As part of an effort to use technology to enhance flight safety, improve efficiency and protect the environment, Alaska Airlines is issuing 1.5lb Apple...

As part of an effort to use technology to enhance flight safety, improve efficiency and protect the environment, Alaska Airlines is issuing 1.5lb Apple iPad tablet computers to its pilots to replace up to 25lb of paper flight manuals that pilots are required to carry when they fly.

Alaska Airlines
is distributing the iPads to all its pilots, a process that the carrier says will be complete by mid-June. The move 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 carrier says it is the first major U.S. domestic airline to use the iPad to replace paper manuals.

“We’ve been exploring the idea of an electronic flight bag for several years, but never found a device we really liked,” says Gary Beck, Alaska Airlines’ vice president of flight operations. “When the iPad hit the market, we took one look at it and said this is the perfect fit.”

Alaska Airlines has taken the decision to equip all its pilots with iPads (each weighing 1.5lb) to use as electronic flight bags, thereby saving about 2.4 million pieces of paper. Use of iPads as electronic flight bags also means the pilots don't have to cart around traditional flight bags stuffed with paper manuals and navigational charts, the fully loaded bags weighing as much as 50lb

The iPads contain an app called GoodReader, which 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 paper 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.

In conjunction with replacing paper manuals, Alaska Airlines is exploring the replacement of paper aeronautical navigation charts with electronic versions of the charts on the iPad, eliminating the need for every pilot to carry their own copies of charts. The two initiatives, dubbed “Bye, Bye, Flight Bag,” will save about 2.4 million pieces of paper, according to Alaska Airlines.

The carrier expects the cost of the project to be offset by lower paper, printing and distribution expenses and reduced fuel consumption as some weight is removed from the aircraft. It also expects further savings from fewer back and muscle injuries to pilots caused by them having to carry flight bags which can tip the scales at 50lb or more fully loaded with manuals, reference cards and navigational charts.

Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air, subsidiaries of Alaska Air Group, together serve 90 cities throughout Alaska, the Lower 48 U.S. states, Hawaii, Canada and Mexico.