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Alaska Airlines Jettisons Paper Manuals For iPads 220

Posted by timothy
from the why-kayakers-need-helmets dept.
fullymodo writes "Alaska Airlines has become the first major US airline to hop on board the paperless bandwagon. While it's not quite ready to ditch paper navigation charts just yet (though that is under consideration), the airline has announced that it will be replacing its traditional flight manuals with iPads, which will be loaded up with the GoodReader app and PDFs of 41 different manuals and other materials.' So explain why I have to shut off my non-wi-fi-capable ebook reader during take-off and landing?"
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Alaska Airlines Jettisons Paper Manuals For iPads

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  • by iluvcapra (782887) on Saturday May 28, 2011 @01:41PM (#36274406)

    So explain why I have to shut off my non-wi-fi-capable ebook reader during take-off and landing?

    If the plane has a bird strike and has to ditch in the Hudson, they don't want you to miss announcements because you're busy flinging Angry Birds. It's not about the electronics, it's about them having your attention during the two parts of flight where all the crashes happen.

    • by amicusNYCL (1538833) on Saturday May 28, 2011 @01:44PM (#36274428)

      If the plane has a bird strike and has to ditch in the Hudson, they don't want you to miss announcements because you're busy flinging Angry Birds.

      And God help you if you fling a bird directly into the engine.

    • by gapagos (1264716)

      If the plane has a bird strike and has to ditch in the Hudson, they don't want you to miss announcements because you're busy flinging Angry Birds. It's not about the electronics, it's about them having your attention during the two parts of flight where all the crashes happen.

      Exactly. If we already have people foolish enough to text and email on their blackberrys WHILE they're driving and that don't see what the problem is, imagine how attentive they would be when they're sitting in an armchair in 1st business class.

    • by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Saturday May 28, 2011 @01:55PM (#36274506) Homepage

      So explain why I have to shut off my non-wi-fi-capable ebook reader during take-off and landing?

      Because computers have internal electronics that generate electric currents in the GHz range, and it is not impossible that these electrical currents could radiate enough energy to interfere with airplane electronic and navigation systems.

      Presumably they have tested the particular devices that the pilots are using, and verified that these particular devices don't interfere. If they haven't tested your particular device, then they don't know that it won't interfere. Probably it won't. They don't know that for sure.

      And, also, how do they know that it doesn't have wifi? Are they supposed to inspect all electronic devices on boarding? (Are you willing to be charged extra to pay for a person to do that?)

      This is, undoubtably, absurdly over cautious. However, the penalties for failure are very large, and the cost for being overcautious (in the form of inconvenience) is paid by you, not by them.

      • by iluvcapra (782887) on Saturday May 28, 2011 @02:08PM (#36274600)

        The definition of the various electronics classes doesn't have much to do with electromagnetic radiation. They primarily are related to the physical design of the gear and how it's mechanically interfaced with the aircraft.

        Class 1: Anything commercial off-the-shelf and not purpose-built for the plane is Class 1 and must be stowed during takeoff and landing, because they're loose equipment and can become a hazard in turbulence. (Even these iPads have to be put away during takeoff and landing.

        Class 2: Can be off-the-shelf or purpose built, but it has to be bolted down using a certified mounting or a kneeboard. You don't have to stow a class 2 during takeoff and landing.

        Class 3: Installed in the plane, subject to airworthiness certification and the hardware has to be designed for the purpose. Only class 3 EFB gear has to be tested for radio emissions.

        • by X0563511 (793323)

          ... and because someone won't understand and will try to argue:

          Yes, the charts go away during takeoff/landing if they aren't secured on the kneeboard etc.

          The crew is far too busy at these times, they simply don't have time to refer to them. These phases are pre-planned as well, you don't just fly to the airport and "wing it"

      • by PRMan (959735) on Saturday May 28, 2011 @02:24PM (#36274712)

        My friend's Dad was an engineer at Boeing and tested exactly this. Beyond old planes (DC-9 and older), electronics were not a problem, as everything was shielded enough not to interfere. But people have a hard time understanding "you can do it on this plane, but not on that one" if they are used to a behavior.

        Cell phones are a problem for the cell towers, not the planes. The number of handoffs that happen on calls from the air is pretty bad.

      • by camperslo (704715)

        Because computers have internal electronics that generate electric currents in the GHz range, and it is not impossible that these electrical currents could radiate enough energy to interfere with airplane electronic and navigation systems.

        It's not absurdly over cautions to restrict unknown electronics that might cause interference. Even the local oscillator in an simple old-fashioned analog tuned F.M. broadcast radio can affect some communications. Digital gear is worse. There are pulses at many different rates far below microwave frequencies in digital gear, and because they are pulses and not sinusoidal waveforms, they're rich in harmonics. The noise generated extends down even to relatively low frequencies due to main power supply inv

      • Allow me to simplify what you said. These aircraft are built to crash into the ground with the simplest of provocation. Consumer RF is one example, butterfly farts are another. Don't even think about bringing a butterfly aboard an A380.

