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MASCOUTAH, ILL. — Pilots at a southwestern Illinois Air Force base are decluttering cockpits, swapping pounds of paper maps and bulky flight manuals for iPad Minis.
The Belleville News-Democrat reported Monday that the experiment at Scott Air Force Base involves C-21A planes, the military version of a Learjet 35 that is often used as an air ambulance to ferry patients to hospitals and clinics.
Typically, each plane has about 50 pounds of paper on board, including maps, navigational charts and flight manuals. But the piles of printouts must be replaced every two months because they’re continually updated — about $25,000 a year in printing costs alone.
Plus, the added weight of the paper means the planes consume more fuel. For every 100 pounds of extra material on board, a plane will burn an additional three pounds of fuel.
The “electronic flight bags,” which include the 11-ounce iPad Mini, are lighter and compact.
Maj. Jared Detloff is one of the pilots testing the tablet, which he attaches to a control yolk in the cockpit with Velcro.
“There have been some differences, but so far the reception has been very positive,” he said. “This is a ‘crawl, walk, run’ phase.”
Commercial airlines are also starting to embrace the gadgets. Alaska Airlines and United Airlines have been deploying thousands of iPads to pilots, saving millions of pieces of paper and thousands of gallons of jet fuel each year.
Detloff says he and his colleagues are enjoying the ease of the iPad, but there’s one problem they’ve encountered.
“If you’re going on a long day’s mission, you have to make sure it’s fully charged prior to the mission,” he said. “We didn’t have worry about that with paper.”