Tuesday, August 23, 2011 at 10:29 am.

United Airlines buys 11,000 iPads for flight decks

Here’s United’s press release – another cool example of the iPad invading the enterprise.

Beyond giving pilots access to new technology — and replacing about 38 pounds of paper books and charts in the cockpit — there’s also a side benefit of spending a tiny bit less money on fuel.

United estimates the switch to iPads from paper will save 326,000 gallons of fuel per year. At current prices, that’s about $1 million worth. I don’t know what United is paying Apple for the iPads, but at retail, it would cost more than $5 million to buy them. (Plus the flight software, cases, etc., minus the cost of the paper charts being replaced.) So the fuel savings alone probably don’t make up for it, even if prices continue to rise. And now there is the added risk that the iPad won’t work when the pilots need it to.

But it seems there are other potential benefits — real-time access to the latest charts, for instance. And, uh, Twitter. At very least, it means less weight for the pilots to lug around. As long as it can be done safely, I’m all for it.

Also: The airplane industry needs its iPhone