news Pilots on the nation’s biggest airline Qantas will shortly starting using iPads to access the wide range of operational information they need to do their job instead of printed paper, under a partnership announced today between the airline and telco partner Telstra.
In a statement this morning, Telstra said that Qantas currently prints 18,000 pages of paper for flight operations every day. The full introduction of iPads for pilots on the flight deck will see this reduced to just 3,000 pages. The weight of the paper flight library carried on board will drop by 20 kilograms.
“Ultimately, more than 2,200 64GB iPads will be distributed to all domestic and international Qantas pilots on all fleet types,” Telstra wrote. “Beginning with Qantas’ Boeing 737 fleet, pilots will be able to access a wide range of operational information via iPads rather than using bulky paper documents – including charts, flight plans, manuals and forms.”
The telco said the iPads would be used to keep pilots up-to-date with critical flight data and each one would be equipped with two native apps that had been developed for cockpit use – one for charts by Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen and one by Qantas itself for all other necessary information. Telstra will integrate the iPads as part of its broader relationship with Qantas.
Additionally, on the ground in Australia, Telstra will connect pilots using its NextG network, while international on-ground connectivity will draw on Telstra’s global Wi-Fi partner network. The airline hopes to begin introducing iPads for pilots by September 2012, subject to regulatory approval, with implementation expected to take three to four weeks per fleet type with a transition period when certain paperwork is still carried on board, as pilots familiarise themselves with the new systems.
Qantas Technical Pilot, Captain Alex Passerini, said the iPad initiative was in keeping with Qantas’ history of innovation and commitment to new technology. “Qantas has always strived to lead the way in flight operations technology, be it our pioneering of the Future Air Navigation System in the 1990s or our work with on-board satellite navigation today,” he said. “The revolutionary capabilities of iPad technology, combined with the powerful customized apps, give our pilots the ability to replace cumbersome hard copies – saving time, resources and costs.
“This initiative is a response to strong demand from our pilots for a simpler, more efficient system, and follows extensive testing and development work, including close consultation with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).” The news comes as organisations around Australia are increasingly dumping paper as a mechanism for transporting and viewing sensitive documents.
In July 2011, the Queensland Government revealed plans to become the first government in Australia to dump the traditional cabinet briefing bags full of paper documents and issue all of its ministers with iPads instead, for electronic access to the same information. Westpac’s executive team is one of many private sector corporations to have done the same.
This sounds like a logical step for Qantas, although one does hope that there is a consistent policy around charging the iPads and making sure they have enough battery life for those long voyages. It could end up being a bit tricky if the airplans runs into turbulence and loses power, if the iPads are not charged on an ongoing basis and the pilots need to refer to important operational documents. One also wonders whether Qantas will mandate that the pilot iPads be switched off for landing/takingoff, as the airline continues to require with passenger devices.
Image credit: Star Trek: The Next Generation