The iPad Just Lost Its Monopoly in the Cockpit

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Feb. 11 2014 6:20 PM

Cockpit Competition: FAA Approves Microsoft Tablets for Use by Pilots

surface
A pilot using a Surface tablet in the wild.

Photo from the Surface Blog.

Plane passengers were finally liberated last year when the FAA ruled that small electronic devices, like tablets and smartphones in airplane mode, are safe to use during takeoff and landing. But pilots were limited to using iPads until the FAA approved the Microsoft Surface 2 yesterday for cockpit use.

Though airlines will still have to apply to have their pilots use the Surface 2, or any tablet, devices that have gone through the first part of the process get the green light more easily. This means that pilots will be able to replace the huge paper manuals they've been carrying around for decades with "electronic flight bags"—that is, tablets—that can contain full manuals and get regular automatic updates.

Ahead of the decision, Delta had already committed to arming 11,000 pilots with Surface 2 tablets. (The Surface Pro 2 is not yet approved).

Advertisement

Companies like Delta cite weight reduction as a major motivation for the transition to tablets, because replacing 38-pound paper manuals with 1.5-pound devices could translate into millions of dollars a year in fuel savings. ZDNet reports that Delta's switch will eliminate the need for 7.5 million sheets of paper a year, and the company's goal is to have paperless cockpits by the end of 2014. Whether you love Surface 2s or hate them, it can't hurt to have options.

Still, it seems not everyone at Delta is thrilled with the decision. "We fought hard for iPad," an anonymous pilot told AppleInsider in September. He complained that Delta made its decision based on money rather than tablet quality, and sniped that the airline's IT department has historically been "in bed" with Microsoft.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Lily Hay Newman is lead blogger for Future Tense.

TODAY IN SLATE

Culturebox

The Ebola Story

How our minds build narratives out of disaster.

The Budget Disaster That Completely Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

The Shooting Tragedies That Forged Canada’s Gun Politics

A Highly Unscientific Ranking of Crazy-Old German Beers

Education

Welcome to 13th Grade!

Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.

Culturebox

The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed.

Would You Trust Walmart to Provide Your Health Care? (You Should.)

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 22 2014 9:42 PM Landslide Landrieu Can the Louisiana Democrat use the powers of incumbency to save herself one more time?
  Business
Continuously Operating
Oct. 22 2014 2:38 PM Crack Open an Old One A highly unscientific evaluation of Germany’s oldest breweries.
  Life
Gentleman Scholar
Oct. 22 2014 5:54 PM May I Offer to Sharpen My Friends’ Knives? Or would that be rude?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 4:27 PM Three Ways Your Text Messages Change After You Get Married
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
  Arts
Culturebox
Oct. 22 2014 11:54 PM The Actual World “Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 5:33 PM One More Reason Not to Use PowerPoint: It’s The Gateway for a Serious Windows Vulnerability
  Health & Science
Wild Things
Oct. 22 2014 2:42 PM Orcas, Via Drone, for the First Time Ever
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.