Airlines and ebooks


The NYT is running an article titled To Save Fuel, Airlines Find No Speck Too Small.

The gist of the article is that every pound of weight carried cost the airlines extra for fuel. The article quotes this figure: "Every 25 pounds we remove, we save $440,000 a year"

The article had the following discussion about paper manuals on the plane:

Up in the cockpit, Delta is studying whether it is feasible to divide the heavy pilot manuals required on each flight between the captain and first officer, so pilots are not toting duplicate sets of five or six books that each weigh about a pound and a half.

Eventually, the airline wants to eliminate printed manuals and display the information on computer screens, a step the government would have to approve.

How about putting the manuals on a 9 ounce Sony Reader or a 10 ounce Kindle?


Any of the manuals that are used to trouble shoot in flight emergencies should be in whatever format is able to be used the quickest in an emergency. Since some of these manuals relate directly to flight safety the should be in paper and on screens the crew can access.

The cans of sugar water mentioned in the article should be gotten rid of before you get rid of the safety manuals.

The problem is rating such to work around avionics packages. Leo Laporte brought up an interesting point recently on TWiT that was proved out in my mis-adventures flying. Until your flight is at cruising altitude and once descent begins, you cannot use electronics. An e-book reader must be shut down like a cell phone, laptop, or iPod must be. But yet I can still read something that is in printed from.

Integrating such manuals into flight computers rather than in a separate reader is safer in terms of construction and design. The last thing you would want is one of those readers left in the bathroom at an airport that the pilot's plane just left where the pilot had downloaded a novel to it in addition to all the work-related stuff. Unless a super-special version of a reader was produced and certified to be around cockpit electronics, that idea is a non-starter in aviation.
Stephen Kellat, Host, LISTen

Yes, there is an FAA rule about electronics on aircraft. The reason for the rule is a worry that the electronics will effect the avionics systems (navigation, radar, etc...) on the plane.

Mind you I realize this source is not going to meet with FAA approval but the Mythbusters did an entire episode where they tried to influence the avionics on a plane using personal electronics. The personal electronics had no effect.

There was a commentator on the show that said because there are so many different types of electronics and the FAA cannot test them all it is safer just to ban on electronics on takeoff and landing just to be safe. In the case of the ebook reader all the FAA would have to do is analyze the impact of the one or two electronic devices. No reason this could not be done.

For one thing, many of the needed information is already in the calculators (well they are more computer than calculator) that are in those bags the crew drags on each flight.

Many of the other lists are stored on the aircraft, there is no reason they cannot be digitized, but do you want to wait 15 minutes while some A&P mechanic records some deferred maint item electronically, or do you just want him to write it in the log and be done with it.

Emergency procedure checklists will always be paper based (laminated cards for the itty bitty planes I fly). I want to be able to find the thing in an emergency.

If they were serious about reducing weight they would strip off the paint. Yep, the weight of the paint is recorded and some aircraft paint with a flex agent mixed in weighs 23 pounds per gallon. Go to the nice silver skin rather than a flying billboard. I guess they aren't serious about reducing weight.

Mdoneil knows everything. He is so smart.

American Airlines occasionally mentions just how much fuel and other costs they save by having mostly-unpainted fuselages (not to mention that the big silver AA planes are better looking than most paint jobs). So the nation's largest airline (for now), and the only legacy line that hasn't gone bankrupt at least once, agrees with you.

It's fair to say that most manuals could be (and probably are) digitized, but emergency stuff...yeah, I'm with you: It should be in the handiest/fastest/most accessible form possible, which is sometimes paper.

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