Skip to main content

American Airlines gains FAA approval to use iPad in all phases of flight

According to ZDNet, American Airlines is the first Airline to gain FAA approval to use iPads in place of traditional flight charts and manuals during all phases of a flight. American Airlines previously had permission from the FAA to trial the use of iPads with electronic charts during the summer. The successful conclusion of that trial has lead to approval to put the iPads into full service.

On Friday, American Airlines is the first airline in the world to be fully FAA approved to use iPads during all phases of flight. Pilots will use iPads as electronic chart and digital flight manual readers. The airline will begin iPad operations on B-777 aircraft, and then implement across all other fleets. By using electronic charts and manuals, the safety and efficiency on the flight deck is significantly enhanced. Both the iPad I and the iPad II have been approved for use.

Other airlines are also looking into introducing the iPad but it is only American Airlines that has full all phase FAA approval at this stage. The FAA approval came after extensive six months tests and thousands of flying hours by American Airlines.

Source: ZDNet, Image: NYT

UK editor at iMore, mobile technology lover and air conditioning design engineer.

  • So the pilot gets to turn on his ipad during all phases of the flight, but I ave to turn it off during start and landing because it could interfere with the avionics of the plane. This is a complete farce...
  • Not exactly, until now they were testing, so until tests were done no one but them were allowed to use iPads. However I don't think that even now passengers will be allowed to use iPads in all phases of the flight. While the pilots iPads contains the exact software he needs and most likely has all radio turned off, no one can guarantee that all passengers will do the same. A single app that uses the devices radio has the potential to interfere with the flight instruments.
    It would also be difficult for the flight crew to determine which device is an iPad 1 or 2 and which isn't, it would also be hard to explain to a Galaxy Tab owner why he has to shut down his tablet while iPads are aloued to stay on (not to mention that such behavior could be interpreted as advertising for the iPad).
    Modern planes with modern flight instruments are not susceptible to interference from most electronic devices like smartphpones or tablets. There is almost no risk in keeping your mobile phone on, but in order for the airlines to be completely sure that a device cannot interfere with the flight they have to test it, and since they can't test every little gadget that comes out every day the general rule is to shut them all down during take off and landing. It's a "better safe then sorry" rule.
    My advice, keep it off, the safety of your flight is more important then 15 minutes of iPad use, I have no idea why anyone has a problem with this...
  • Not to mention take off and landing could be rough, meaning your iPad could start flying around the cabin injuring people.
  • Contrary to (un)popular belief, the FAA never accrued anything but anecdotal evidence of consumer electronics interfering with flight systems. There isn't a single study which proves a link between the two.
  • As I said, it's a "better safe then sorry" rule, maybe today no consumer electronic can mess up flight systems. But who knows about the one coming out tomorrow? Or the day after that, an so on.
    Sure they could make an effort to somehow mitigate this issue. But what's the point, I don't fly regularly but when I do, I really don't mind having to switch off my iPhone just for takeoff and landing.
    Not to mention that during takeoff and landing you really should be doing nothing else except holding on and making sure your seatbelt is fastened right.
    I cannot understand why people have a problem with this. You are after all flying, doesn't seam like a big deal but it is, and every now and then turbulence and bad weather make flights rougher, that's why all those rules (which are a small price to pay for safety) are in place.
  • And, if the risk is really that great, why are people allowed to have the devices, at all? I can't even bring water on a plane, due to the miniscule chance that I'm a terrorist, instead of thirsty.
    It's not like they make sure the device is off, anyway.
  • @ West
    I never said the risk is great, it's almost non existent, as I've been saying, it's easier to just tell everyone to turn of their devices then making absolutely sure none of those device have the potential to be harmful.
    But I still have to ask. Why is this such a problem? I mean, out of all the wrong things with the flying industry, and life in general, this has to be one of the most insignificant.
    I for one worry about the way to cramped seats on some airlines I flew with. I accept the fact that they are uncomfortable, it is a low cost flight after all, but in the event of even a rougher landing those seats could break my knees. I hate the fact that other airlines can leave you stranded in a foreign country if your flight is canceled and not provide any way for you to return home. Sure once home I can sue them for abandoning me there but I still have to go home on my own.
    Having to switch off my gadget during take off and landing? Come on. Let's say this is a left over rule from a time long ago. So what? How can it possibly affect your trip in any significant way? Why even worry about this?
  • Having my iPad turned off will not stop it from flying around the cabin injuring people.
  • Yea but having it stowed will and that's the other part the flight crew requires you to do.
  • Depending on the model, they have internal GPS chips in the iPads that can be used on Georeferenced approach plates. (ForeFlight, WingX, Jepp FliteDeck for example)
    There are even Bluetooth AHRS and GPS units that you can use in the cockpit.
    It is a little ironic that they announce this shortly after kicking someone off an airplane for having their iPad on...
