Delta Air Lines, which had earlier equipped its 19,000 flight attendants with Nokia Lumia 820 handsets, is now going to give Surface 2 tablets to its 11,000 pilots.
Pilots will be using the tablets to access flight and weather information through apps such as FliteDeck Pro and the Weather app.
The tablets will also have stored in them charts, navigational aids and checklists that replace the paper manuals and documents formerly in the pilots’ flight bags, according to the company.
Replacing the pilots’ traditional 38-pound flight bags with the much lighter tablets is expected to save the airline some $13 million a year in fuel usage and other costs, according to the two companies.
The airline may also create its own custom apps, and put its operations manuals on the device, said Brian Hall, a general manager with Microsoft’s Surface team.
Delta still needs to receive approval from the FAA to allow the pilots to use the tablets during all phases of flights — something the company expects to happen next year, according to the news release from Microsoft and Delta.
While Microsoft has focused on marketing Surface RT — the Surface 2’s predecessor, which did not sell well — as a consumer device, it seems to be taking a broader approach to the Surface 2 marketing.
Delta’s decision to go with Surface 2 for its pilots, Hall said, is “an important signal that Surface a great tablet for businesses.”
The airline likely chose the Surface 2, which runs on a variant of Windows 8.1 specifically designed for power-sipping ARM-based chips, over the more powerful Surface Pro 2 because it’s less expensive while able to do the necessary tasks, Hall said.
While Microsoft is positioning Surface Pro 2 as a laptop replacement, it’s positioning Surface 2 as a straight tablet with some laptop capabilities. “For anyone who doesn’t need legacy Windows support, Surface 2 is really the best option now,” Hall said.
Both Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 are scheduled to launch on Oct. 22.