Delta Air Lines is equipping its 11,000 pilots with Microsoft Surface 2 tablets, as it aims to replace paper-based flight kits with "electronic flight bags".
The US airline is to trial the tablets - which will be available in the UK for consumers later this month - as an "electronic flight bag" incorporating navigational charts, checklists, and aircraft operating and reference manuals.
The tablet is the follow-up to Microsoft's Surface RT and Surface Pro devices, and will run on the Windows RT 8.1 platform. The Delta devices will have planning solution provider Jeppesen's FliteDeck Pro application pre-installed on them, giving flight crews access to charts and navigation utilities in real time.
Pilots flying the Boeing 757 and Boeing 767 fleets will get hold of the devices later this year and Delta aims to have all of its cockpits paperless by the end of 2014.
Delta expects to receive approval from the FAA to use the tablets during all flight phases in 2014, after trials on the Boeing 757 and Boeing 767 aircrafts.
"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 captain Steve Dickson, Delta's senior vice president of flight operations.
"This intuitive device puts key information at our pilots' fingertips right when they need it. By eliminating paper, we'll reduce clutter and minimise time spent looking for flight information, allowing our pilots the opportunity to develop greater situational awareness in the air and on the ground," he added.
The airline is hoping that the switch to tablets will help it to save $13m a year in fuel and associated costs, as well as reducing its carbon footprint. It claims that using tablets instead of using 38-pound pilot flight bags will reduce fuel usage by about 1.2 million gallons per year, which is the equivalent of a 26 million pound reduction in carbon emissions.
Delta's Dickson added that the use of the electronic flight bags is part of the airline's broader move to upgrade flight deck equipment and deploy new technology.
"With these improvements, we're able to reduce the airline's environmental impact while providing a great deal of flexibility to continue to add mobile technology solutions into our flying operations," he said.
Delta said that it plans to expand the functionality of the equipment by giving pilots electronic dispatch and flight release information, access to real-time weather forecasts, further operational information and communication with aircraft technicians on the ground.
The move follows the Delta's introduction in August of Nokia Lumia 820 devices for its 19,000 flight attendants.
The flight attendants are able to access customer and flight information, and use Microsoft Dynamics for Retail in a bid to improve its customers' experience of onboard purchases.