        Fuckwads. Ground them all.

    • by nurb432 (527695)

      And that is different from reading a book or napping, how?

    • Bullshit. (Score:3, Insightful)

      They don't ban books, or conversations, or any number of other reasons we might ignore those announcements. Also, even if this were the case, it's a bit depressing that the only way they can make this happen is by lying to us on every single flight.

      • by iluvcapra (782887)

        None of those things can entail headphones or bright colors -- they don't want to get into a whole litany about "you can use electronic devices without headphones, but only ebook readers and only if they don't play music, and no electronic games, but it IS okay to read a book or sleep because we have studies that show that it's easier to wake someone up than to get them to put down a videogame." Just easier to say "put away electronics."

        • by basotl (808388)
          But when I use earplugs or my in-ear phones without electronic device as ear plugs, then that is okay? Because that has been what I have been doing.
      • by muindaur (925372)

        It depends. Mytthbusters found that in the 800-900 MHz range it can interfere with unshielded instruments in older aircraft. Lets not forget there are some aging 747s out there.

        Now, in this case the pilots can see if there is a problem. Though isn't there also a way to turn off the wifi and 3G at the same time like with the Kindle? I know from looking it up you can turn off the 3G to have it go to WiFi, but I couldn't find anything saying the iPad would do both (though i think it would to allow for battery

        • Seems to me that would be a priority to fix, though. I mean, if I'm a terrorist, and I know certain frequencies screw up the pilots' instruments or communication, and those are allowed on the plane anyway...

          Or, hey, if I'm just a disgruntled passenger.

          Let's not forget that they give us the same story on planes which have built-in wifi. Really, the technology is there to be able to handle this safely. I honestly don't see a good reason for this policy anymore.

    • If the plane has a bird strike and has to ditch in the Hudson, they don't want you to miss announcements because you're busy flinging Angry Birds. It's not about the electronics, it's about them having your attention during the two parts of flight where all the crashes happen.

      As someone whose father was a pilot, that is the stupidest thing I've ever heard; if something happens that is important enough, trust me, you'll notice, big time. Foreign Object Damage, for example, if a blade lets loose from the je

    • Have you ever flown on a turbulent flight? When the plane starts dropping precipitously, you know it.

      It's not as though anything you'll do prior to the crash is going to help you, except wearing a seatbelt (which you'd be doing anyway). Still, assuming that you've eclipsed that mark, humans are still cooperative enough that the person next to you might just poke you on the shoulder and notify you that, hey, didn't you notice the plane has lost a lot of altitude really fast? And the oxygen mask dropping in
    • by jdpars (1480913)
      There is also a good reason not to have cell phones and 3G-enabled devices on, though. At high enough altitudes, your uninterrupted signal can connect to multiple towers, thus hogging up many more than you would on the ground.
    • by scribblej (195445)

      Right, that's obvious bullshit, since I read a book when I fly, and am completely inattentive. No one minds.

    • If people don't feel like paying attention, they won't pay attention.
    • If the plane has a bird strike and has to ditch in the Hudson, they don't want you to miss announcements because you're busy flinging Angry Birds.

      So now the pilots are going to miss ATC instructions because they're busy flinging Angry Birds.

    • by tibit (1762298)

      We the people, with our two-bit brains. Electronics on, attention off. Electronics off, attention on. Easy, right?

  • Why? (Score:5, Informative)

    by pushing-robot (1037830) on Saturday May 28, 2011 @01:52PM (#36274486)

    So explain why I have to shut off my non-wi-fi-capable ebook reader during take-off and landing?

    One, I'm sure they tested that model of iPad thoroughly in their cockpit to make sure it didn't interfere with anything. They also know they weren't modified an any way that could generate additional RF. They didn't test your gadget, and they don't want to take any chances.

    Two, people are far more willing to accept small risks when there's a tangible benefit. Switching to iPads saves weight, and thus money. Letting you use your device during take-off and landing doesn't benefit them at all.

    • Letting you use your device during take-off and landing doesn't benefit them at all.

      So the technical answer really is "they're assholes"? Good to know!

      • by Jeremi (14640)

        So the technical answer really is "they're assholes"? Good to know!

        If by "assholes", you mean that they're prioritizing the safety of everyone on the plane over your desire to read an e-book during takeoff and landing, then yes, they're assholes.

