Goodbye flight bag. Hello iPad

Those heavy-looking black bags airline pilots carry are filled with lots of paper — from an aircraft operating manual and safety checklists to logbooks and airport diagrams.

More pilots are carrying an iPad instead, The New York Times reports.

The Federal Aviation Administration has let a handful of commercial and charter carriers use a tablet computer as an electronic flight bag.

“The iPad allows pilots to quickly and nimbly access information,” Jim Freeman, a pilot and director of flight standards at Alaska Airlines, told The Times. “When you need to a make a decision in the cockpit, three to four minutes fumbling with paper is an eternity.”

Alaska Airlines received FAA approval in May to let all of its pilots consult digital flight, systems and performance manuals on the iPad — cutting about 25 pounds of paper from each flight bag. Switching to the iPad can remove roughly 60 pounds of paper from the cockpit, a significant savings in paper, printing and fuel costs (because planes are lighter).

It also can reduce health care costs and absenteeism from shoulder and back injuries related to hoisting heavy flight bags, David Clark, a pilot and manager of the connected aircraft program at American Airlines, said in The Times report.

American won FAA approval last month for its pilots to use the iPad to read aeronautical charts. Last year, American received authorization to use the device instead of paper reference manuals.

“Each [commercial] airline must submit a unique proposal on how they want to use the iPad and prove that both the device and software application are safe and effective for that proposed use,” John W. McGraw, the FAA’s deputy director of flight standards, told The Times.

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