Delta Air Lines announced on Monday that it is equipping 11,000 pilots with Microsoft's new Surface 2 tablet. Initially these will be used as an electronic flight bag to replace the traditional 38 pound paper-based version containing aircraft operating and reference manuals, and navigational charts. The company plans to roll out Surface 2 tablets to the entire fleet by the end of 2014.
Delta said that Microsoft's new Tegra 4-based Surface 2 tablet, launching with Windows 8.1 RT, will be equipped with Jeppesen's FliteDeck Pro interactive application built specifically for the Windows platform. Delta said this app will provide quicker and more efficient access to thousands of pages of electronic documents, charts, navigational aids, checklists and other key reference materials previously kept in the heavy flight bags.
"Delivering digital flight information through FliteDeck Pro on the Surface tablet platform will increase situational awareness and improve operational efficiency for Delta Air Lines," said Tim Huegel, director, Jeppesen Aviation Portfolio Management. "This EFB integration program highlights a successful collaboration between Delta, Microsoft and Jeppesen and we congratulate Delta on the digital transformation of their flight deck operations."
Microsoft points out that the Windows RT 8.1 operating system will allow pilots to open two applications side-by-side, such as launching a weather app while viewing proposed flight paths in the other window. The Live Tile user interface will also feed up-to-the-minute information to crew members while the 1080p touchscreen display "adds detail" to maps and other resources.
"Once rolled out to the entire fleet, Delta will see an immediate fuel and cost savings as the cumbersome and heavy paper documents are removed from onboard our aircraft," reads Microsoft's blog on Technet. "In fact, the airline expects to eliminate the use of 7.5 million sheets of paper annually while reducing carbon emissions by 26 million pounds on 1.2 million fewer gallons of fuel."
Delta will begin handing tablets out to pilots flying Boeing 757 and Boeing 767 planes later this year for an extensive period of testing. After that, the FAA is expected to grant Delta an approval to use Microsoft's new tablet for all subsequent fleet types by the end of 2014. 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".
The Surface blog reports that there are already a number of businesses and institutions that use the Surface-brand tablets including Hokkoku Bank, City National Bank, The London School of Business & Finance and a number of others. And starting October 1, Surface will be available through commercial resellers in 29 markets including Hong Kong, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand.
The move to Surface 2 tablets follows Delta's shift in August to the Nokia Lumia 820 smartphones using Dynamics for Retail technology for 19,000 flight attendants.