This is the amount of fuel United/Continental Airlines claims it will save from replacing the 12,000 or so pages of paper maps which it has to fly with each pilot. No question an interesting number not only in the direct savings of a scarce resource, however it also only the tip of the iceberg as waxed in these pages there is also the savings of not needing those 12,000 sheets of paper, which means less trees cut down, less trucking, processing and so on and on.
Now don’t get me wrong, there is no question that I’m aware of the cost to produce the unit and it doesn’t come with a zero carbon foot print either. However logic also tells me that their is a rationalized “efficiency” in a one to many relationship (i.e. iPad verses 12,000 sheets of paper per head). Yet what are the other practical relations here as to safety? It’s also worth noting as I type this out (on my iPad of course), I’m somewhere over the Atlantic ocean on my way back to London (on a Delta flight who still uses paper) so it is in the back of my mind.
Yet thinking about it on this flight there are three pilots (one pilot and two co-pilots) so that would be three iPads (however now on Delta still 36,000 sheets of paper). So if there was an issue with one, there would be two backups (note to self, wonder if the FAA requires them to be from different production batches). Then there is the issue of power as paper requires none, yet these do, to ease my concerns here, I reminded myself that they sit amongst a ton of electronics and being able to install a 5 volt USB port should be very do-able for the occasional absent minded pilot.
As a side bar, I’m sure should they forget their charging cable, they could borrow one from a passenger as there are assuredly a 100 onboard as I type this. Thinking about this fact, it’s another great reason for commonality too as there is resiliency in numbers. Yet then there is the software, as what if when Apple pushes iOS 5 it turns out to be no better than Windows Vista? Will the FAA require pilots to refuse upgrades until say a dot one release to ensure stability?
Then what about the application itself, what if it’s buggy, or there is a release issue? Should they have two versions from different supplies (Untied and continue to use different apps) for safety sake? As given the time to ponder at 36,000 feet while hurdled half way across the world at 563 miles per hour with nothing but the moon lit ocean below gives one some reflection pardon the intended pun…