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American Airlines sees Apple's iPad preventing pilot back injuries

By switching from heavy 40-pound flight bags to Apple's iPad, American Airlines expects to address a relatively common issue among commercial airline pilots: back injuries.

Patrick O'Keeffe, vice president of Airline Operations Technology at American Airlines, spoke this week at the TabTimes Tablet Strategy conference in New York, where he revealed that iPads will become available to all of his company's 8,600 pilots by the end of May.

Credit: American Airlines

"We've reduced the single biggest source of pilot injuries: carrying those packs," O'Keeffe said during his keynote presentation. "And we are now able to save $1 million in fuel costs and stop printing all the page revisions."

American Airlines first began using Apple's iPad during all phases of flight last year, and is the only carrier in the world with permission to do so. The iPad is currently the only tablet approved by the Federal Aviation Administration as an electronic flight bag.

Typical flight bags can weigh up to 40 pounds with thousands of pages of charts and manuals. By switching to the iPad and going digital, American Airlines will cut printing costs and make it easier for pilots to carry those charts.

While only the iPad is allowed for use as an electronic flight bag, American Airlines has also embraced devices running Google Android for other aspects of flight. The company has distributed 16,000 Samsung Galaxy Notes to its crew members, and flight attendants reportedly use the devices to manage data related to food service, seating, and up-to-date gate information.