Glitch in iPad app causes travel headaches for American Airlines passengers

airplane 620x465
Credit: flickr/francois schnell

Some American Airlines passengers faced lengthy flight delays on Tuesday after a fault in the iPad navigation app used by the carriers' pilots and co-pilots caused the tablets to crash.

"Some flights are experiencing an issue with a software application on iPads," American Airlines said on Twitter to a passenger whose flight was delayed.

The glitch appeared to impact the airline's fleet of Boeing 737 aircraft and occurred suddenly.

+ ALSO Big new United Airlines carry-on item: iPhone 6 Plus phablets for 23,000 flight attendants +

"Pilot says *all* #AmericanAirlines pilot iPads in 737 fleet went dead, all at once," passenger Stephen Edmonds wrote on Twitter.

American flies more Boeing 737s than any other aircraft type, according to information on the airline's website. Of the 627 planes American operates, 226 are that type of plane, potentially causing travel headaches for several passengers.

"We experienced technical issues with an application installed on some pilot iPads. This issue was with the third-party application, not the iPad, and caused some departure delays last night and this morning," an American Airlines representative said via email.

The carrier also told some media outlets the glitch affected several dozen flights.

The iPads run software from Jeppesen, which makes navigation applications for the aviation and marine industries. Jeppesen didn't immediately reply to a request for comment.

Travelers in Dallas, New York and Chicago reported that the software bug had grounded their flights. The glitch apparently caused flight 1654 from Dallas to Austin, Texas, to depart three hours late, according to flight tracking website FlightAware. The flight was scheduled to leave at 8:20 p.m. local time, but didn't take off until 11:24 p.m.

"IPad bug has @AmericanAir #737 fleet grounded Sitting at #DFW on #ATX bound plane because Captains iPad crashed," Bill Jacaruso, who was on flight 1654, wrote on Twitter.

To resolve the issue, pilots connected to Wi-Fi networks and downloaded the app again, said the representative, adding that pilots are also able to use paper charts available at the airport.

In some cases, pilots resorted to this old-fashioned method.

"We are in the air. Pilots printed the maps," tweeted Serge Gojkovich, who was flying from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

IPads started appearing in the cockpits of American jets in 2013 to save pilots and co-pilots from having to carry around heavy paper manuals, navigation charts and reference material. Going digital would reduce the plane's weight and save the airline more than US$1.2 million in fuel every year, said American.

Fred O'Connor writes about IT careers and health IT for The IDG News Service. Follow Fred on Twitter at @fredjoconnor. Fred's e-mail address is fred_o'connor@idg.com

Related:
Shop Tech Products at Amazon