American Airlines planes grounded by iPad app fail

29 Apr 2015

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American Airlines flights experienced significant delays after an iPad app used by pilots abruptly crashed.

Dozens of jets across the US, including in New York, Chicago and Dallas, were affected yesterday evening (28 April) by the failing software, which is used by the pilots and co-pilots to view flight plans.

Approved by the US Federal Aviation Administration in late 2011, American Airlines became the first airline to use iPads for electronic charts and flight manuals two years later. It was estimated that replacing 35 pounds of paper would save the company around US$1.2m worth of fuel per year, as well as improving safety and efficiency.

Speaking to the BBC, American Airlines said that it is still investigating the cause of the problem.

“Some American Airlines flights experienced an issue with a software application on pilot iPads yesterday evening,” said the spokesman. “In some cases, the flight had to return to the gate to access a Wi-Fi connection to fix the issue.”

“We apologise for the inconvenience to our customers and we had them on the way to their destinations soon afterwards.”

A passenger’s perspective

Philip McRell, who had already boarded a flight from Dallas, Texas bound for Austin, described the scene to Quartz: “The pilot came on and said that his first mate’s iPad powered down unexpectedly, and his had too, and that the entire 737 fleet on American had experienced the same behaviour,” he said. “It seemed unprecedented and very unfamiliar to the pilots.”

American Airlines itself took to Twitter during the app failure to respond to some stranded passengers’ queries.

According to Twitter user Serge Gojkovich, his San Francisco-to-Los Angeles flight finally took off after the crew printed off the maps they needed.

The app used by American Airlines is called FliteDeck, which is made by the Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen. Ryanair are said to be in the process of implementing a similar system.

Dean is a freelance journalist and editor covering media.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com