Tablet computers a big hit in cockpits

March 18, 2011 at 1:14 PM
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MCLEAN, Va., March 18 (UPI) -- Thousands of private pilots are bringing tablet computers like the iPad into their cockpits, and several U.S. airlines are poised to follow suit, officials say.

Pilots can attach the powerful mini-computers to their knees where they can display an approach path to an airport, area maps, weather or a pilot's flight manuals, USA Today reported Friday.

The Federal Aviation Administration has granted approval for two charter companies to use iPads instead of the bulky paper charts and manuals pilots have been required to carry, while Alaska Airlines is testing iPads in cockpits of some of its planes and Delta Airlines and American Airlines say they will start tests soon.

While safety advocates are enthusiastic about tablet computers, they caution there could be a downside: more distractions in the cockpit.

"It's a two-sided coin," National Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman Debbie Hersman said.

Private pilots, who do not need FAA approval to use the devices, say the iPad is faster, lighter and more versatile than paper.

"Any pilot who looks at it, wants it," said Michael Klein, head of a Gaithersburg, Md., charter operator. "It's better than paper. It does everything for you. It's amazing."

Commercial airlines wanting to use the iPad have had to demonstrate to the FAA that it can withstand an explosive decompression, doesn't emit radio waves that could interfere with a plane's electronics and is reliable, USA Today said.

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