McChord Reserve aircrew issued iPads

By Master Sgt. Jake Chappelle on August 17, 2012

The Reserve aircrews in the 446th Airlift Wing won't be using their fingertips to flip through thick technical orders to increase their knowledge anymore. Instead, they will be drawing them across touch screens on light and handy electronic tablets.

Air Mobility Command purchased about 300 Apple iPad 3 tablets for 446th AW aircrews, which were assigned to pilots and loadmasters Aug. 3, and will eventually serve as the primary tool for aircrews once full Electronic Flight Bag (media storage used by aircrews to accomplish their duties) implantation occurs.

"This is a true progression in embracing technology," Chief Master Sgt. Jim Masura, 446th Operations Group Standard Evaluation loadmaster said. "Our crews will be able to access information quicker."

Masura, of Graham, said this is the ideal technology that aircrews can use for information access.

"Trying to use a laptop is slower," he said. "Having a small useful device will be a great step toward arming our crews with information to accomplish their jobs safely and efficiently."

The chief said he anticipates a good return on investment with the crew using the iPads.

"The benefit will be increased efficiency and future expansion," Masura said. "It's a good proven platform."

Lt. Col. Pete Buehn, 446th OG Standard Evaluation pilot said private airlines are using the same technology.

"Some of the commercial airlines our pilots fly for are using the same platform, so the feedback should be constructive," Buehn said.

According to Masura, the iPad received the best feedback when it came to AMC deciding on the ideal platform.

"Several other bases did the testing for the brand of tablet that was selected," Masura said. "I am sure it was based off of ease of use."

Buehn said that even his limited use of the iPad supports the convenience and money savings afforded by tablet devices.

"I use an iPad already for regulation reference and have found it beneficial," Buehn said. "Just think of all the reduction in paper and the distribution there of."

Masura said the new tablets will consolidate the group's current method for information access.

"Currently, we provide a means for the crewmember to receive all of their publications electronically with a thumb drive for self study," said the 26-year Reservist. "They then have to provide their own computer for viewing these publications. The iPads allow us to not only give them the publications, but also a convenient means of reading those items."

The iPads won't immediately phase out the current process, Masura said. They will implement them in steps.

"We are beginning phase one of the project which is just for self study," Masura said. "We will give every body six months to get used to using the iPads and their information before we have them use them during their missions."

In the first phase they are a simple e-reader, which makes accessing electronic publications easier than from a laptop in most situations, Buehn said, who lives in Puyallup.

"As part of phase two, we will eliminate several of our required carry-paper publications and view these exclusively on the iPad or flight planning computer in our trip kits," Masura said.

In future phases, the iPads will be part of each crewmember's required carried equipment, Masura said. This will be done as a cost and weight savings measure.

As beneficial as the tablets will be once implemented, the command will be able to overcome roadblocks as they come up, according to Buehn and Masura.

"I think the biggest drawback is going to be keeping them safe from damage," the chief said.

Reading the tablet at night and being at the battery's mercy could pose potential problems, according to Buehn, who's been with the 446th AW since 1987.

However, Masura said everything is going as planned, so far.

"I started using one of the first iPads a week ago and I am learning new things every day," Masura said. That is the idea behind this phased process."

Masura said they began instructing pilots and loadmasters on the iPads Aug 3, and plan to start the aircrews on computer-based training.