iPads on the flight decks of Alaska Airlines aircraft

I've talked about iPads for pilots a few times here on TUAW, particularly when discussing kneeboards for the device, but our sister site Engadget just pointed me to a press release from Alaska Airlines that caught my attention.

The airline with the smiling Inuit on the tail has started a pair of initiatives called "Bye, Bye Flight Bag" that replace paper manuals (and eventually paper aeronautical charts) with iPads. The first part of the plan is underway, and the iPads are loaded with the GoodReader app and PDF versions of various flight, systems, and performance manuals as well as other materials. The manuals have been enhanced with hyperlinks so pilots can find information faster, and updates are done with a single tap on the screen instead of replacing individual pages in the manuals with new ones.

Like the iPad you may be carrying back in your comfy seat in the main cabin, the flight deck iPads are considered Class 1 electronic devices and the pilots have to stow 'em during takeoff and landing.

Alaska Airlines expects to fully pay back the cost of the initiatives in terms of reduced fuel costs from not having to carry fully-loaded flight bags, which can weigh up to 50 pounds in some cases. The airline also expects savings from fewer employee injuries since the pilots won't be lugging those hefty flight bags around.

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Alaska Airlines Pilots Go Lean And Green With iPads

First major domestic airline to use iPads to replace flight manuals
5/27/2011 9:12 a.m.

SEATTLE - As part of an ongoing effort to use technology to enhance flight safety, improve efficiency and protect the environment, Alaska Airlines is issuing iPad tablet computers to its pilots. The 1½-pound iPads replace up to 25 pounds of paper flight manuals that pilots are required to carry when they fly.

The iPads are being distributed to all Alaska Airlines pilots, a process that will be complete by mid-June. This 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.

Alaska Airlines is the first major 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," said 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."

The iPads contain an app called GoodReader that 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 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 on the iPad, eliminating the need for every pilot to carry their own copy. The two initiatives, dubbed "Bye, Bye, Flight Bag," will save about 2.4 million pieces of paper.

The cost of the project is expected to be offset by lower paper, printing and distribution expenses and reduced fuel consumption as some weight is removed from the aircraft. Further savings are expected from fewer back and muscle injuries caused by pilots carrying flight bags that can tip the scales at 50 pounds or more fully loaded.

Note to news media: A high-resolution photograph of an Alaska pilot with the iPad on the flight deck of a Boeing 737 is available in the airline's online newsroom image gallery at

Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air, subsidiaries of Alaska Air Group (NYSE: ALK), together serve 90 cities throughout Alaska, the Lower 48, Hawaii, Canada and Mexico. For reservations, visit For more news and information, visit the Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air Newsroom at