Flying With iPads – A Pilot’s Perspective

Pip and his iPad

Even pilots don’t understand the “turn off all electronic devices” rule…

It’s somewhat ironic that American Airlines is loading more of its cockpits with iPads at roughly the same time that Alec Baldwin got kicked off for using his iDevice. But, American Airlines insists there are a lot of benefits to using Apple’s tablets as opposed to paper. First and foremost, the iPad replaces 45 pounds worth of paper for each pilot on a plane. If American is able to use iPads on every flight — its eventual goal — it stands to reduce its fuel usage by 500,000 gallons each year.

“That’s a significant savings,” said David Clark, the American pilot that is heading up the iPad effort. For the past six months, American has been testing iPad use on 777 flights out of Los Angeles–some 300 flights in all. As of last Friday, American has approval to use the iPads on all of its Boeing 777 aircraft for all phases of flight and Clark said the airline expects approval to use the tablets on 737s next year.

To answer every frequent flyer’s question, no, Clark isn’t really sure why the rest of us can’t use our iPads during takeoff and landing.

“I think that’s a fair and a good question,” Clark said. “First and foremost, the FAA makes the rules and we follow them.”

That being said, though, Clark notes that American Airlines did a lot of testing with the iPad and it is used only with all of its transmitting functions — including WiFi — turned off. At the back of the plane, Clark said, there can be any number of devices in use by dozens of passengers, making it hard to test for every possible scenario.

As for the pilots and their iPads, Clark said everything has gone swimmingly, Clark said. In general, even those who have never touched an iPad only need a half-hour or hour of training. “That speaks to the operating system,” Clark said.

(click here to continue reading American Airlines Top iPad Pilot Talks About Trading Paper for Electro – Ina Fried – Mobile – AllThingsD.)

Reading Around on October 13th through October 14th

A few interesting links collected October 13th through October 14th:

  • F.A.A. Proposes Fines for United and US Airways – – $3.8 million fine against United for operating one of its Boeing 737 aircraft on more than 200 flights with shop towels covering openings in an engine,
  • Critics’ Picks: Call it the “liberal Bible” | Salon Arts & Entertainment
  • “Life of the World to Come (Dig)” (Mountain Goats)

    “Darnielle claims he’s always been fascinated by religious texts, but up until now more secular fixations have dominated his music: Ruptured relationships, literary heroes and his own difficult childhood are among the most common subjects of nearly two decades’ worth of studiously lo-fi Mountain Goats songs. And, as a die-hard black metal fan who, last year, published a short novel based on Black Sabbath’s “Master of Reality,” Darnielle may seem a particularly unlikely candidate to explore the spiritual.”

    “Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality: 33 1/3” (John Darnielle)

    Didn’t know who wrote this book, just thought it unreadable. I got through about ten pages before tossing it to the floor in disgust. Maybe there is more to it, but it wasn’t obvious.

FAA doesn’t care if you die

Safety regulations are not important to the FAA. Much more important is making the airlines happy because that way ex-FAA officials can get cushy airline industry jobs when they resign in disgrace.

In July 1996, a fuel-tank explosion ripped apart TWA Flight 800, killing all 230 people aboard and sparking an urgent call from air-safety experts to find a fail-safe way to avoid a repeat tragedy.

Twelve years later, they’re still waiting.

Experts quickly and broadly agreed that like TWA 800’s main fuel tank, those on thousands of other planes were at risk of exploding during normal operations if hot vapors became exposed to sparks or electrical short-circuits. Within months, federal investigators at the National Transportation Safety Board called for a sweeping retrofit of planes with “fundamentally flawed” fuel-tank designs. Independent safety experts called such changes essential.

But the issue has bogged down for more than a decade inside the Federal Aviation Administration, the agency charged with regulating U.S. airlines. Manufacturers argued the proposed fix was unnecessary, while carriers called it marginal and too expensive. They repeatedly persuaded the FAA to delay, revise or scale back its plans. While the industry has reduced the danger of fuel-tank accidents, whatever “foolproof” plan the agency ultimately imposes will come too late to affect many jetliners now in service.

The fuel-tank issue is just one of the major initiatives to stall at the FAA, which finds itself in the spotlight following a series of safety lapses that came to light this spring. Even when change is clearly needed, critics say, the agency can be reluctant to challenge the industry’s strongly held positions.

The FAA has failed to make good on longstanding promises to quickly modernize air-traffic control systems and to institute effective technology to prevent aircraft from colliding on busy runways. In 1995, the FAA proposed sweeping changes to address chronic pilot fatigue. Airlines resisted, and 13 years later, the FAA is still waiting for carriers and pilot unions to reach compromises on crew scheduling.

Failure to take an aggressive stand on some of the toughest safety issues could end up costing lives, critics say. Too often, they say, the agency is hobbled by bureaucratic inertia and a lack of political will, with FAA leaders more focused on cooperative efforts than on taking a hard line on a change-resistant industry.

[From Safety Pushes Stall at Embattled FAA –]

Gee, I feel so much safer knowing the FAA is so cozy with the industry it is in charge of regulating. I’ll be thinking of them next time I have to fly somewhere, and am already nervously twitching my legs and self-medicating drinking herbal tea.

