Although Francois Lassale, managing director at Vortex FSM, believes iPads are the future for every cockpit, he also thinks implementation of the new products has been rushed since deliveries began three years ago. Therein lies a threat. “I think the FAA and EASA have been caught off guard and simply rushed to catch up,” he said.
Lassale warned that some operators are so caught up in iPad fever they’re not thinking of the hazards or complexities the units add to their operations. For a Part 91 operator today, there are guidelines in AC 120-76B, but there is no separate authorization required to operate the unit. Just read and fly. A number of attendees acknowledged that they believe the number-one drawback to an iPad in the cockpit is the distraction of the colorful unit, especially if it is not permanently mounted in the aircraft, which classifies it as a Class One electronic flight bag (EFB).
The benefits of the iPad, according to Lassale, include “its low purchase price as well as its low operational cost, not to mention that the unit weighs less than 1.5 pounds. The iPad display is crisp and colorful, which many consider one of the unit’s greatest strengths, not to mention the overall increase in situational awareness the iPad offers.” A swipe or two of the finger is all that’s needed to access information and of course, unlike paper Jepp charts, updating an iPad is a piece of cake.
With well over 100 million units sold since rollout, Lassale warned crews not to move too quickly. In addition to the rushed implementation and distraction of the devices, he believes, “the unit’s simplicity means training on the iPad and its use in the cockpit is seldom given much thought.” That means crews could be playing with the unit when they should be paying attention elsewhere in the cockpit. And of course one of the primary items that worries Lassale is that the iPad is powered by lithium ion batteries, with their questionable stability.