Delta Air Lines (NYSE: DAL ) announced today that it is cleaning out its cockpit clutter by equipping its 11,000 pilots with Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT ) Surface 2 tablets. The devices will replace paper-based flight kits, allowing pilots instant access to data such as navigational charts, reference manuals, and safety checklists.
"Delta's electronic flight bag running on Surface 2 continues the technological strides Delta has been making to give our crews the best tools to keep them flying safely and efficiently," said Delta Senior Vice President of Flight Operations Captain Steve Dickson in a statement today.
According to Delta, the switch should help the airline save around $13 million a year in fuel and associated costs, while also allowing its pilots to better focus on their ultimate task -- flying a plane. Delta said replacing traditional 38-pound pilot flight bags with tablets will reduce fuel usage by an estimated 1.2 million gallons per year. This translates to a 26-million-pound reduction in carbon emissions, according to the airline, and will cut the airline's paper usage by 7.5 million sheets annually. These translate to saving an estimated 900 trees each year, according to Delta, and the equivalent of taking more than 2,300 passenger cars off the road.
Delta has already been using Microsoft's device on a trial basis, and expects the FAA to approve its use on all phases of flights sometime in the next year. Tablets are expected to take their place with pilots of Boeing 757 and Boeing 767 fleets by the end of this year, with all pilots paperless by the end of 2014.