With the goal of achieving completely paperless cockpits by the end of 2014, Delta Air Lines is equipping 11,000 of its pilots with electronics flight bags using Microsoft's revamped Surface 2 tablet running the Windows RT 8.1 platform.
The rollout is scheduled to start "later this year," with pilots flying the Boeing 757 and Boeing 767 fleets to be granted access to the devices.
"The integration of the electronic flight bag is part of Delta's broader move to upgrade flight deck equipment, deploy technology enhancements and take advantage of airspace modernisation efforts," Delta flight operations senior vice-president, Steve Dickson, said.
According to a statement, the Surface 2 tablets will provide flight crews with real-time access to essential tools and the most up-to-date flight-related resources, including key charts, reference documents, and checklists.
This will be done by leveraging Jeppesen's FliteDeck Pro application which is built specifically for Windows 8.1 The interactive software provides flight crews with quicker access to key information and resources, including dynamic charts and navigation utilities which lead to safer management and operation of the aircraft.
Delta also claims it will save $13 million per year in fuel (an estimated 1.2 million gallons per year, equating to 11.8m kilogram reduction in carbon emissions) and associated costs as a result of weight reduction following removal of traditional 17kg flight bags maintained on board for each pilot.
"With these improvements, we're able to reduce the airline's environmental impact while providing a great deal of flexibility to continue to add mobile technology solutions into our flying operations."
Delta expects to receive approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to use the tablets during all phases of flight next year. Approvals for all fleet types are expected by the end of the year.
Moving forward, Delta aims to expand the functionality of the EFB equipment and increase the efficiency of the operation by providing pilots with electronic dispatch and flight release information, access to real-time weather forecasts, up-to-the-minute operational information, and dynamic communication with aircraft technicians on the ground.
The Surface deployment is part of a wider partnership with Microsoft which saw Delta deploy Nokia Lumia 820 Windows Phone-based devices for 19,000 flight attendants. This was done in August, providing staff with customer and flight information while using Dynamics for Retail technology for on-board purchases.
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