Delta Air Lines is equipping its 11,000 pilots with electronic flight bags using the Microsoft Surface 2 tablet. Device rollout to pilots flying the Boeing 757 and Boeing 767 fleets will start later this year and all Delta cockpits are projected to be paperless by the end of 2014.
The Surface 2 will run on the Windows RT 8.1 platform and provide flight crews real-time access to essential tools and the most up-to-date flight-related resources including key charts, reference documents, and checklists while saving the airline $13 million per year in fuel and associated costs.
“Delta’s electronic flight bag running on Surface 2 continues the technological strides Delta has been making to give our crews the best tools to keep them flying safely and efficiently,” said Capt. Steve Dickson, Delta’s senior vice president – Flight Operations. “This intuitive device puts key information at their fingertips right when they need it. By eliminating paper, we’ll reduce clutter and minimize time spent looking for flight information allowing our pilots the opportunity for greater situational awareness in the air and on the ground.”
Electronic flight bag to support real-time access to resources
Delta’s electronic flight bag will leverage Jeppesen’s industry-leading FliteDeck Pro application built specifically for the Windows 8.1 platform. The interactive software gives flight crews quicker and more efficient access to key, real-time information and resources such as dynamic charts and navigation utilities, which help them better manage the safe operation of their aircraft.
“Delivering digital flight information through FliteDeck Pro on the Surface tablet platform will increase situational awareness and improve operational efficiency for Air Lines,” said Tim Huegel, director, Jeppesen Aviation Portfolio Management. “This EFB integration program highlights a successful collaboration between, Microsoft and Jeppesen and we congratulate on the digital transformation of their flight deck operations.”
With the Windows RT 8.1 operating system, pilots will be able to open two applications side-by-side, offering, for example, the opportunity to assess weather information alongside proposed flight paths. The Live Tile user interface in Windows 8.1 can feed up-to-the-minute information to crewmembers while the true high-resolution 1080p touchscreen display of the Surface 2 adds detail to maps and other resources.
Delta expects to receive approval from the FAA to use the tablets during all phases of flight next year, a process that follows an extensive period of testing on board Boeing 757 and Boeing 767 aircraft. Approvals for all fleet types are expected by the end of the year. The Surface tablets fully integrate handheld technology in the flight deck, streamlining organization of necessary materials and ensuring continuity of information accessed by pilots while giving them the latest tools to drive operational and cost improvements. The reduction of paper in the cockpit also reduces clutter and allows pilots to spend more time focusing on flying the aircraft, as they will benefit from an intuitive user interface with functions to find key information faster without having to hunt for appropriate manuals in flight bags or page through paper documents.
“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 modernization efforts,” said Dickson. “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.”
Maximizing efficiencies for environmental benefit
Rolling out the Surface 2 tablets across the entire fleet and eliminating paper in the cockpit means the carrier will remove traditional 38-pound pilot flight bags maintained on board aircraft for each pilot. That critical weight reduction is expected to reduce fuel usage by an estimated 1.2 million gallons per year, which translates to a 26 million pound reduction in carbon emissions — the equivalent of taking more than 2,500 passenger cars offs the road. Additionally, the tablet will cut the airline’s paper usage by 7.5 million sheets annually and save an estimated 900 trees each year.
In the coming years, Delta plans 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.
“We set out to make Surface the most productive tablet, so we couldn’t be more excited to help Delta pilots be more productive and help the environment,” said Brian Hall, Surface General Manager at Microsoft Corp. “This announcement demonstrates Delta’s absolute commitment to bringing the best in technology innovation onto their flight operations. The full HD Surface screen and 10-hour battery life will be perfect for flights where Delta pilots will get seamless real-time data and visualization in a variety of lighting conditions. Then they can be productive off the plane with Microsoft Office and our click-in keyboard. We look forward to seeing how Delta amazes us with its Surface tablets.”
The move to a paperless cockpit follows Delta’s industry-leading launch of handheld devices for its 19,000 flight attendants, which run on Windows Phone-based software. Delta flight attendants began using the Nokia Lumia 820 in August and are able to access customer and flight information while using Dynamics for Retail technology for easy onboard customer purchases.