United announced August 23 that it would become the first network carrier to completely replace paper flight charts with an iPad loaded with Jeppesen’s Mobile FliteDeck application. The company has already begun distributing iPads to United and Continental pilots; all pilots will be equipped with the iPad by the end of 2011.

According to United, the typical pilot flight bag contains a whopping 38 pounds of printed operating manuals, navigation charts, handbooks, flight checklists, logbooks and weather information—12,000 sheets of paper. At less than 1.5 pounds, the iPads will not only reduce the amount pilots’ load, but will also give them fingertip access to full-color flight information. Updates to information will be available to download in-flight over a WiFi network.

Mac’s B2B App Store, which opened in July, got a boost from the announcement that the world’s second-largest airline would arm all its pilots with the Jeppesen Mobile FlightDeck application. The enterprise-focused app store allows businesses to purchase applications in bulk for employees through its Volume Purchase Program, giving companies the ability to roll out mobile apps to large teams without having to instruct each employee to personally download the application. The B2B App Store also sets up a structure that allows businesses to collaborate with application developers to build custom applications designed specifically to address their business needs.

According to ZDNet, “Jeppesen was an early adopter of Apple’s B2B App Store and previously said that the company would deliver custom apps via the iPad.” Jeppesen has said that an upcoming version of Mobile FliteDeck will support tailored charts, though the current version only supports standard charts.

The move to iPads by United follows a similar announcement this summer that Alaska Airlineshad provided its pilots with iPads loaded with the GoodReader app and PDF versions of necessary flight information. Delta and British Airways are also testing iPads and other tablets to serve as “electronic flight bags.”

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