FAA approves Apple iPad for pilot flight charts

iPad used as flight charts

The FAA has given a thumbs up for a flight charter company to begin using the iPad in place of paper flight charts, making it much easier and more efficient for pilots to keep tabs on their flight charts while on the ground and in the air. Wired reports:

The Federal Aviation Administration is allowing charter company Executive Jet Management to use Apple's tablet as an approved alternative to paper charts.

Although this only applies to Executive Jet Management for now, the move will no doubt make waves in the aviation space as additional aviation companies adopt the iPad as a paper replacement. The iPad has been popular among pilots since it debuted last year but so far they've only been able to use it for reference and other unofficial tasks.

The charter company tested the iPad in 10 aircraft across 250 flights to make sure it wouldn't interfere with sensitive electronic flight instruments onboard the aircrafts. They deemed the iPad "extremely stable" during testing without a single crash and added that if there ever were a system crash, the app could be up and running "in 4-6 seconds from re-launch to previous state".

So even though the iPad 2 is about to take off, it looks like the original iPad has secured a solid place in the sky. Any pilots out there excited to hear this? Sound off in the comments below!


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Andrew Wray

Andrew Wray is a Salt Lake City, Utah based writer who focuses on news, how-tos, and jailbreak. Andrew also enjoys running, spending time with his daughter, and jamming out on his guitar. He works in a management position for Unisys Technical Services, a subsidiary of Unisys Corporation.

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Reader comments

FAA approves Apple iPad for pilot flight charts


Since the iPad doesn't intefere with electronic flight equipment, I wonder if they will still require passengers to turn off their iPads on takeoffs and landings.

The FAA requirement to have laptops, eReaders, and such turned off is due to making sure people aren't distracted in the event emergency situations occur. You know people would be in lala land and should something have happened you would hear "What? Huh? Where do I need to be?" and more people could be hurt. And so they aren't flinging out of people's hands in the event of an emergency.
Cell phones - often pilots can hear crackling/interference in their headphones if you are doing stuff on them that is transmitting back to the ground. (ie sending a text as you are coming in to land rather than waiting until the plane is on the ground)
Rather than give the flight crew a hard time about having to quit your game of "Angry Birds" or turning off your iPod, just do it. They don't get paid enough to deal with huffy passengers who feel the device is more important then safety... Plus no one wants to be in the tube any longer than they have to be.

Probably will still require passengers to do it so it's a blanket policy incase people are using wireless data or another device that potentially could interfere.

Yeah, it would be much easier to explain/enforce if it were "all electronic devices" instead of "all non-approved electronic devices"

Exactly. Instead of having to explain to everyone why certain items are considered safe or not, we get just get the flight in the air so all could use their devices.

Breaking News: "pilot runs off the runway while checking his email he claims, on the new iPads, but co-pilot confirms he was also playing Angry Birds."
Can't wait to hear that one.

Note: There are two reasons for having passengers stow their electronics:
1) So passengers can hear emergency instructions (eg. no audio players)
2) So equiptment doesn't become projectiles in an upset.
Otherwise, I don't think the FAA cares.

Oh I'm sure it is a bunch of crap on the interference but the it still seems to be a policy to power devices down and stow things during take offs and landings.
I think the fact the FAA is allowing iPads to be on and even used by pilots is a testament to the magical powers each and every iPad is endowed with at birth/construction ;)

Fact: GSM phones do interfere with the pilots. We can hear the buzzing of the phones trying to connect to a cell tower in our headphones. Other stuff who knows. But can't you turn your stuff of for 5 d#mn minutes, pay attention to the safety briefing that may SAVE YOUR LIFE, and just comply with crew instructions. I know it is so hard to do. What is with the iPod generation that just has to have something shoved in their ears at all times and ignore crew member instructions. Rant over...

What is it with airlines continuing to allow passengers to continually abuse rules?
Take devices away from people who can't follow instructions. Kick passengers off who can't fit their bullshlt into one compartment (or charge them $600 for each additional compartment for their baby strollers, souvenirs, and other nonsense that should be under the aircraft in the first place) so other passengers have a compartment available.
Sell their devices and put them all on the No Fly List, for all I care. Only then, will you see behaviors change. Until then, people will remain ignorant burdens to society.

Forgot to mention any company issued iPads will be locked down so we can't play "Angry Birds" Good thing I have my own! LOL
A tablet device makes sense. It will keep charts up to date, give ability to zoom in on important sections, try reading the Ohare taxi diagram. It is also likely a single set of paper charts will be in the cockpit at all times. We also like tablet devices for company manuals, etc. A major source of On The Job Injuries is from lugging around 45lb chart cases. Get the tablet and some of this pain and hassle will go away.

I currently use my iPad for charts in the cockpit. I can say that a 1.5 pound iPad is sure easier to have in the cockpit instead of books of approach plates. Not to mention that you can keep it up to date electronically at the convenient hotel wifi when on the road, so there is no excuse for outdated charts.

How is this a good idea? They'll be having a sneaky game of Angry Birds when no one's looking.

correct me if I'm wrong but isn't it quite sunny in the cockpit during the day? How they gonna read the maps?

Lisa, most modern airliners have glass cockpits (LCD gauges). Don't see how this could be a problem.

Actually, the FAA gives the operator the right to determine which devices would or would not interfere with the flight, with a few exceptions:
Use by pilots for NAVIGATION, however, is a completely different issue and shows some trust in the technology.
-- Arik

I am a captain on a private corporate aircraft. Over the past three months my first officer and I have transitioned to a paperless cockpit. We both have iPads that we use for flight planning, weather services, charts while enroute, approach plates when we arrive at the destination. The iPad has been extremely reliable and with the long battery life we have never had a problem. We will only go paperless with two iPads in the cockpit with over a 60% charge on departure. The one negative with the ipad is at night the screen doesn't dim low enough in a dark cockpit. Other than that we have loved using the device and if I get bored on route I can always load up some Infinity Blade and kick some butt!

Not sure which app you're using but the newest version of ForeFlight tweaks the dimmer to go lower than the normal Apple levels just because of this.