South African air force pilots are to trial the use of iPad tablets with the service’s Hawk lead-in fighter trainers, following the recent completion of “rigorous testing” by airframer BAE Systems.
An initial four iPads were delivered to South African officials in September, and will be used to display data such as weather forecasts, landing trajectory information and aircraft technical publications in the cockpit.
Pre-trial activities by BAE included conducting ground tests to assess the potential effects of rapid aircraft decompression on the tablet, and any risk of it causing electromagnetic interference for other onboard systems. The question of where to install the iPad was also addressed, with the solution involving a pilot strapping the device to his/her right thigh, above where printed reference cards would traditionally be stowed in a flight suit.
One unforeseen task was the need to equip pilots with flying gloves adapted with special “gripping tips”, as standard-issue gloves were unable to work with the iPad’s touch-screen display.
Use of the devices is also to be assessed during trials to be conducted by the UK Royal Air Force and international Hawk operators Australia and India, BAE says.
“They can be tailored to carry whatever information is needed by each customer,” says Lee Franks, the company’s head of engineering for Hawk product development. “They are an additional resource available to the pilot.”