Full access to complete story for non WSJ subscribers available using this link

Remember this?

the shortcomings of the FAA’s partnership approach became apparent earlier this year. In March, the FAA proposed a record $10.2 million penalty against Southwest Airlines Co., after revelations that the carrier had missed mandatory maintenance work. Shortly afterward, FAA whistleblowers alleged that cozy ties between the airline and some local inspectors had allowed the carrier to keep these planes flying. A few weeks later the FAA also found maintenance lapses at AMR Corp.’s American Airlines, forcing the carrier to cancel thousands of flights over several days

Air Travel Sucks

Flight 1053

Survey says…

Nearly half of American air travelers would fly more if it were easier, and more than one-fourth said they skipped at least one air trip in the past 12 months because of the hassles involved, according to an industry survey.

The Travel Industry Association, which commissioned the survey released Thursday, estimated that the 41 million forgone trips cost the travel industry $18.1 billion — including $9.4 billion to airlines, $5.6 billion to hotels and $3.1 billion — and it cost federal, state and local authorities $4.2 billion in taxes in the past 12 months.

When 28 percent of air travelers avoided an average of 1.3 trips each, that resulted in 29 million leisure trips and 12 million business trips not being taken, the researchers estimated.

[From Survey: Americans make 41M fewer air trips — Lifestyle and Leisure, Delta Air Lines —]

I travel a lot less than I used to. Just too much of a hassle. Investigated taking trains (haven’t done that yet, but still thinking about a trip out west, or to Austin), investigated investing/subscribing to web conference software to avoid business travel, and just avoid vacations that involve air travel. Everything about the experience is miserable, TSA terrorism theater, surly airline employees, worries about airline mechanics skimping on proper maintenance, constant delays due to decades old software, yadda yadda. Flying on The Starship it ain’t.

Is re-regulation an answer? Nobody mentions it, and maybe it was just coincidence, but when the airlines were regulated, pre-Regan, flying sure seemed a lot more fun, and smooth. The airlines would be better served if competition wasn’t so cut-throat (and CEO compensation wasn’t so enormous, but that’s a different topic), they obviously are in trouble as matters stand.

Roger Dow, president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based association, said the research “should be a wake-up call to America’s policy leaders that the time for meaningful air system reform is now.”

“The air travel crisis has hit a tipping point — more than 100,000 travelers each day are voting with their wallets by choosing to avoid trips,” Dow said in a statement.

That’s a big blow to airlines, many of which are losing money as the industry struggles with soaring fuel costs. Carriers have raised fares, added fees, cut capacity and scaled back expansion plans, and some small airlines have declared bankruptcy, while Delta Air Lines Inc. and Northwest Airlines Corp. announced plans to combine in an effort to reduce costs.

Continued Decline of Reliability at Airports

How about re-regulating the airlines altogether?

Air-traffic controllers are leaving their jobs at the fastest rate since President Reagan fired more than 12,000 striking controllers 27 years ago, spurring a rancorous debate over the safety of commercial aviation. But for fliers, the turnover is more likely to affect when their flight arrives than whether it gets there safely.

[From At Airports, Fewer Eyes on the Skies –]

Oh really? Says who?

In recent months, fully certified controllers have been retiring in droves. Some of this was expected since many controllers hired after the 1981 air-traffic controller strike are becoming eligible to retire. But the retirement surge has accelerated beyond the Federal Aviation Administration’s projections because of a bitter labor feud that has dragged on since 2006.

In January, there were roughly 11,000 fully certified controllers, marking the lowest level in more than a decade. In September 2002, the FAA employed 12,801 fully certified controllers.

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association, which represents the FAA’s work force of roughly 15,000 fully and partially certified controllers, has declared staffing emergencies at high-intensity facilities in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, New York and Southern California. It calls the loss of so many veteran controllers a “growing crisis” amid surging traffic volumes and a big, hidden factor behind the persistent delays plaguing air travel.

The FAA acknowledges that shortages in the control tower can cause delays

Pilots resigning/retiring, not enough mechanics to service the planes, and now, not enough air traffic controllers? What is going to take to restore trust in airlines/airports? Is there going to be a huge catastrophe before any politician decides to take action?

Union officials also contend the shortage of fully trained controllers — those who have been trained to perform all the major control functions — is increasing the odds that a fatigued controller working overtime will make a catastrophic mistake.

“It’s amazing that it hasn’t happened so far,” Mr. Ramsden said. “The staffing issue has a direct impact on the safety of the public. It has to.”

FAA Official to Lead Industry Group

No possibility of conflict of interest here. Ahem.

I think government officials should be barred from employment in the sector they regulate for ten years, or even forever. The so-called revolving door has been standard for years, and it stinks like crony capitalism by a different name to me.

Navy Plane

F.A.A. Chief to Lead Industry Group:
Marion C. Blakey, the administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, will become the new head of the Aerospace Industries Association, a trade group representing civilian and military aerospace companies, in November, the association said. Ms. Blakey, who led the National Transportation Safety Board before joining the F.A.A., was appointed by President Bush to a five-year term. Her term expires Sept. 13. The term of a successor would fall mostly in the next presidential administration. The White House has not announced an intention to nominate a successor.