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iPad glitch grounds flights

American Airlines iPad

Planes prevented from taking off as cockpit iPad apps run into turbulence

American Airlines was forced to ground several flights last night because of a glitch with pilots’ iPad apps. The company’s pilots get their flight plans from a bespoke American Airlines app. However, a fault in the software resulted in several flights being delayed or cancelled, according to reports. 

American’s pilots have iPads installed in cradles in the cockpit, providing them with digital flight plans and other critical navigation data. The flaw reportedly resulted in the app crashing or showing a blank screen, preventing the planes from taking off. 

The American Airlines Twitter account reported that “some flights are experiencing an issue with a software application on pilot iPads,” at around 3am BST. A spokesperson for the airline later told The Verge that “in some cases, the flight has had to return to the gate to access a Wi-Fi connection to fix the issue.”

American Airlines first introduced its “Electronic Flight Bag” system in 2012, after gaining approval from the Federal Aviation Authority. The company said the iPad apps would replace heavy printed manuals, eliminating the need for pilots to carry 16kg kitbags with them and thus saving over a million dollars a year in fuel. The apps would also be able to provide real-time data to the pilots.

The mobile app and data is provided by Jeppesen, a unit of Boeing Flight Services. Every American pilot is equipped with an iPad as part of the programme, which first rolled out across the company’s 777 fleet before being introduced on every flight. Shortly after, American stopped updating its paper flight manuals, presumably meaning the pilots can’t fall back on paper copies if something goes wrong with the iPad app.

American is far from the only airline to rely on iPads in the cockpit. United Airlines also uses Apple’s tablets for flight plans and navigation tools, as do several others. 


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