Soon after Apple's iPad was released in 2010, aeronautical chart manufacturers and operators quickly recognised the advantages of using lightweight, portable tablets to replace paper manuals in the cockpit. However, it was not until June 2012 that the US Federal Aviation Administration gave airlines the green light to start using tablets during all critical phases of flight as "class 1" devices, rather than having to stow them during take-off and landing.
The new rules allow tablets to be mounted in the cockpit, accessible to the pilot throughout all phases of flight without the need for a special supplemental type certificate (STC) for the mount or the device itself.
United and Continental pilots were issued with iPads in 2011
Airlines are looking ahead at future functionality of tablet-based electronic flightbags (EFB) such as the iPad, and several plan to use the devices not only to store aeronautical charts and manuals but to provide additional features such as maintenance logs and extra situational awareness on the ground. Aerospace-built class 2 and class 3 EFBs have traditionally provided this type of information, but these functions are now being integrated into class 1 portable consumer devices as well.