Boeing rolls out iPad app suite for airplane maintenance crews

Up until now, airlines mostly tapped iPads to either shrink the size of flight bags carried by pilots and other flight crews or relax restriction on how passengers can use tablets. Tuesday, aircraft maker Boeing announced a suite of iPad apps designed to help maintenance crews find, fix and get airplanes back in service with the least delays. Yes, there are now iPad apps to service those huge jumbo jets.

How cool is that?

The apps, set to appear at European aviation conference this week, gives airline maintenance workers easy access to manuals, airline specs, parts information and more.

As in everything related to the cash-strapped airline business, the goal is keeping flights moving, lessen delays and reduce overall costs.

Boeing, which builds aircraft such as the 747, 777 and 787 Dreamliner, said it has worked for more than a year with airlines to find the best interface for their technicians.

According to CNET:

Boeing said it developed the app with the cooperation of several airlines for more than a year, seeking an ideal user interface and maximum ease of use for technicians.

Boeing’s press release notes that the application suite includes Toolbox Mobile Library, Toolbox Mobile Parts and Maintenance Turn Time software.

Key features of the Boeing app suite include:

• A Toolbox Mobile Library, which will provide technicians access to maintenance documents for instant reference and use, wherever and whenever needed.
• Hyperlinks between multiple manuals and airline-created content that will expedite access to critical documents so that users can easily search for documents and information about parts and fault histories.
• A Toolbox Mobile Parts app which enables technicians to instantly retrieve information about part availability, including the airline’s most current inventory information.
• Maintenance Turn Time, which gives technicians a secure connection to collaborate with their colleagues when troubleshooting a maintenance issue. A technician can take a photo of a damaged part, upload it for others to see and annotate and then share information about maintenance issues with their peers in real time. Maintenance Turn Time is available for the iPad, iPhone and a web browser.
• The ability to update reference manuals with one tap on the iPad screen. Alaska Airlines technicians estimate that using the apps on a 0.69-pound iPad mini to access critical information will save 4,000 pieces of paper a day.

The FAA has developed new rules regarding in-flight use of tablets, easing restrictions on listening to podcasts and viewing videos, according to a recent WSJ report.

A formal FAA decision isn’t expected until the end of September, when an advisory panel submits its report.