By Jupiter Kalambakal

United-Continental, the world's largest airline, will replace the flight manuals of pilots with iPads, around 11,000 units of the Apple tablet computer. The rollout is an investment estimated at $5 million, but the move is expected to save about $1 million in costs annually.

Pilots will be using the 1.5-pound tablet computer instead of the hefty flight manuals and chart books weighing up to 38 pounds. The iPads will contain the same data as the paper version.

With iPads, pilots can "quickly and efficiently access reference material without having to thumb through thousands of sheets of paper and reduce clutter on the flight deck," according to the airline.

Pilots can download updates immediately instead of waiting for paper updates to be printed and distributed. The iPads also weigh less and are easy to store and carry.

United estimates it will save 16 million sheets of paper a year, and a lighter load on the aircraft will save 326,000 gallons in expensive jet fuel.

The iPads will carry the Mobile FliteDeck software application developed by Colorado-based Jeppesen, a unit of Boeing, which provides navigation tools for air, sea and land.

The Federal Aviation Administration has approved the use of tablet computers by private pilots, business aviation pilots, military pilots and small commercial pilots, and is now allowing testing in large commercial aircraft.


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