Airbus turns to iPad for new flight performance applications

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Airbus is aiming to secure an initial customer for aircraft performance calculation applications on the handheld Apple iPad tablet, as it claims to be the first airframer to offer such capabilities to carriers.

The decision is evidence of the increasing swing towards using the iPad as an electronic flight bag and Airbus intends to begin a phased roll-out of the applications from mid-2012.

Initially the roll-out will feature a library browser with which pilots will be able to view manuals and other documentation, as well as handle data, before moving on to performance applications a couple of months later.

These will include calculations for take-off, in-flight and landing performance as well as load-sheet and electronic flight folder applications, said Airbus head of customer support Jill Lawrie.

The airframer will release the products under its "FlySmart with Airbus" line for electronic flight bags.

"We're really saying that we're recognising that we have to be innovative," said Lawrie, adding that the manufacturer hoped to have its first customers early next year. She said that some 50 operators had "shown interest" in the product.

Flight operations marketing manager Thierry Anel said the same interface would be used to cover all Airbus aircraft types and added: "There shouldn't be any trouble validating [the applications] for use on the iPad."

Airbus chief Tom Enders recently said, during a Toulouse conference in October, that the iPad was "changing the way pilots want to interact with the aircraft", and added: "The impact of such products, from outside the world of aviation, is starting to dictate what people expect from us, and we can't ignore that."