Delta equips 11,000 pilots with Microsoft Surface 2 tablets

Image caption Delta is the latest airline to embrace Electronic Flight Bags, already in use by many of its commercial rivals

American airline Delta is to equip 11,000 of its pilots with Microsoft Surface 2 tablets, in a bid to eliminate paper resources.

The recently launched Surface 2, which runs the Windows RT 8.1 platform, will provide crews with key charts and navigation tools via a customised app.

The tablets will replace the 17kg (2st 10lb) flight bags currently carried by pilots, reducing fuel consumption.

The company expects all its cockpits to be paperless by the end of 2014.

Delta had previously tested Apple iPads as potential Electronic Flight Bags (EFB), but has recently embraced Microsoft devices.

It equipped 19,000 of its flight attendants with Nokia Lumia 820 smartphones in August, which run on a Windows operating system.

Essential documents

The sight of pilots wheeling heavy cases through airports is a familiar one, but electronic alternatives have been around for decades.

Many commercial airlines now use tablets as EFBs, and the devices are even common among single-seat, or recreational pilots.

Delta pilots had been using their own tablet devices in the cockpit, but now only the Surface 2 will be allowed - a move that has been unpopular with some employees, who vented their frustrations on online forums.

A Delta spokesman told the BBC that crews will be allowed to run personal applications on the Surface 2, as long as they use a separate profile.

Time saving

Delta's senior vice president, Capt Steve Dickson, said the Surface tablets would "minimise time spent looking for flight information", and allow pilots the "opportunity for greater situational awareness in the air and on the ground".

The tablets will feature a custom-built app called FliteDeck Pro, developed by aerospace technology company Jeppesen, a subsidiary of Boeing.

They will contain thousands of electronic documents, charts, navigational aids, checklists and other key reference materials.

A spokesman for Delta said the company chose the Surface 2 "because of its ease of integration into existing IT systems as well as training and communications programs".

Weight loss

Image caption Microsoft unveiled its new Surface 2 tablets in September, after slow sales of its first version

Delta says it will roll out the device to pilots on its Boeing 757 and Boeing 767 fleets later this year, subject to approval by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The airline estimates the weight reduction resulting from the switch to a paperless cockpit will reduce fuel usage by 1.2 million gallons per year - leading to a reduction in carbon emissions of 26 million pounds (12 million kg).

Aviation consultant Chris Yates told the BBC the weight of flight bags "have been an issue for a while".

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