charts through an iPad app. Distribution of iPads began earlier this month, and all pilots will have them by year end.

United Continental says it is the first U.S. major network carrier to use iPads as electronic flight bags, though Alaska Airlines has already issued each of its pilots with an iPad to use as an electronic flight bag.

“The paperless flight deck represents the next generation of flying,” says Captain Fred Abbott, United’s senior vice president of flight operations. “The introduction of iPads ensures our pilots have essential and real-time information at their fingertips at all times throughout the flight.”

The iPads are loaded with Jeppesen Mobile FliteDeck, a leading airline-industry app featuring interactive, data-driven en route navigation information and worldwide geo-referenced terminal charts. The enhanced full-color, high-quality information display ensures the right information is displayed at the right time, according to United Continental.

United Continental Holdings, Inc. has decided to supply all 11,000 of its pilots with iPads to be used as electronic flight bags. The company says this will allow ir to conduct its flight operations with paperless flight decks and thus save time, money and fuel, while also reducing emissions and reducing the risk of muscle injuries to its pilots

Each iPad, which weighs less than 1.5lb, will replace approximately 38lb of paper operating manuals, navigation charts, reference handbooks, flight checklists, logbooks and weather information in a pilot’s flight bag. A conventional flight bag full of paper materials contains an average of 12,000 sheets of paper per pilot.

The green benefits of moving to EFBs are two-fold, according to United Continental: the EFB significantly reduces paper use and printing, and, in turn, reduces fuel consumption. The airline projects its EFBs will save nearly 16 million sheets of paper a year which is equivalent to more than 1,900 trees not cut down.

United Continental Holdings, Inc. estimates that with all its pilots using EFBs it will save 326,000 gallons of jet fuel a year. In turn, this will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 3,208 metric tons.

The airline says that, with iPad EFBs, pilots are able to access reference material  quickly and efficiently without having to thumb through thousands of sheets of paper. Use of EFBs also reduces clutter on the flight deck.

Additionally, says United Continental, its pilots’ work will be streamlined, because they can immediately download updates on iPad to their electronic flight materials rather than waiting for paper updates to be printed and distributed.

Another benefit United Continental expects to see from using EFBs is that by eliminating bulky flight bags loaded with paper, its pilots will have less to lift and carry through airports and onboard the aircraft, reducing the risk of injury while on duty.