  • You're embarrassing the Romanian community by thinking electronic devices like cell phones/MP3 players/tablets cause ANY interferrence with the plane's instruments. This hasn't been an issue since the days when everything was built by the newly established FCC guidelines to shield electronic devices from each other. The FAA need to come to 2012 already and get off their 1900's bs rules and regulations. Show me one plane that fell out of the sky because Alec Baldwin was playing Words With Friends on it and I'll show you a terrorist who hijacks a plane and diverts it to the AE to crash it into their buildings. :rolleyes: Case in point, it doesn't happen.
  • You clearly didn't understand what I wrote. I am aware that current flight instruments are shielded, I am aware that these are old rules and I am aware that most electronics do not pose a problem in flight.
    I've explained this too many times already. Look at my other comments and if you still don't get it your IQ is simply too low.
    "You're embarrassing the Romanian community" those are harsh words for me or any romanian, the next time you speak them make sure you actually understand everything that was said. Not sure what country you're from but you really didn't make them proud right now.
  • I do work in the avionics manufacturing sector, and I can assure you that there is nothing short of a custom designed Jammer that would have any affect on the cockpit equipment. this industry goes through great pains and many hours of testing to make sure of that. Remember, that the air is filled with radio signals in every power level and frequency, from FM radio broadcast towers to Cellular telephone transmission towers, Satellite transmissions, and especially Ham radios operators. These sources pose a much more potential threat of interference to radio equipment than anything a 1/16 watt handheld device could ever be.
  • Holy shit, they're asking you to pry yourself away from a device for a whopping 20 minutes while the pilots ensure that you aren't incinerated during the takeoff procedure.
    Considering what could potentially happen during a flight, I think turning your electronic devices off for two relatively short periods of time is not asking a lot. People are so fucking entitled these days
  • I dont mind turning it off. I mind though being taken for a fool and told I have to switch it off due to possible interference with avionics. They should simply give a valid reason. If this is about ipads flying through the cabin on rough landings, then they should aks owners to stow away the ipad, but they dont. you can have it on your lap as long as it is off during take off and landing. And I highly doubt that the pilots ability to steer the plane will depend on my usage of the ipad.
  • Really? They didn't let people hold anything in their laps during take off and landing on any flight I've been, eider in your pocket or in the storage compartment (or under the seat in front of you if the storage compartment is full).
  • I have never been asked to "stow" a book I was reading, but I have been asked to put away my laptop. However most of my flying is in corporate aviation and they don't ask us to put away or turn anything off. Hasn't crashed a plane yet...
  • Which carrier do you fly on? All the ones I've been on would not allow those devices to be left out, they HAD to be stowed.
  • I think that
  • I think this
  • iThink
  • iKnow
  • Radu
    You have to be some type of gov. worker. Your ignorance of both commercial aviation and published studies is astonishing. Take some advice from what a wise man once said...
    Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought of as a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.
  • I'm not even a U.S. citizen. I'm also a former power engineer (former because in my shitty country web design pays about 4 times better, not because I failed at anything), true I know little about aeronautics (except for how the engines work) but I do know a thing or two about radio waves.
    Why am I a fool? For considering that the 0.000001 (or however low) risk of crashing from using a new untested gadget at lift off is not worth passing an extra level of angry birds?
    You're ignorant for considering an insignificant aspect of flying so damn important.
    And do please link the studies. I could be wrong, I'd like to check them out. If you're going to bash me, do it with style.
  • How convenient that they announced this after they kicked Alec Baldwin off a flight for using his iPad :)
  • I think they owe him an apology now
  • I wonder how many people never turn off their devices and just don't get caught.
  • Probably 90% of people never turn their devices off.
  • I've flown at least twice a week for the last four or five years and I never, ever turn my devices off. I suspect I'm in the majority.
  • Pilots like "words with friends" too!
  • Great. Our pilot will be playing Words With Friends in foggy weather.
  • Most of the issue for take-off and landing is that these are the most sensitive phases of flight. They (airlines/FAA) don't want you to have you to have your headphones in your ears so that, if there was the remote chance of an emergency, you can hear the instructions that might save your life.
    As for interference.... there is a remote chance, they just don't know. Yes is it safer just to tell everyone to turn everything off. I recall being annoyed at those damn nextel phones buzzing and popping in my headphones. I could always tell when one of them wasn't turned off in flight and searching for a signal. On the ground with head phones on, I could tell a nextel phone was going to ring about 3 seconds before it did, due to interference in my headset. (yeah this was 5+ years ago)
    And finally. The FCC/phone companies don't want you use them in the lower altitudes as it's line of sight, and at 2-5k feet, you can 'see' a lot of towers.
  • That's why those devices have this mode call "Airplane Mode". Powering down the device is not necessary.
  • Who is better positioned to determine whether an iPad causes problems with the avionics of an aircraft? The pilot as he operates his iPad, or the pilot as you operate yours? Be patient. After a year of this, passengers will follow. This is a good sign (and a good lesson) in how the federal regulatory process works.
