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Blog |  8 min read

How The IPad Is Redefining Aviation

What's the last industry on earth you'd expect to welcome the iPad with open arms? The aviation industry is definitely a top contender. Their most sacred rule, after all, is that all personal electronics are turned off for take off and landing. Break it at your own peril.

But that's exactly what they're doing. Airlines are replacing the checklists, manuals and maps their pilots use to keep them in the sky with user-friendly iPad apps. And so far these changes have been a roaring success. They've helped the airlines save some money, and they've helped an industry renowned for being a gas-guzzler shrink down its carbon footprint.

Killing two birds with one stone: going green and saving millions

Large airlines have hundreds of aircrafts in their stable at any one time. And each one comes with an array of manuals, maps, layouts, and more. Lots and lots of paper basically. United Airlines pilots, for example, used to take bags full of such things with them wherever they went. They weighed 45 lbs.

But life is much easier now that they've replaced bulky bags with feather-light, user-friendly iPads. They estimate they'll save around 16 million sheets of paper a year. That's 1,500+ trees of paper every single year. The weight reduction equates to a total of 326,000 gallons of fuel every year, which is a saving of just over half a million dollars. And that's in fuel alone.

Economics aside, the huge decrease in paper and fuel consumption will have an immensely positive impact. Not just on the environment -- which it will -- but on the airline's image. And maybe even survival.

Consumers are becoming more and more environmentally conscious, and the airlines proudly waving the green flag will do themselves a huge favour in the long run. And over the next few years, governments will more than likely make life harder and harder for the airlines who don't do put in the effort to lessen their impact on the environment. 

Easier access to information keeps crew members happy and improves productivity

In the past, when pilots needed information on the airport they were going to, or the approach they'd be taking, they'd have to take a huge binder out of their bags and spend a while -- sometimes in near total darkness -- flipping through the pages to get the right information.

It was a hassle, and once they located the information they needed, digesting it was a pain in itself. The paper charts weren't exactly user-friendly.

The iPad saves them from that hassle. Now, all they have to do is open the app and press a few buttons. They have all of the information they could ever possibly need right at their fingertips. And unlike the binders of days gone by, the information is presented in a way that's easy to digest.

As well as being easier to use than binders -- which goes a long way towards keeping pilots happy and motivated -- the apps are updated in real-time. So not only is the data that pilots rely on easier to access, it's more accurate too, which at a few thousand feet in the air with potentially hundreds of lives hanging in the balance, is right up there on the list of priorities.

That’s not to say that replacing paper with technology doesn’t come with some risks that need to be carefully managed.

Like anything, technology has its own challenges and needs to be carefully managed

Every step forward comes with its own risks. Adopting iPads as a paper replacement is no different. Some of the inherent risks are trivial, but others need careful attention.

No one knows this more than American Airlines. In April this year, 74 of their flights were grounded for several hours. Their pilots couldn't access the maps they used on their iPads to navigate the airport runways. The problem wasn't with the iPads themselves; it was with the 3rd party software they were using.

They had to return to the airport gates and get a decent WiFi connection to fix the problem, which was just a case of updating the app. Hearing the captain announce that he needed to turn back round to get a stronger WiFi connection must have caused some pretty puzzled looks on passengers' faces.

The airlines using these apps are reliant on the technology to perform. The lesson for enterprises looking to use mobile apps to drive productivity in their own organisations is to ensure that they have an experienced and trusted provider that can mitigate any risks to the business. When it comes to mobile apps in aviation, replacing paper with iPads has been a huge success, and the results will only get more impressive over time.

Learn more about how Mobility as a Service (MaaS) from Certus can help you deploy custom apps for your enterprise.

by Ben Lawton

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