Alaska Air Group's (ALK) namesake airline said it will issue its pilots Apple Inc. (AAPL) iPad tablets in place of paper flight manuals to cut down the weight of the required documents.
The iPads, which will be distributed by mid-June, will weigh 1.5 pounds against the traditional manuals' 25 pounds, the company's Alaska Airlines unit said. The move follows a trial by 100 line pilots, instructor pilots and Air Line Pilots Association representatives who evaluated the plan over the past winter and spring.
"We've been exploring the idea of an electronic flight bag for several years, but never found a device we really liked," Alaska Airlines flight operations Vice President Gary Beck said. "When the iPad hit the market, we took one look at it and said this is the perfect fit."
For Apple, the iPad--with its quirky position somewhere between a giant smartphone and small computer--is further opening the doors to new corporate accounts, a trend that began with the iPhone. While desktop computers running Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) software continue to dominate office cubicles, iPads are gaining traction as an alternative to laptop computers for traveling workers.
Medical firms, for instance, have passed out thousands of iPads to their sales staff to spruce up pitches to doctors. Abbott Laboratories (ABT), Medtronic Inc. (MDT) and Boston Scientific Corp. (BSX) are among the drug and medical-device firms making the move, while others say they are testing out the devices.
Alaska Airlines said it is the first major domestic airline to use the iPad to replace paper manuals for pilots. It is also contemplating using the tablets instead of paper navigation charts, which further add to the often 50-pound bags pilots are forced to carry.
Separately, Australia's Qantas Airways Ltd. (QAN.AU) last October introduced the tablets to passengers of its Jetstar flights as in-flight entertainment devices.
Alaska Air shares were recently up 1.1% to $68.02 Friday. The stock has gained 40% over the past year.
-By Drew FitzGerald, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2909; Andrew.FitzGerald@dowjones.com