        • Well, it infringes on his rugged individualism. After all, getting told to do something for the safety of the majority and to stop something that benefits only him would be SOCIALISM. Yes, comrade, SOCIALISM. We do not want that around here, do we?
    • If you read TFA you would see that they only use them while on the ground and above 10,000 feet. Coincidently about the same as the passengers.
    • by gad_zuki! (70830)

      That model? The same exact model I have? The same one made by the thousands at Foxconn? I doubt it has any extra shielding or anything.

      Airlines need to revise their rules. I dont see why I cant have an ebook on during take off and landing. And by "during" I mean 35 minutes before landing. Heck I'm okay for 5 or so minutes, but once it couldnt use it for an hour. That's also a problem.

  • by jjohnson (62583) on Saturday May 28, 2011 @01:52PM (#36274488) Homepage

    You have to turn off your non-wifi ebook reader because when the flight attendants are getting things going, "turn off all portable electronic devices" is a lot easier and faster than learning to tell which are and which aren't, and checking that those passengers who are still poking a screen are using something non-wifi enabled.

    And really, it's not that big a hardship to turn off your device for ten minutes during takeoff.

  • by YesIAmAScript (886271) on Saturday May 28, 2011 @01:53PM (#36274494)

    It's right there in the article, fullymodo.

    'The iPad is considered a Class 1 electronic device, meaning it is stowed during takeoff and landing under Federal Aviation Administration regulations.'

    So your book reader has to be stowed and this iPad is too.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by PRMan (959735)
      Hope they don't need to reference the manuals in an emergency takeoff or landing situation...
      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Hope they don't need to reference the manuals in an emergency takeoff or landing situation...

        Me too! If that's the case, then they should probably do something else for a living.

      • by CheerfulMacFanboy (1900788) on Saturday May 28, 2011 @04:26PM (#36275446) Journal

        Hope they don't need to reference the manuals in an emergency takeoff or landing situation...

        How do you think they used the paper manuals? Kept them on their lap during take off in case they needed them for an emergency?

      • by Bios_Hakr (68586)

        I don't know if this applies to commercial pilots, but here goes.

        Military pilots are required to write, word for word, the emergency procedures for their aircraft. Yes, the manuals and checklists are still there, but it's nice knowing that you already have it committed to memory.

  • by Aphrika (756248) on Saturday May 28, 2011 @01:59PM (#36274538)
    Easier to read in a cockpit (and they can get real glarey), search across books, longer battery life. I'd also go out on a limb and say they're more reliable...

    anyway, as long as they don't start using Flight Control HD to land the damn things, I'll be happy.
    • by Tapewolf (1639955)
      Ewww. I don't know what's in a flight manual, but I tried sticking a Studer A807 service manual on a Kindle once. It's unusable, at least for the circuit diagrams. No way to pan it properly when you're zoomed in, and the display is too small to read the component values when you aren't.
    • Many private pilots use Kindle DX for their approach plates - the PDF forms are available for free from the FAA. Much better than printing them off or using the bag of thick books that have to be replaced every 56 days. The format of the approach plate is perfect for the DX, who's screen is only slightly bigger than the real plate.

    • by digitig (1056110)
      Maybe a Kindle would be better. Until you're in the middle of an emergency and you discover that Amazon have remotely bricked it because of an account dispute.
    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      More reliable than paper? I'd at least keep a paper manual somewhere in the cockpit.

    • by Artemis3 (85734)

      An eBook reader makes much more sense than iPADs or any sort of LCD/LED screen device for many reasons; but not the Kindle and its wireless junk.

      The Chinese Hanlin and similar devices, accept open formats and don't have any wireless connectivity. Being true eReaders, they don't spend energy showing content in the screen, only changing it. They also have no backlight so they must be used just like printed paper, with a source of light.

      Such an eReader could be reliably used for running checklists or having pl

  • Because as you know, paper books are always running out of battery at the worst possible moment.. and break every time they fall on the floor due to turbulence.

    • by jklovanc (1603149)

      And paper books are never out of date, missing pages and take up such a small volume.

      As for batteries running out I bet there will be a charger installed in the cockpit. If that charger dies that probably means the pilot has no electricity at all and reading a manual is the least of his concerns.

    • by jo_ham (604554)

      Yeah, it's not like they'll be used exclusively in an environment where there's just no source of 5V DC power... oh wait.

  • Because if there is a crash, your handheld device is going to turn into a flying projectile and womp someone else in the back of the head. In fact, FAA regulations state that all items must be stowed at takeoff and landing for this precise reason -- just because it's handheld now doesn't mean you'll continue to hold on to it.

    • hardcover books should be subject to the same regulations, I'd be willing to chance being whacked with a paperback though, trade paperbacks are a nebulous gray area.

    • yes, and the radio waves bounce of the floor and strike you at the back of the head, which is way you have to turn off gsm and wifi radios.

  • by Cyberllama (113628) on Saturday May 28, 2011 @02:18PM (#36274672)

    They'd patent this idea and then sue anyone who tried to follow suit.

