We’ve mentioned Alaska and United Airlines’ approval to use iPads to replace bulky flight manuals in the cockpit. Now American Airlines is following suit. CNet reports that, unlike those airlines, American has received FAA approval to use the iPads at any time during a flight—including during takeoff and landing.

As with the other airlines, the airline expects replacing 40-lb paper manuals with 1-lb iPads to save a considerable amount of fuel—as much as 500,000 gallons per year. (Which makes me wonder just how much fuel they’re using if just dropping 40 lbs can save that much. How long until it all runs out?)

Of course, even if the airline pilots are using iPads from before takeoff to after landing, they still won’t let passengers do the same.

The F.A.A. did say it had limited the number of approved devices in the cockpit to two, one for each pilot. “This involves a significantly different scenario for potential interference than unlimited passenger use, which could involve dozens or even hundreds of devices at the same time,” the F.A.A. said in the statement.

Now is that fair?


  1. I sure wish the FAA or NTSB would continue to test this issue; I suspect that there are a very few devices that somehow interfere with plane systems… but not knowing which one, I understand why they limit electronics use, even if their data is anecdotal.

    Airports need a sort of test when checking through security or before boarding, during which you have to bring your powered-on device within close proximity to a sensor that will pick up any interference in a certain wavelength or strength corresponding to that of plane systems. If your device triggers the sensor, it would therefore also interfere with plane systems, so it must be powered off during the entire flight. (I can imagine the airlines forcing you to put the device into a sealed signal-proof bag and remove it after you disembark, just to make sure.)

    Of course, plane electronics can also be built-up and better shielded, to prevent interference from electronic devices, but as I’m sure a sensor device would be cheaper to design and implement, I’d bet on the former to happen before the latter.

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