updated 12:20 pm EDT, Tue May 31, 2011
Tablet saves weight, space for mapping
Pilots in the US Marine Corps have been testing iPads as an in-flight navigational aid, according to military news site Shephard. The Corps has reportedly been experimenting since November, beginning with the iPad 1, but later incorporating the iPad 2. Test vehicles have included not only larger planes like the KC-130J Harvest Hawk, but small attack aircraft like the F/A-18 Hornet and the AH-1W Cobra gunship.
Cramped cockpits are actually one reason the Corps is testing iPads, as pilots have traditionally navigated using map packs, which are heavier and consume more space. One KC-130 sensor operator, Capt. John Belsha, notes that the iPad is far superior to paper for the simple ability to carry both charts and grid references on aircraft that are usually missing the space. The hardware is also said to be easy to use. "It takes five minutes to teach someone how to use the thing -- it's so intuitive and easy, you don't really have to think about it," Belsha comments.
Work is currently in progress to get iPads on US aircraft for training purposes. Military adoption is following in parallel with civilian airlines, which have started using iPads for manuals, charts and other data.