FAA Inspectors Test iPads

on April 25, 2012 at 11:38 AM

As part of a plan to upgrade technology and support a mobile workforce, Federal Aviation Administration inspectors are taking part in a pilot project using iPads to conduct safety checks on airline carriers.

About 50 of the FAA’s 3,300 inspectors are testing the mobile devices in a six-month pilot project across a range of airports, FAA’s Chief Technology Officer Douglas Roseboro told Breaking Gov.

“Mobility has become one of our leading initiatives,” Roseboro said. “The FAA has a very mobile workforce, including inspectors. How can we deliver some of our services and data for the mobile workforce?”

To that end, he added, it makes sense to use devices that can deliver necessary data and information at any time and in any place. It will make the FAA’s job “easier to do and improve efficiency and performance,” Roseboro said.

“We are already starting to see gains. We don’t take notes on paper anymore. We do it on an iPad.” – Pamela McCoy

They are looking at the air carriers as a whole and how systems interact to assure safety. They are also looking at an air carrier’s management, corporate safety culture and its experience as well as its systems.

“It goes well beyond just kicking tires,” said FAA spokeswoman Tammy L. Jones.

Once the pilot ends this summer, the FAA will evaluate results and decide whether it is cost effective and meets the ever changing needs of the agency responsible for the nation’s safe skies.

As the march toward mobility gains momentum across the federal government, Roseboro said, “It’s good the inspectors can download the information rather than needing to be at office.”

However, security issues and procedures to establish in case devices are lost or stolen need to be addressed, Roseboro said. He also said the FAA must evaluate who actually needs a mobile device to do their job.

“Safety inspectors are mostly mobile,” Roseboro said.

Another mobile pilot currently underway is being used by program analysts who must determine the cost of delivering a service. These analysts will be able to use a mobile device to get financial information when they are traveling to different sites to evaluate a service.

The FAA, which is a member of the federal government’s mobility task force, is also looking at standardizing and developing mobility using cloud computing, Roseboro said.

“We are already starting to see gains,” Pamela McCoy, director of administration in the En Route Oceanic Services division of FAA, said at the FOSE conference recently. “We don’t take notes on paper anymore. We do it on an iPad.”

Roseboro said an FAA team meets monthly to discuss problems or challenges and get feedback on pilot programs and, despite its commitment to testing and research, is cautious about throwing its resources into mobile devices.

“We’re trying to evaluate the effectiveness of mobile devices. We’re not yet committed to moving in that direction,” Roseboro said.

The FAA’s CTO offers the following tips for agencies moving to the new world of mobile technology:

  • Make security your first priority, including strong password security
  • Appoint a mobile device manager who can purge data from a lost or stolen device
  • Have a strong business case. Not every application you have would be suitable for mobile deployment
  • Who gets a device? Everyone wants one, but not everybody needs a mobile device. Figure out who is better off with a cell phone, not a smart phone or iPad
  • Standardize the development of mobile apps and infrastructure to achieve cost-effectiveness