Alaska Airlines Pioneers iPad Usage In the Cockpit

Posted on May 28, 2011


For years now, pilots of Alaska Airlines (as well as most other airlines) have had to lug around a flight bag. The flight bag typically contains 25 lbs of paper manuals that cover everything from standard flight procedure to emergency instructions.

Alaska Airlines just made the pilot’s load a lot lighter. About 24 lbs lighter. The heaping mounds of paper manuals are now contained on an iPad the pilot and co-pilot will have with them at all times in the cockpit. Using Google Reader, the pilots can easily search documents to quickly locate the portion of the manual they need to read.

I foresee several pros and cons.


  • The crew will be able to located data within the manual so much faster
  • It’s a space saver!
  • The manual can much more easily be updated – no more printing thousands of pages just to update a few sentences


  • Yes, iPad are very reliable and don’t crash often, but there is always the possibility of a malfunction, thus leaving the flight crew unable to locate any of the data
  • A tiny iPad is much easier to misplace as opposed to a bag of paper manuals weighing in at 25 lbs
  • The iPad will still have to be stowed during take off and landing – these are the times things are most likely to go wrong and a manual may be most needed

I keep hearing people say, “This is a much greener choice.” but I disagree. iPads use energy, people and trees are a renewable resource. Just a pet peeve of mine when people talk about trees as if they can’t be regrown. OK, I’ll get off my soapbox now.

What are your thoughts about Alaska Airline’s decision? I’d love to hear what you have to say.

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