In air defense and reconnaissance strategy, establishing air dominance or “Overflight” is a key element in any successful campaign. Well, it’s clear that the Apple iPad now has established Overflight on the other tablets in the marketplace. With entries like the Blackberry Playbook looking lackluster, and the HP Touchpad being sold at firesale prices, the iPad just scored another victory.
Much like the spaceshuttle, the modern jet airplane is one of the ultimate symbols of mobility in today’s world. Just as Orville and Wilbur Wright revolutionized travel in the 20th century, one airline carrier is hoping to make a significant change to it by making the airplane even more mobile, in a way. United Continental Holdings has announced this week, it would be deploying 11,000 iPads to all United and Continental pilots over the next several months, using the tablets to store manual and flight documents. This just in-time learning and performance support is estimated to save the airline carrier more than $1 million annually.
The iPads, included as part of the pilots’ electronic flight bags (EFB), will replace documents such as operating manuals, navigation charts and other reference materials that pilots have to carry aboard with them. Currently, each pilot typically carries a flight bag containing 12,000 sheets of paper, which tips the scales at a whopping 38 pounds.
Standing in the green corner, the iPad weighs in at less than 1.5 pounds and will result in saving more than 16 million sheets of paper per year, the equivalent of 1,900 trees. Because of the weight decrease, United anticipates saving 326,000 gallons of jet fuel per year. At the current price of $2.98 per gallon, this will equal about $1 million. United will save an additional estimated $127,000 in paper per year, assuming they buy Office Depot’s box of copy paper for $39.99 (and not factoring in bulk discounts). Since paper costs vary, it’s hard to tell exactly how much they’ll save.
The price of jet fuel has continually increased since 2000, according to an analysis of data from the Research and Innovative Technology Association (RITA) Bureau of Transportation statistics. It’s already up 43 percent from just over a year ago, and data from the International Air Transport Association indicates it will stay on the rise.
Savings aside, pilots will also increase efficiency. The iPads come with Jeppesen Mobile FliteDeck, a full-color app that displays information such as navigation information and geo-referenced terminal charts. No longer will pilots have to rifle through 12,000 pages worth of information when it’s just a few taps away. This increases performance and ultimately, safety.
The iPad costs $499. Buying 11,000 at that price would cost United $5.5 million, so they wouldn’t actually start saving money until about the sixth year. The return on investment is a little on the long side here, but more economization will occur as reprints and document replacement and retention plans are reworked to factor in the digital distribution of these learning materials.
After merging with Continental Airlines in 2010, United and Continental combined are atop United States airline carriers with a market share of about 17 percent and revenues of about $96 billion annually. When extrapolating this sort of mobile deployment across other carriers globally, it’s easy to envision just what an impact these devices can make on an industry. Millions of gallons of jet fuel could be saved, tens of thousands of trees and potentially many lives as well. That may be the best return on investment of all.
- Wired: iPad’s Domination Spreads to Cockpit
- New York Times: United Pilots Get iPad Flight Manuals
- Mashable: United & Continental Replace Flight Manuals with iPads