FAA Advances iPad Use

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The FAA currently has about 1,100 employees -- from pilots to lawyers -- using computer tablets, has future plans for an app store, and now plans to broadly expand the use of iPads within the agency, according to its tech group. The FAA currently allows employees to use iPads to read and send e-mail or documents, and does not allow the devices to be used to access FAA networks. But that is scheduled to change. The FAA's manager of Architecture and Applied Technology said that by 2014, the FAA plans to allow workers the choice to replace laptops with iPads. It plans to consider Android-based tablets as well. The FAA's own internal research has found the devices useful in particular applications, improving efficiency and costs, but also found them limited in other ways.

According to the FAA, tablets have proven particularly useful for information consumers like mechanics and lawyers. Mechanics who had relied on a desktop computer for parts requests or to file reports gained better access to shared resources through the use of tablets. They could more easily access technical manuals and saved time on the job. Similarly, lawyers were granted better access to legal files. Both lawyers and mechanics at the FAA have already benefited from apps created to serve their specific needs and the agency hopes to develop more. For example, lawyers prosecuting airspace violations now have an iPad app that allows them to find and view replays of FAA radar showing the alleged flight path deviation. The agency hopes to expand iPad use for trainers and students and create an app store.