FAA mechanics, attorneys test-fly tablets

The Federal Aviation Administration has a mobile pilot program underway to equip FAA personnel from mechanics to lawyers to pilots with tablet computers to study whether and how the devices improve efficiency and save money.

The program, launched in January 2011, called for 1,100 iPads to be distributed to personnel across the agency. The devices could be used to read and send documents and e-mail, but they could not directly access FAA networks.

The program is now in a “pre-production” phase, with full deployment starting sometime in 2014, said Robert Corcoran, manager of the FAA’s Architecture and Applied Technology Group.

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FAA says pilot program paying off

At the beginning of the program, the FAA asked all of its organizations to submit business cases for mobile devices. The move soon generated 72 business cases covering uses of the tablets for employees including aircraft mechanics and scientists.

Of the groups using tablet computers, Corcoran cited two kinds of employees who would find the devices  especially useful: mechanics and lawyers.

Mechanics had previously relied on one desktop computer in their workspace to request parts and fill out reports. So the tablets eliminated the need to queue up to for data access.

The mechanics were able to access technical manuals and order parts while doing their jobs, which saved man-hours otherwise spent waiting to access the computer, he said.

The FAA’s legal group, which is responsible for litigating cases involving flight and airspace violations, also benefited from the program, Corcoran said.

The lawyers developed an application that allowed them to store and play radar images of the tracks of flight violations. Using this tool, the legal group reported that the majority of cases were settled before trial when presented with the evidence, saving the FAA up to $100,000 per case, he said.




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