  • iPads have screens that can break. I hope this is a suppliment, rather than outright removal of the paper copies. I'm not *that* old, but I still feel that I could look up "stuck aileron" in the glossary and then find the correct page in the manual faster than I could type those words in on the touchscreen and wait for it to return the results. Especially when we're losing 5000ft of altitude per minute, everyone is panicing, and the whole plane is shaking.

    • by Jeremi (14640)

      I'm not *that* old, but I still feel that I could look up "stuck aileron" in the glossary and then find the correct page in the manual faster than I could type those words in on the touchscreen and wait for it to return the results.

      Really? I just tested it -- I timed how long it took me to google "stuck aileron" on my iPhone (starting with the iPhone in screen-off mode). I had results in 14 seconds (including the time it took to switch to my computer to start and stop the timer, and the time it took to fetch the data over Wifi).

      I suppose someone who was really familiar with a paper manual might be able to beat that -- but only if they knew in advance roughly where the page they were looking for was. If they had to first find the gl

  • Is that lady in the photograph/photo. really a pilot? ;)

  • by Osgeld (1900440)

    You like apple? fine, but historically they are constantly breaking compatibility with themselves which makes it hard for serious people who want a bit more of a long term investment than a buzz-headline.

    I see stories like this and think, hunh here is some tard tossing a pile of money down a proprietary hole for what? to look "cool"? Thanks I know where not to waste my money.

  • Toronto Star [thestar.com] report.

    changes to procedures or updates are easily updated electronically, compared with paper. While some manuals remain on board, the move has eliminated about 50 pounds of paper

  • Seriously this is retarded. Doesn't anyone remember how some electronic devices occasionally lock up or outright refuse to boot, and features stop working (alarm clock, Zune brick for a day), due to stupid programming errors concerning time and dates?

    IMHO, sure, have tablet PC for in-flight data -- but also have the critical stuff as a paper backup, just incase a retarded developer decides to write their own time/date algorithms instead of using the standard libs (or accidentally creates some other time

  • Buying iPad's isn't a substitute for proper EFB's (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronic_flight_bag [wikipedia.org]), but I guess it will help with the amount of documentation in dead-tree form the pilots have to lug around.

    It's a cheap solution that will work in some situations, but if they buy a proper EFB-solution they will get a much better ROI.

    Here's one manufacturer of EFB's if want to read up on some of the capabilites EFB's have: http://www.navaero.com/ [navaero.com]

    • The iPod is a proper EFB!

      AC 102-76A defines the types and classes of EFB hardware and applications. Any portable electronic device not using a mounting system, and using only certified power interfaces (like the standard Cigar lighter port) is a candidate for being Class I hardware. The airline must show that it is properly stowed for take-off and landing, and must have documentation showing that they have tested the device for interference to the point where they would allow passengers to use the device.

      Th

  • I'm really uncomfortable with this, being as the iPad is a consumer-grade device built as cheaply as possible with it's #1 function being generating profit for Apple, and I don't think the device was designed with critical use in mind. It's made to be *just* reliable and durable enough that the warranty return rate isn't too high, and no more. (If I were Apple I'd be really uncomfortable with people using them for anything more than entertainment! for liability purposes!)

    From what I've seen using iPhones

    • Hm. Exactly what kind of business environment are you in that breaks iPhones within one day? You might try to use them as phones instead of trying to hammer in nails with them.
  • It's called safety paranoia. And the most paranoid people always win the argument. There are lots of examples. According to Timothy Taylor (Economist at Standford) the law requiring child proof containers for drugs cost ~$30 million to implement yet had no affect on the number of emergency room admissions for child overdoses. The safety lobbyists are a formidable group who make a living from sitting around all day coming up with what-if scenarios and they especially love airline safety because it plays to p
  • EMI from electronic devices do affect navigational systems. If you want a demo of this in your house, put your iPad next to a magnetic compass and watch it swing.

    In the little Cessna that I fly, my portable GPS will cause the compass to be off by as much as 3-4 degrees.

    I know this is much different than commercial jetliners -- I don't claim to know how commercial jet navigational systems are built. I do know that most of the FAA regulations (such as turning off portable electronic devices) are typic
  • So explain why I have to shut off my non-wi-fi-capable ebook reader during take-off and landing?

    Because it's easier to tell people to turn off *all* electronics than it is to read out a detailed list of what can remain on and what must be switched off. It's also much easier to go down the aisle and just say "switch that off" that it is to figger out what "it" is an whether or not it can remain on...

  • the wiring of aircraft can't be gutted and replaced with proper shielded wiring... why it isn't all digital with checksums.. This is 1970's technology at the latest. Or wait maybe we could upgrade to 1980 tech such as fiber optics...

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