Microsoft’s Surface 2 tablets have been cleared by the Federal Aviation Administration for use by airline pilots as part of their electronic flight bags (EFBs). The tablets achieved Class 1 and Class 2 certifications, the same type of approval typically granted to other handhelds and laptops.
This doesn’t mean that all pilots will immediately be moving to Surface 2 slates to replace heavy paper manuals. Airlines must still ask for approval to get the Surface 2 on their list of approved devices but when they do, the process will be expedited as the device already meets FAA guidelines.
It’s one less step that Delta Air Lines would have had to deal with last year. If you recall, the airline announced plans to equip 11,000 pilots with Surface 2 tablets in September 2013. Compared to the 38-pound flight kit it replaces, Delta said the Surface 2s would help reduce fuel consumption by an estimated 1.2 million gallons each year and cut paper usage by 7.5 million sheets annually.
It’s worth pointing out that we’re talking about the Surface 2 only, not the higher-end Surface 2 Pro. That’s a significant distinction both in terms of hardware and software but more so, the latter. The Surface 2 runs Windows RT 8.1, an operating system with an extremely limited suite of available apps. Fewer apps could actually be a good thing for pilots as they’d have less distractions as their disposal, but I digress.