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Swedish Fokker 50 operator tests iPad as elecgtronic flight bag

posted Jan 26, 2011, 3:26 AM by Rowan Hewitt

Swedish regional carrier Amapola is testing a new electronic flight-bag cockpit installation, based on the portable Apple iPad, in its Fokker 50 turboprop fleet.

The carrier has secured Swedish civil aviation authority clearance for the Class 2B fit and began using the touchscreen iPad technology about four weeks ago.

Amapola needs to fly for 100 days with a paper back-up but, if no operational problems emerge, will be able to operate without any paper charts on board.

Fokker Services has developed the hardware and cockpit arm mount for the equipment. The iPad uses a database provided by Navtech that contains 31,000 charts and is regularly updated.

"It's very cheap, you can buy it everywhere. The size of the display is excellent and the user interface is so natural that it needs no training for pilots to use it," says Fokker Services modifications director Tom Milder.

The iPad has attracted interest from airlines as an alternative to traditional hard-wired in-flight entertainment. But Milder says Fokker Services opted three months ago to explore the handheld tablet's potential in the electronic flight-bag market.

"It has a big advantage against laptops, which need a pointer or a mouse or keyboard," he says. "In a year there will be competitors. We wanted to make sure we were the first."

As an approved design organisation, it has been able to conduct certification work on the device and gather data to assess its suitability as a cockpit information instrument.

Milder says the iPad has been checked to ensure it can withstand circumstances such as sudden pressure changes at altitude, and that its electrical power capabilities are sufficient. The company's installation includes an adapter to provide power to the device while in flight.

Carriers need to conduct their own operational approval of the installation, but Fokker Services says it can adapt the equipment to other regional aircraft types as well as Airbus and Boeing platforms.

"We see the iPad as a unique opportunity to further lighten the load on pilots and airlines," says Navtech chief Mike Hulley.