by Mike Masnick

Time To Put Laptops In The Hands Of Pilots

from the welcome-to-this-century dept

While so many professions have been transformed thanks to computers, it appears that the flying business has been slow to change. Most pilots still rely on about 40 pounds of paper (maps, diagrams, checklists, calculations, manuals, etc.) that they carry around on each flight. Much of what's included in those pages and pages of paper could easily be done with a computer, where it would be faster and more accurate (not to mention lighter). JetBlue is one of the first airlines to equip their pilots with laptops and, so far, it's made everyone happy. The pilots find the process to be much easier, it saves time (fewer delays) and it's safer. Other airlines are starting to catch on and the FAA is (cautiously) looking for ways to encourage other airlines to follow this route.

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  • identicon
    Anon Coward, 21 Oct 2003 @ 1:50pm

    Speaking as a private pilot...

    and a tech, I have to disagree.
    The sectional maps, airport facility guides, operating handbooks, etc. are still printed for a reason--safety. You always can take a look at a sectional on a piece of paper; you can't look at one on a laptop/PDA with a dead battery--and the general aviation planes I fly don't come with
    cig lighters.
    Add to that you don't want to place too much emphasis upon your electrical system being available. Especially loosing it when flying in rapidly deteriorating IFR conditions after a lightning strike (thunderstorms can rise rapidly--within minutes--and unexpectedly in certain areas of the country) and having to rely upon a backup handheld transceiver with VOR/LOC features, programmed with the info from your paper sectionals.
    On a personal note, I can also mark up my sectionals and fac guides much easier on paper, and with one hand, than on a laptop/PDA.
    Don't get me wrong, I think these things do have a place. For instance, I use Pocket Excel on an iPAQ to do initial weight/balance, wind vectors and other calculations for pre-flight. However, placing too much emphasis on this technology where life and death situations do occur without the information available doesn't seem right.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      dorpus, 21 Oct 2003 @ 4:58pm


      I've heard that planes flying through lightning storms can have blue fireballs bouncing down the aisle, but that newer planes undergo electric shock tests to make sure passengers don't see this too often. I imagine laptops are not tested for blue fireballs.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    anon, 22 Oct 2003 @ 12:52pm

    my plane bsod'd!

    I just can't WAIT for a pilot to have his laptop BSOD.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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