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iPads in Cockpit Raises Seriously Troubling Issues

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With iPads winning approval from the FAA to display navigation charts for charter pilots, the stage has been set for Apple to aggressively boost corporate sales in this important industry. Businessweek reports that with US regulators endorsing iPads “in a test project at Executive Jet management, a unit of Warren Buffett’s NetJets, the way is open for pilots at airlines and other commercial carriers to see authorization for the devices.”

Clearly, this is a coup not only for Cupertino, but also for the airline industry. You see, in a mind-blowing revelation that frankly shocks this writer, pilots have been relying on the “decades-old tradition of paper maps in the cockpit.”

That’s right, apparently paper maps are still the preferred navigational tool for pilots and we can only pray to God that these maps are small enough not to obscure the entire windshield when unfolded and that co-pilots are particularly adept at folding and refolding them when in a bind.


“Emergency landing! Bank left or right up ahead? Left or right??”

“I don’t know!”

“Check the map!”

“I’m unfolding it now!”


“Agh! I can’t get it open. Did you fold this last time?”

“I don’t remember. Which way?!”

“The creases are all screwed up. Whoever folded this last time is a moron. I can’t see anything!”

“Oh well. Left it is!” Weeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!

Compare this little exchange with one had by pilots using iPads:

“Emergency landing! Bank left or right?? Left or right??”


Ahhh. So much easier.

Now, the iPad isn’t the first “electronic flight bag” to win FAA approval. These navigational tools have been used for over 10 years, even though they weren’t exactly convenient. One popular model, from Astronautics Corporation of America, weighed 18 pounds. Apple’s iPad is 12 times lighter.

Still, most carriers still rely heavily on paper maps. Businessweek reports that “Delta Air Lines Inc., the world’s second-largest carrier, is ‘still vastly paper driven,’ according to Gina Laughlin, a spokeswoman. Delta is pursuing approval to test iPads and other tablet devices next quarter, Laughlin said in an e-mail.”

Now, iPad’s integration into cockpit life may sound all well and good. But it seems that regulators failed to account for one seemingly innocuous yet devastatingly dangerous iPad-related use.

Angry Birds.

The addictive game wherein players attempt to navigate infuriated flying Neornithes into pigs is adored by millions, and there’s little reason to believe the game would not be particularly enjoyed by pilots. After all, these are pilots. Hurling across the skies is their thing.

Fact is, any device that can double as a navigational tool for planes and a platform for Angry Birds must be seen not only as a threat to pigs, but flying humans as well. Whether or not iPads in the cockpit will allow for games remains to be seen, but there’s little reason to doubt that the devices won’t be full fledged iPads, complete with such distracting apps as Yelp, Flixster, and Solitaire.

Don’t get me wrong. Moving away from paper maps is a good thing. But for the sake of all flying life, the FAA must address the Angry Birds. After all, the last map you want your pilot to be looking at when faced with a crucial navigational decision is this one:

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