I'm a low Hours PPL whom has the use of a lap top for my occupation in the IT industry. Whereas I can go to page so and so of a manual and read it (i dont suddenly lose the ability to read), if a lap top decides to give up the ghost (which mine does with monotonous regularity for no reason what-so-ever) you cant get the information required because an embedded windows system ocx file has been corrupted by the addition of a new piece of software etc etc etc.
Much prefer the good old paper, I still see an abundance of bookshops out there so can only conclude everyone feels the same.
One hopes the use of a lap top would be for admin only and banned from the flight deck for obvious reasons!!
In my oppinion computerising the manuals can be a great help.
I have a small company doing all sorts of stuff about aviation safety and training, including manuals. I have written all sorts of manuals, mainly operations manuals, for 28 different commercial air transport operators and some of them have wanted the manuals on computer media as well as on paper. For use on computers I usually deliver in Adobe Acrobat or in HTML so they can be viewed in an internet browser. Both these methods have the advantage that you can include powerful search engines. Those of my customers that use computer media have their manuals on their intranets and distribute them to crews on CD-ROM.
You're quite tight, Simon. Computers should never be relied on but in the cases I mentioned we use tried and reliable software and keep it simple. Also, when the files are used mainly from a CD-ROM they are not likely to get corrupted easily.
Maybe I should also mention that I am not one to advocate the use of computers... I have been messing around with computers since 1978 so I have had it up to the wisdom teeth I don't have anymore with computers...
Computers are excellent tools but, like all tools, they have their limitations.
You will also find that a laptop computer comes as standard equipment on a new Boeing BBJ. Boeing developed performance software to enable these crews to calculate takeoff performance and weight and balance.
I'm waiting patiently until this sort of data is available on your standard PDA.
Although not opposed to computers (I'm usually having too much fun with them) and while I am aware of the advantages of using laptops, I'm still surprised to hear of their introduction on the Flight Deck. I've often scrolled through CDrom versions of CFM56 manuals and while I cannot complain too much about them I would still sometimes prefer a good old paper version to flick from page to page!
I can see a scenario in the future where a quick answer is needed from a performance graph or table and the captain is getting a bit annoyed at the lack of one while the FO will still be blankly staring at the 'Starting Windows' message.
And yes, I will second See Ar Jay's question: Reliability and Windows? Those two words will not fit in the same sentence! Impossible, can't be, won't happen..... hey! Where did the taskbar go...... uh oh .....
I prefer manuals . I find with a laptop I miss out on the knowledge that can be gleaned by flipping through peripheral pages. A sort of learning through osmosis. I also find reading printed paper easier than reading text from a screen.
Regardless of the pros and cons of using computer media or paper versions, the important aspect is that you read the stuff.
If you give somone a computer version of a manual and that person is uncomfortable with it then the discomfort will be a distraction.
IHL has a valid point in that the reader of a paper document is liable to gain knowledge beyond what he is looking for. On the other hand; when using computer media you seldom use the table of contents. If you are looking for something you can usually use a search engine, which will find everything in the manual concerning the topic you are looking for. That can have the same result to some extent.
I have seen many manuals on computer media that have been difficult to work with or unreliable/unstable. This is often due to the publisher having too high technological ambitions and making it too complicated. They often lose sight of the fact that it is to be used by people and that the important aspect is to provide information rather than fancy software.
Keep it simple and use tried and simple software and it will usually be reliable and simple to use.
The company I work for, a US based, low cost, A-320 operator, has used laptops from day one. From study software, to manuals, to performance calculations. Personally, I have found this to be great.
We, the pilots, do the wt&Balance and then the perf. calculations and it sure beats waiting for new paperwork from the company. Or interpolating a chart. Want an intersection takeoff, no problem, give me five seconds. Last minute bags, give me five seconds.
Your manuals are up to date, no waiting for revisions through the mail. I actually have all the company manuals on the computer and can reference them all, should the need be.
We are currently in the works of getting approach plates on the computer as well and honestly, I cannot wait to get them.
As far as system maintainability, I have had very few problems indeed with the computer itself or the software. We do carry two computers, one for each pilot, so redundancy there. Further, should both cause roblems (unlikely) then dispatch/Ops, has several as well.
There is some interesting and evolving software around now that will a) receive voice commands, b) read out text from the screen. Anybody tried this with manuals? It should be possible with todays technology to say to the computer "read me the checklist for xxx" and listen to the results.
Phillips marketed something kalled "Freespeech" a couple of years ago. I bought it to try it and was quite impressed. It will recieve voice commands but above all you can dictate text into a word processor. I actually wrote a complete set of Operator Differences Requirements tables without using the keyoard...
It takes a while to get used to though and most people who try it get a glassy stare in their eyes while talking to the computer...