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I love Alaska Airlines. Good service, great prices, and the best frequent-flyer/mileage program in the biz (only wish they flew to more places). But recent news about   Alaska’s iPad deployment left me distinctly underwhelmed.

According to various headlines, Alaska is the first airline to get approval from the FAA to replace its required on-board 25-pound flight manual with an iPad.  400 MB worth of documents will be stored as a PDF on the iPads that pilots will access via a $4.99 app called GoodReader.

All of Alaska’s 1,400 pilots will be using the iPads by the middle of June.  I totally get the convenience of Alaska being able to electronically    update the flight manual documents from a single central location,    rather than the torturous process of manually replacing individual    pages. As well as the space they’ll save in those cramped cockpits. And   the 2.4 million pieces of paper they hope to eventually save.

But some of the other rationale for ROI were suspect: fuel savings (from 25 pounds, really?!), and “fewer back and muscle injuries caused by pilots carrying flight bags” (now we’re really straining (pun intended).

Also, due to FAA rules about electronic devices, pilots won’t be able to use the iPad during the takeoff and landing phases.

So, in summary: a tablet computer many times more powerful than the mainframes that sent astronauts to the moon has become a glorified e-book reader for flight manuals that pilots cannot even use during the most accident-prone (and hence, most mission-critical) parts of the flight.

“Do you think anyone will notice if I catch up on my vampire novels?”

That doesn’t sound like enterprise mobility to me; more like ‘enterprise immobility’.

Alaska does say it wants to move its paper maps to the iPad, too. That’s something that the U.S. Marine Corps is already doing with iPads in Afghanistan. According to a report:

In Afghanistan, identifying compounds and landmarks from   the air can be  difficult. To eliminate guesswork and better coordinate   missions with  international ground forces, USMC pilots arm themselves   with a plethora  of maps of the region. Prior to digitization, paper   charts and grids  would fill cramped cockpits and require additional   training and  attention to read correctly. The iPad saves space and   allows pilots to  search for locations with a few quick taps of their   fingers, making it  significantly easier for aviators to identify   compounds and quickly  offer air support.

“It’s a game changer,” Capt. John Belsha told The Shephard Group.   “It’s  all about sharing situational awareness and using the iPad is   much  better than using a paper chart.”

Now that’s a truly interactive app, the kind at which the iPad and other tablets excel.  Now if only Alaska and the FAA can figure out a solution so that   pilots would actually be able use those map-enabled iPads during   takeoffs and landings.

Call me whelmed when both of those things come to pass.


Is Sybase a software vendor or…book publisher? I ask that tongue-in-cheek question because I have three bits of news related to recent industry publications.

1) The Enterprise Mobility Guide 2011 (edited by  yours truly) is now available as an eBook for tablet and smartphone.  While we already had a PDF version of the guide, this is our first   fully mobile version of the document, compliant with the ePub standard.  

That means the layout automatically changes to the size of the screen   and/or fonts, or if you rotate your tablet or smartphone 90 degrees.  iPhone and iPad users can download the eBook straight from Apple’s iBooks store, while everyone else (Sony Reader, Barnes & Noble Nook, even those using ePub readers on their PC) can get it here.

(Hope touting our new eBook doesn’t sound too hypocritical after I spent 400 words poking fun at Alaska for theirs ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

2) The Mobile Commerce Guide 2011 is also now available for free. Like the Enterprise Mobility Guide,   this is a 190 page tome with thought-provoking pieces from leading   industry analysts (Edgar, Dunn & Company, Javelin Strategy +   Research, Informa, GSM Association, Juniper Research, Mobile Marketing   Association and more), m-commerce players like Mobikash, Western Union,   Telefonica, and Sybase executives.

They discuss the latest trends in mobile wallets, how text messages   are being used for electronic payments, why Near Field Communications   (NFC) is overhyped, and more. mCommerce is where mobility really touches   consumers in a deep way, so if you have interest, this guide is for   you.

3) Finally, we’ve also just published the Capital Markets Guide 2011. Aimed at the Wall Street crowd, the Cap Markets Guide features a   similar mix of analyses from industry experts (Tabb Group, Accenture,   Columbia University, Algorithmica Research, Aite Group and more),   financial services vendors (Revolution Analytics, BT Global Services,   Numerix, Deloitte, Panopticon Software AB, Algo Technologies and more)   and Sybase executives.

As the kids say about a certain Japanese toy, gotta collect ’em all!

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  1. Former Member Post author
    As a pilot for Alaska Airlines I can tell you that we are working to get approval to use the iPAD for every phase of flight. Since safety is playing a huge role regarding the use of the iPAD it is going to take a lot of training to get pilots comfortable using the device during critical phases of flight. The FAA allows electronic devices called Electronic Flight Bags (EFB) to be used during all phases of flight. The iPad has not received the appropriate certification of EFB to be used during take off and landing, but it will in the near future.
    Regarding a reduction in injuries by reducing weight: Our flight bags are closer to 50 lbs when you add in Approach Plates, Flashlights, Headsets, Extra Batteries etc… Most of the pilot related OJI’s occur while moving the flight back in our “cramped cockpits” We are forced to use back muscles while moving the bag around so yes, 25 lbs is a significant reduction in weight for us.
    Fuels savings by reducing weight is significant when you include the two pilot bags (50lbs), Cockpit Manuals (25lbs), and Flight Attendant Manuals ( 4 x 25lbs) that the iPAD will eventually replace. 175 lbs is the weight of a person. The added weight of 1 person does add to our fuel burn, especially on flights 5 hrs or more to Hawaii. Fuel savings alone will save the airlines many thousands of dollars per year.
    The benefits of using the iPAD continue to add up for us we become more familiar with all it’s capabilities. For those of us running the airline, we can appreciate the benefits better than those in the back of the aircraft.
  2. Kenneth Murray
    I wonder what they will say when they approve the device during take off and landing when they don’t let anyone else on the plane use them? 
    It’s ok to use 2 of them and just the pilots?  or 4 of them on a plane for pilots and stewards?  Why is it ok now and not before?

    From what I understand there is no real evidence of any issues with passengers using edevices. 

    1. Former Member
      Any electronic device can interfere with aircraft systems. As a pilot, I’ve experienced problems with navigation equipment and aircraft radio due to a smartphone.  Avionics and associated wiring don’t have the level of RFI/EMI shielding that other mission critical systems do due to weight and historic design. For example, aircraft VHF radios use AM modulation and are highly succeptible to interference. A lot of aviation technology was engineered 1950s, and often is about 12 years behind consumer technology. There are many documented cases of aircraft In particular, the Airbus A3xx series aircraft on-board computers used to need a periodic reboot due to interference causing lock ups.
  3. Former Member
    I’m wondering why no one had that revelation before. The iPad is in flight mode of course. I always keep my iPhone in flight mode and do not turn it off. I assume that if Apple says its the safe way for flying thant thats ok.

    Although I do not understand why they do not use the Kindle instead. There they could highlight the most important parts and safe much time searching the PDF ๐Ÿ™‚

    By the way in the Cockpit they have all kinds of electronics, so I guess the iPad does not make much of a difference.


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