  • Don't worry- you're already getting cavity searched -- just virtually -- every time you go through a scanner. And if you refuse - those pat downs - and feel ups - have left me with a wedgie.
  • The iPad the the Airlines are using are prob wired into the the Wifi network and are configured into when they need to not transmit any data what or only tied to what is going on with the plane. I'm sure they didn't slap a 3G iPad 64GB and said "Yay lets play Angry Birds all day then do some Factime!" While people have all sorts of 3G and 4G enabled Tablets that could easily interfere with the plane's take off and landings. Im sure we will get to the point were everyone can use any device with any connection during all phases of the flight. But for right now, what is so wrong with trying to stay safe when the Airlines are in control of hundreds of lives at a time? People need to think out side of the Box (aka themselves).
  • If you need a place to attach your iPad while flying, check out the 9G iPad Kneeboard from Wings Pensacola.
  • I think some of you need to experience a private plane flight just one in your lives and you'll never fly commercial ever again. You may not be able to afford the private flights, but I guarantee you that you'll NEVER fly commercial again just out of spite for the bs rules and regulations they have. Let me spell it out for you on how it goes...
    You walk into the small privately owned plane terminal/airport. You can go to the bar or hang out in the waiting area. You can walk up to the flight staff there and ask them questions and then walk back out to your car to get whatever you might have forgotten and then walk back in and sit down to wait, etc. without anyone crawling up your ass for anything. Your captain shows up and you meet him/her in person and then everyone walk out to the plane without being probed for WMDs. Heck, you can even walk back from the plane to the terminal siting you dropped your phone in the chair you were sitting in and the cops won't be called on you. Then you're finally on the plane. You sit down and chill out with a nice drink or whatever. You can play games or talk on your phone or watch the TV that's available as well. All this goes on while the plane taxies out and takes off. No one is there crawling up your wazoo to do something that's nonesense. And guess what... in a few hours you land wherever you were going without incident... and you're relaxed and happy that you took the flight.
    Meanwhile, while you were able to accomplish all that, someone else is still stuck in the TSA line because their underware is a size too big and the TSA thinks you might be hiding a bomb in the stitching. :rolleyes:
  • Isn't AA bankrupt? Won't this be a moot point soon?
  • Saturday Night Live might get a second skit out of this!
  • There is no risk of interference. This has been tested for years because...
    Every single flight I have flown has taken off and landed with multiple phones and other electronic equipment left on.
    There is no way every single person turns off their gear. And if this were a REAL problem, then they would be searching for and turning off every gadget.
  • There will a jailbreak app for that and then the passengers can control the flight.
  • Useful information. Lucky me I found your website accidentally, and I'm shocked why this twist of fate didn't took place in advance! I bookmarked it.
  • Hello There. I found your weblog the use of msn. This is a really well written article. I'll be sure to bookmark it and come back to read extra of your helpful information. Thanks for the post. I'll definitely comeback.
  • Boy, some real jackass statements on here. Not, ; you are obviously very impressed with your self, with your nauseating dissertation about corporate/charter flts. What an egotistical, narcissistic person. Radu is just trying to make a rational statement and you who are so self serving a-holes are so quick to challenge anything that goes against your "superior" intellect! Lol, what a joke. Just shut the stuff off and shut up, or take the bus! Free country. As a 25 year airline pilot, I will tell you there are reasons that you are not even aware of, why you are asked to shut the device off for take off and landing. A few have already mentioned a couple of those reasons. As far as the signals themselves, the device should be off not so much for the HIGHLY unlikely chance that it would interfere with critical aircraft instruments on a normal basis. The concern is more so directed towards a device that has been damaged, or has a internal malfunction that can cause "signal leakage", in certain situations, of a magnified or more powerful than normal degree. In that particular case it IS possible that it could affect sensitive cockpit instrumentation. Yes we cannot insure 100% compliance. Like many areas of our society we dance a delicate balance with regard to regulation and infringement of our precious rights. It comes down to this, ....... better safe than sorry. Such a small price to pay. Baldwin was kicked off not because of he risked anyones life with his ipad, he was kicked off because he wouldn't follow FAA mandated rules, and was argumentative with the crew. He is no better or more important than anyone else. Until the faa changes a policy, you either do it, or get off. You can wank about it all you want on sights like this. As far as stowage, again its a balance. But trust me in a high G but survivable accident a book will do a whole lot less damage to someone's head, than a laptop or ipad flying thru the cabin at 60 mph. Just like the folks who come to the airport wearing flip flops, ....... Yeah nuff said, talk to a survivor who had to climb across hot shredded metal to get to safety. You can't regulate stupidity. Just get over yourself for a few minutes, and comply with the rules we have. They're designed to if wrong, air on the side of safety.
  • Dear Community
    We will be updating our best iPhone apps for Aaviation on For our next update(1st October), we are reaching out to the people who knew something about aviation for help.
    Comments and feedback will guide us very much in this and your help would be appreciated in spreading the word. Award for the best rewiew - $10 iTunes voucher.
    Thanks in advance
    Kind regards
    AppPicker team