On Tuesday United Airlines announced it is ordering 11,000 iPads for its pilots, to replace paper flight manuals and navigation charts. All told that’s 12,000 sheets of paper per pilot that United will no longer be ordering, saving hundreds of thousands of gallons of fuel per year.


Following the FAA’s OK of using the iPad instead of paper manuals and charts, United is getting on board. On Tuesday the airline announced that it is ordering 11,000 iPads for its pilots to use in the cockpit. Each iPad will be loaded with navigation and terminal chart apps from Jeppesen Mobile FliteDeck.

Besides the convenience of fewer books and pieces of paper floating around, United says the cost and efficiency of flying will be affected for the better too. The normal 38 pounds of paper flight manuals, charts, reference handbooks, checklists, log books and weather info will be bumped in favor of a 1.5-pound iPad, which should severely lighten pilots’ load. All told that’s 12,000 sheets of paper per pilot that United will no longer be ordering, the airline says.

As a result, United says it will reduce fuel consumption too:

The airline projects EFBs will save nearly 16 million sheets of paper a year which is equivalent to more than 1,900 trees not cut down. Saving 326,000 gallons of jet fuel a year reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 3,208 metric tons.

So with all that extra weight reduced and fuel saved, does that mean it will start charging less for passenger baggage fees? That’s probably wishful thinking.

We’ll be talking a lot more about how the iPad and other tablets are changing the enterprise at our Mobilize event in San Francisco next month.

Image courtesy of Flickr user adpowers

  1. Hmm, having had a couple of bad experiences with iPads and airports this makes me nervous… one more thing to give them an excuse to delay flights… http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/02/business/microblogging-the-frustrations-of-flight-frequent-flier.html?_r=2&ref=business

  2. What’s their backup if the iPads happen to conk out in flight? The things only have a track record of a couple of years so far…

  3. For me this is disturbing. Paper manual is more reliable than the ipad. Lithium batteried will fail eventually. If that happens no manual then mistakes then disaster. (added by Mobile using Mippin)

  4. My question is will they be required to turn these devices off during takeoff and landing. If not does that make the case for allowing passengers to keep theirs on too?

  5. Folks – you know they can get electricity on planes now? I’m not familiar with what United are planning on doing, but I’m guessing a docking station will figure in the equation somewhere along the lines and there’ll be more than one iPad per plane? Maybe one per cockpit crew member would seem reasonable. It’s electronic components and it runs on electricity – there’s quite alot of that in a plane nowadays.

  6. Sorry – that sounds more sarcastic than it was supposed to – I think we should trust in some software and hardware and backup means of doing business.

  7. Marshall Clark Tuesday, August 23, 2011

    I wonder if they have to turn them off during takeoff and landing?

    1. I’m gonna guess no. But fair question. :)

  8. And in reality the airline saves practically nothing. You only need ONE passenger with a spare 38lbs of junk in the trunk…

  9. Lindsworth Horatio Deer Tuesday, August 23, 2011

    Excellent idea. I hope Airlines around the world copy this. Even nicer would be free subsidized Apple iPads for persons with subscriptions of five (5) years or longer !! Save a great deal more paper this way and a few less trees or a need for recycling. Solutions for world seeking change….


  10. James Steadman Tuesday, August 23, 2011

    So do the pilots have to turn off their ipads during take off and landing too?

  11. Hard wired in the cockpit and uploaded / updated at a maintenance station. Soon they will be a part of the cockpit display only thing though is will have to be one of the functional instrument on all engine out senarios..

  12. The Regular Joe Wednesday, August 24, 2011

    I totally get it. off course I would trade more leg room so the pilot can have an iPad

  13. Banning fat people from flights would save the environment more

  14. John Harrington, Jr. Wednesday, August 24, 2011

    Whether its the airlines, the military, educational institutions, or businesses across the country, people are finding ways to make good use of the iPad in the workplace. The widespread use of these tablets does however pose some cause for concern when it comes to accessing email, contacts, calendars and data. Fiberlink recently held a webinar on the topic of enabling iPads in the workplace. View it here to figure out how to introduce tablets to your workplace the right way: http://bit.ly/ovkBzR

  15. I am a pilotfor Continental/United Airlines and this is great news. There is always one set of paper back up charts and manuals in one kit that will stay in each individual airplane is stead of all three or four of us pilots having each of our own 45 lb flight bag. It will never be an EXCUSE to delay a flight. We want to have a safe and efficient trip so we can go home far far away from a terminal.

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