The Allied Pilots Association (APA), the certified collective bargaining agent for the 11,000 pilots of American Airlines says the carrier has begun final testing of iPads equipped with electronic-charting functionality.

“Last year American Airlines became the first carrier authorized by the Federal Aviation Administration to use iPads as electronic flight bags for pilots,” says First Officer Hank Putek, a member of the APA Safety Committee who has led the union’s efforts to develop and deploy EFBs. “American Airlines has now become the first to deploy iPads with an electronic-charting solution.”

Electronic charting provides pilots with a digital image of their flight route. The final testing phase is a prelude to FAA approval of the devices to serve as Class 1 Electronic Flight Bags (EFBs) during all phases of flight.

“By eliminating bulky flight bags filled with paper, EFBs mean less weight for pilots to carry, reducing the possibility of injury on duty,” Putek says. “In addition, they enable pilots to immediately download updates, rather than waiting for paper versions of required documents to be printed and distributed.”

Along with lower paper printing and distribution expenses, reduced fuel consumption represents another EFB benefit. The devices weigh approximately 1.5 pounds and replace paper flight manuals easily weighing 35 pounds or more that pilots are required to carry while operating a commercial flight.

APA, American Airlines and Jeppesen collaborated on the development of the electronic-charting solution for the iPad. The final testing phase involves Boeing 777 pilots from the airline’s Los Angeles crew base.