LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- Airmen at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., received 721 iPads to be used as electronic flight bags for C-130 Hercules aircrews July 2, as part of Air Mobility Command's effort to reduce paper waste and costs by replacing flight bags and loads of paperwork they hold with the electronic tablets.
This marks the beginning of a six-month trial period of the devices, which aircrew members will use to store publications and other paperwork electronically, rather than carrying them onboard in a flight bag. The tablets are scheduled to become ubiquitous across the base by December.
Moving from a paper-based electronic flight publication system to an electronically-based system cannot only improve operational efficiency and safety, it can save the Department of Defense significant time and money.
"A publication bag can weigh anywhere from 60-80 pounds," said Master Sgt. Brandon Bowers, 19th Operations Group evaluator flight engineer. "Just one of them costs more than an iPad. The tablets will give us more information with less weight, while saving money and conserving resources."
Every aircrew member will eventually have one of these tablets for duty, if everything goes as planned, but right now the base is just a leading wing for the testing phase of the plan, and unforeseen circumstances could impede progress.
The tablets were presented months after the Air Force awarded a $9.6 million contract, giving them the option to buy as many as 18,000 tablets if they choose to.
The savings from printing flight documents and distributing are estimated by Mobility Air Forces at approximately $5 million annually. The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the Air Force Materiel Command are responsible for printing and distribution of the required paper aeronautical documents needed by Air Force flying crews.
According to Letitia Long, the NGA director, the Air Force is the agency's largest account holder, with a total annual budget for flight paper of $20-24 million. By moving to an electronic format, a significant annual savings for the DoD Enterprise can be realized.