While on the crew bus heading to Hong Kong International Airport (HKG), I can use my iPad’s Smart Brief app to download the flight plan (about 70 pages) for our return flight to Toronto. This dedicated pilot briefing and weather app allows me to fine-tune flight conditions, pinpoint thunderstorms over Japan and locate jet streams over the Pacific Ocean with great accuracy. Another popular pilot app, Jeppesen, will depict our route, all airport charts – HKG has nearly 80 such charts alone – and even provide weather updates. (As a meteorologist, I can’t get enough weather.)
Now that Internet is available at 35,000 feet, pilots’ tablets are like wireless umbilical cords attaching us to the mother ship, essential gear for our global 24-7 operations. Weather reports update as we fly. Navigation charts are available for every airport in our system plus a ton more. As recently as 2014, all of this existed on paper, and had to be carried onto every flight. At one time, pilots were required to manually amend all charts before each flight pairing, including airports we would never fly to. Now amendments are handled almost instantaneously, with the tap of a button.