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The New York Times reports that the FAA has approved a limited number of pilots to begin using the iPad as an "electronic flight bag." Using the iPad, loaded with aviation apps that can handle both preflight planning as well as in-flight operations, is preferable for a growing number of pilots who want to lighten their little black bags. Those bags usually contain as much as 40 pounds of binders and documents, including "the aircraft’s operating manual, safety checklists, logbooks for entering airplane performance data, navigation charts, weather information, airport diagrams, and maybe a book of KenKen puzzles thrown in for good measure."
According to the article, Alaska Airlines has already issued iPads to all of its pilots, and received initial clearance from the FAA in May to allow pilots to consult manuals on the device. Now entering what Alaska Airlines calls "Operation Bye Bye," the airline received clearance in June to allow pilots to consult the iPad for aeronautical charts. American Airlines and the private airline Executive Jet Management have also been cleared by the FAA for its pilots to take off and use the iPad in the cockpit.
This is not a blanket approval for all airlines, however. The FAA's deputy director of flight standards, John W. McGraw, states that “Each 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.”
What is perhaps most significant for those of us who fly often with the iPad is that the FAA has determined pilots do not have to shut off and stow their iPads during takeoff and landing. Apparently, the iPad will not interfere with onboard electronics. Hopefully that will trickle down to the rest of us in coach and we can continue to consume media all the way to the gate.