American Airlines Pilots See Health Benefits to iPad Use

In its trial for using Apple, Inc.’s iPad as flight manuals, not only is American Airlines saving the environment in not having to print out paper editions as well as receiving a savings in fuel costs, the airliner has claimed recently that the use of the tablet has helped to reduce pilot back injuries from having to carry heavy flight manuals.

Flight bags and flight manuals can weigh up to 40 pounds, and American Airlines became the first commercial airline in the world with FAA approval to switch its entire fleet to using tablets for flight manuals. Tab Times reports that vice president of airline operations technology Patrick O’Keeffe says his company will outfit all 8,600 American Airlines pilots with iPad tablets by the end of May.

The iPad replaces 40 pound kit bags with over 3,000 pages that include terminal charts and flight manuals that can now be updated digitally. It’s little surprise then that the change is being welcomed on all sides.

american-airlines-1968-logo-1024x707It’s still not clear what the medical savings are yet for preventing back injuries as a result of a switch from paper to electronic flight manuals. Compared to the 40-pound flight bag, the iPad weighs under 1.5 pounds and that weight would be even less for the iPad mini. The company had announced it has saved over $1 million in fuel costs annually from the reduction of weight in its flight, leading to the consumption of less fuel.

In addition to the Apple tablet, American Airlines has also begun experimenting with various Samsung products. In the past, the company had used Samsung’s Galaxy Tab tablets in its first class cabin to allow travelers access to in-flight entertainment through the tablet’s 10.1-inch display. American Airlines flight attendants also have access to Samsung’s Galaxy Note phablets to look up gate information, take food orders, and look up seating information.

All 16,000 of American’s crew members worldwide have been given Galaxy Notes. “We’re the first airline to give a tablet to every single crew member,” said O’Keeffe.

While news of American Airlines’ trial of the iPad is promising, it comes at a time when U.S. regulators are pushing the FAA to allow consumers more access to electronic devices. In flight currently, consumers have access to and can use their approved personal electronic devices above 10,000 feet, but they cannot do this while the plane is taking off or landing. Legislatures are hoping to expand this to allow devices like e-readers to be used during the sensitive takeoff and landing period as normal paperback books can still be utilized in this manner.

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