Delta Will Distribute Microsoft Tablets to Pilots

 - November 18, 2013, 9:52 AM
Delta Air Lines plans to distribute 11,000 Microsoft Surface 2 tablets to its pilots and make all of its flight decks ‘paperless’ by the end of next year. (Photo: Microsoft)

Delta Air Lines plans to begin distributing Microsoft Surface 2 tablet computers to its Boeing 757 and 767 pilots beginning in January. Pilots will use the computing device as an electronic flight bag (EFB) to store electronic charts and documents, reducing weight and improving workflow on the flight deck, the airline said. Delta joins other U.S. carriers that have incorporated tablet computers in their flight decks. Delta is the first major airline to select Microsoft’s Surface 2; other carriers, including United, Alaska and American, have selected the Apple iPad. The Federal Aviation Administration authorized American Airlines pilots to use iPads in all phases of flight in December 2011, making American the first carrier to use tablets for the full flight envelope. In June, the carrier completed the distribution of 8,000 iPads to its pilots.

“Delta has long been evaluating the different tablet devices that are on the market. It became apparent that the Surface 2 tablet gave us functionality above and beyond just an added electronic flight bag,” said a spokesman. “It’s a scalable device and a complete enterprise solution that will fit well in our IT environment.” Using Surface 2 tablets as EFBs will allow Delta pilots to leave behind traditional flight bags weighing some 38 pounds, the carrier said. It expects the weight reduction realized by replacing paper charts and documents with EFBs will save it $13 million per year in fuel and associated costs. Delta aims to distribute 11,000 tablets to its pilots and make all of its flight decks “paperless” by the end of next year.

The carrier will initially use the tablets for storing charts and reference materials for use by pilots in non-critical flight phases. It expects to receive FAA approval to use the devices for all flight phases next year, following testing on 757s and 767s. Delta expects approvals for all subsequent fleet types by the end of next year. In coming years, Delta plans to expand the functionality of the EFB by providing pilots with electronic dispatch and flight release information, access to real-time weather forecasts and “dynamic” communication with aircraft technicians on the ground.

The Surface 2 will run on the Windows RT 8.1 platform and use the Jeppesen FliteDeck Pro application for Windows, providing access to real-time information such as dynamic charts. With the Windows operating system, pilots can open two applications side-by-side, displaying, for example, weather information alongside proposed flight paths. The tablet has a 10-hour battery life, according to Microsoft.

Delta said it also started supplying 19,000 flight attendants with Nokia Lumia 820 smartphones in August to access customer and flight information and process onboard customer purchases.