April 16, 2013
Credit: American Airlines
Two hours after telling a full audience at MRO Americas in Atlanta about its industry-leading switch to iPads for onboard documents and charts, two American Airlines pilots were proposing the same technology to help pull American out of a big hole.
The airline’s internal Flight Operations System (FOS) in Dallas crashed on Tuesday afternoon, stranding the airline’s entire domestic and international route structure, estimated to last until 5 p.m. central time.
At issue in part is the inability for pilots to print out their flight plans, a legacy process that requires a dot-matrix printer and 19 ft. of paper at the gate for each flight.
David Clark, an MD-80 pilot and manager of the company’s Connected Aircraft Program, tells Aviation Week he tested an iPad application on April 12 that sends the flight plan directly to the iPad, removing the need for a printed version. Clark conducted the test on a flight from Dallas-Fort Worth to Minneapolis in a McDonnell Douglas MD80. He says it was successful, and had planned to work to bring the capability to the fleet once more domestic and international tests are made.
In the midst of the shutdown, Clark and his supervisor, John Hale, American Airlines’ Vice President, Flight, were working to get the airline to allow the pilots of certain aircraft to download the flight plans to their iPads.
All 8,500 American Airlines pilots were issued iPads by the airline. The entire fleet, with the exception of the Boeing 757 and 767, is paperless. By April 21, the 757 and 767 will be paperless as well, completing the rollout.
American officials ultimately decided not to try the iPad-based electronic flight plan today, but the business case for the application may have been made by today’s shutdown.