Surface instead of iPad

by Volker Weber

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Delta confirms 11,000 pilots will get Surface 2 tablets

If you are scratching your head why Delta is providing Surface to their pilots instead of iPads, there may be a simple reason. Much of the flight software is written in FORTRAN and there is no FORTRAN compiler for iOS*. Wherever pilots are using iPads, it's often just a glorified PDF viewer for flight manuals. The real stuff is still done on laptops. Surface can be both.

While iPads remain a huge success, I know a few other companies which are dialing back their iPad deployments, and are instead looking at Surface (2) Pro. iPads are not replacing other computers. They become a third device alongside laptop and smartphone. It's a matter of cost. A Surface Pro is a pretty powerful computer, and with the new Intel chipsets, Surface Pro finally catches up on the battery life front.

*) Update: As Carl pointed out, that's a very sweeping statement. I apologize. I just happen to know one airline that ran into these problems. However, you will find that it's sometimes impossible to migrate certain applications from one platform to another.

Comments

Complete nonsense Volker.

Most pilots are actually using Foreflight on the iPad, or the Garmin app.

Personally I use Foreflight, the idea of comparing this to a glorified PDF viewer shows a lack of research.

Carl Tyler, 2013-09-30 22:55

It was a sweeping statement, I apologize. I should have said commercial carriers. And it's not research. It's from a project with an actual airline.

Volker Weber, 2013-09-30 22:59

So how do you explain American Airlines, Jet Blue, Alaskan Airlines, and United just to name a few?

Carl Tyler, 2013-09-30 23:02

I don't. They replaced a lot of paper. And maybe personal laptops. Do you know?

Volker Weber, 2013-09-30 23:05

Whilst in the cockpit, many commercial airline pilots don't need much more than the glorified PDF reader, as the other flight navigation stuff is built into the plane already.

Now some airlines are moving to manifest management, sign off etc. on computers vs paper, but in those situations, in my opinion, they'd be better off keeping the Fortran stuff running on the backend vs the front end.

Through the weight loss of moving from paper to ipad, American Airlines expect to save $1.2m a year in fuel savings.

The company that is going to suffer most from iPads in the cockpit is Garmin, who continue to charge outrageous amounts for map data each year.

Carl Tyler, 2013-09-30 23:11

The other area you will see iPads used heavily by pilots is before they even get on the plane, checking weather, NOTAMS, TFRs etc. is perfect on the iPad (sure it's fine on the Surface 2 also)

Carl Tyler, 2013-09-30 23:17

I did some research on the other Airlines now and it appears they are indeed replacing paper that pilots were lugging around. A year has passed. I am sure they have also found new applications. It was the old applications that were impossible to migrate.

Volker Weber, 2013-09-30 23:17

Funny. Delta appears to also just do an electronic flight bag. Disappointing.

Volker Weber, 2013-10-01 00:26

If your company has a big inventory of important software written in Fortran, you have much bigger problems than which tablet to choose. Just sayin'.

Eric Hancock, 2013-10-01 01:54

Interesting read:

http://appleinsider.com/articles/13/09/30/delta-pilots-fought-against-deal-to-replace-ipad-flight-bags-with-microsoft-surface

Claus Ambach, 2013-10-01 07:38

That's definitely an AppleInsider angle. Even Gruber takes it with a pound of salt.

We will see managers in other industries "fight hard" for their company issued iPads. And yes, it's about money. Companies just do not want to issue three computers per person.

Volker Weber, 2013-10-01 07:53

It is completely off topic but I really like what investor legend Warren Buffet said about the airline industry:

"I have an 800 (free call) number now that I call if I get the urge to buy an airline stock. I call at two in the morning and I say: ‘My name is Warren and I’m an aeroholic.’ And then they talk me down.”

Apple recently made clear that there a certain lines they are never going to cross. This still makes them a very successful company but also opens the market for competition. Sometimes the legacy of Microsoft is a burden and sometimes it is an advantage. What I like of Steve Ballmer is that he is often late but still knows how to fight.

Henning Heinz, 2013-10-01 13:25

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I explain difficult concepts in simple ways. For free, and for money. Clue procurement and bullshit detection.

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