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FAA Approves iPad as Paper Flight Chart Substitute

Posted by Zack | Posted in Consumer Electronics | Posted on 01-03-2011

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pilotsIs there anything the iPad can’t do? Apparently not, considering it just might take the place of paper maps and flight charts. Since the invention of flight, pilots have used paper maps to navigate. Even in our advanced technological world with GPS systems and advanced avionics, pilots still hauled around nearly 20 pounds of charts and maps. But that could all be over soon as these paper maps may become a thing of the past thanks to Steve Jobs and his little toy known as the iPad.

The Federal Aviation Administration, otherwise known as the FAA, is allowing chart company Executive Jet Management to use Apple’s iPad as an approved alternative to paper charts. This authorization follows three months of hard testing and evaluation of the iPad and TC, a map app that was developed by aviation chart-maker Jeppesen.

This latest decision only applies to Executive Jet Management but does have implications for all aviation. By allowing the pilots to use the iPad as a primary source of information, the FAA is acknowledging the potential for consumer tablets to become instruments of avionics. Pilots have been impressed with the iPad since it came out, however, it could not be used in place of traditional paper charts or FAA-approved devices like more expensive, purpose-built flight bags until now. The iPad was decent as a reference but not as a pilot’s only source of information. This new FAA authorization changes that.

You would be surprised at all the things Jeppesen and Executive Jet Management went through in order to be approved by the FAA. The iPad had to go through such tests as rapid-decompression testing from as high as 51,000 feet and other tests to ensure that the device would not interfere with any critical navigation or electronic equipment. Executive Jet tested the iPad and Mobile TC in 10 different aircraft flown by 55 different pilots during 250 flights. While the tests succeeded, there was one thing on everybody’s mind, what if the iPad crashes?

Jeppesen’s Product Manager for Mobile TC app, Jeff Buhl, says that “the Apple iOS operating system and the app proved extremely stable during testing. In the unlikely event of a software crash it takes but a moment to get them running again. The recovery time for an application crashing or the OS crashing is extremely rapid.” During the FAA’s evaluation period, the iPad did not crash once. “But even if it did, it’s ready to go again in 4-6 seconds from re-launch to previous state,” Buhl says.

The FAA did, however, state that each individual operator, Executive Jet Management in this case, needs to develop specific procedures in order to deal with system or software crashes as well as other issues. Under such authorization, Executive Jet Management will require a second approved electronic device, most likely another iPad, in the cockpit as a backup.

Source: CNN – FAA approves iPads for pilots’ electronic charts

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