Airline Pilots Ditch Paper for iPads and Save Millions in Fuel

Pilots have to carry up to 35 pounds of paper on every flight. Leaving it behind makes a ton of sense.

At least two airlines are switching from paper to iPads in the cockpit, Marketwatch reports.

Doling out gadgets may seem more like a recruiting perk than a sustainability decision, but pilots have to carry up to 35 pounds of paper with them in the cockpit on each flight. Swapping out those manuals, maps, and other documents to lighten the load could add up to $1.2 million in fuel savings, according to American Airlines.

Alaska Airlines was the first company to ditch paper back in May. They say use of the GoodReader iPad app, which has PDFs of 41 manuals the pilots need, will save 2.4 million pages of paper and make updating the documents much easier. Maps are still in paper form though.

American Airlines is testing the iPad plan right now, with maps as well as manuals loaded onto iPads. As Jaymi Heimbuch points out on Tree Hugger, factoring in the transportation cost of paper versus a tablet changes the environmental comparisons of the two media, which usually focus on electricity use.

Open source-addicted pilots will have to wait a bit, because Android apparently doesn't cut it in the cockpit. The FAA-approved flight charting app only works in Apple's iOS.

The amount of fuel saved though, is still a drop in the bucket compared to how much jet fuel each flight burns through. To actually address the sustainability of air travel, we need way more serious strategies than lightening the cockpit file cabinet.

Image: Alaska Airlines


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