Southwest tests tablets for mechanics

Phoenix
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Southwest Airlines has begun a test programme to provide digital manuals to mechanics via iPads, says Jim Sokol, the carrier’s vice-president maintenance operations today at the sidelines of the MRO Americas show in Phoenix.

“We’re prototyping in Denver and in Dallas right now, on a very small scale, iPads for our mechanics that will take the Boeing toolbox and integrate that so that they have information available on the airplane to repair that aircraft,” says Sokol. About five mechanics in Denver and 15 in Dallas are using the digital devices, he adds.

The tests began in March and will run for 90 days, after which Southwest will decide on whether to implement them at more locations, says Sokol. The tablets, equipped with cellular service, will allow mechanics to make decisions more quickly by having the necessary paperwork close to the aircraft, he says.

"We’ll be able to pick up some momentum and turn it on to all 20 of our locations if we have success,” says Sokol, referring to the number of stations where Southwest performs maintenance.

Southwest has also tested iPads in the cockpit as electronic flight bags (EFBs), which allows pilots to use digital versions of flight charts.