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Upgrade above the clouds: Austrian Airlines equips pilots with tablets


• A modernization boost in the cockpits of Austrian Airlines – the Surface Pro 3 has been in use in flight operations at Austria's largest airline since early November.
• Surface tablets are replacing the paper-based version of the electronic flight bag (EFB) – a collection of important flight documents weighing several kilograms that has accompanied pilots around the world... until now.
• Once the project is fully implemented, some 950 Windows 8.1-based Surface Pro 3 tablets will simplify the work of pilots enormously. Thanks to the completely paperless cockpit they ensure processes surrounding flight operations are more efficient. As a result, time is saved and flight delays are reduced.

Modernization boost in the cockpit
Austrian Airlines is currently launching a project that will change the work of pilots dramatically and bring flight operations to a whole new level. Equipping every pilot with a Surface Pro 3 tablet gives Austria's largest airline an enormous modernization and productivity boost.

"When it comes to improving flight operations and providing customers with an even better quality of service, an ever increasing number of airlines rely on innovations from Microsoft. We are very proud that the biggest carrier in Austria, Austrian Airlines, opted to use Surface Pro 3 and Windows 8.1 to modernize its operations. As a fully-fledged tablet and working device in one, the Surface's positioning on the market is also underlined by this move – regardless of whether it is on the ground or above the clouds," says Alexander Linhart, head of the Windows Business Group at Microsoft Austria.

The dream of a paperless cockpit
"Starting in the late 1990s with the arrival of the first laptops in the flight deck, the dream of a completely paperless cockpit is actually becoming a reality thanks to the Surface tablets from Microsoft," explains Dr. Philipp Haller, pilot at Austrian Airlines. As electronic flight bag administrator, Philipp Haller is also head of the current project and recounts: "In 1999, Austrian Airlines was the first airline in Europe to place flight documentation at the disposal of its pilots in digital form – effectively as a forerunner of the modern electronic flight bags of today. Due to the numerous advantages that arise from the intensified use of digital instead of paper-based flight bags, we have continuously developed flight operations over the last few years. Having said that, it was not possible to completely replace the flight bag in the past. Thanks to the Surface tablet-based electronic flight bags, that is different now."

Upgrade for pilots
The advantages of the electronic flight bag are perfectly obvious to Philipp Haller, who also works on long-haul routes: "For the first time we are now in a position to use the tablets as a 'real' electronic flight bag in flight operations. Unlike previous solutions, the tablet will accompany the pilot constantly." This starts with preparations – pilots use an existing Internet connection to load the latest flight information and documents (flight plans, weather information, as well as position, environmental and system data, for example) onto the tablet. For safety reasons at least two Surface Pro 3 tablets per flight are fixed using special brackets. "Fixing them like this means that our pilots are now in a position to use the electronic flight bag installed on the tablet in all phases of the flight for the first time. In particular, that applies to critical phases such as takeoff, landing and even turbulence."

Upgrading the entire fleet
Austrian Airlines has opted for the implementation of an extensive Surface Pro 3 - and Windows 8.1-based electronic flight bag. The high performance, large screen, and – in comparison – very low weight make the Microsoft tablet an ideal working device for the flight crew. In the course of the project, Austrian has bought about 950 Surface Pro 3 tablets in total. The chosen version features 128 GB storage, an Intel i5 processor, and 4 GB RAM. The rollout of the Austrian fleet's tablets and equipment started in early November 2014. The cockpit of every Airbus A320, Boeing 767, Boeing 777, Dash 8 Q400 and Fokker aircraft will be gradually fitted with EFB brackets, meaning that every pilot – no matter which type of aircraft they fly – will in future be able to use the Surface tablets and electronic flight bag at all times during flight operations. Introduction of the new system is supported by Microsoft partners ACP and Danube IT Services.

Simplifying a pilot's working day
"Pilots work offline 95% of the time. As a result of the switchover to the electronic flight bag, the flight crew always has all the flight-related information available offline," explains Philipp Haller. "The electronic flight bag on the Microsoft tablet allows us to synchronize a wide range of the latest data, information and flight-related documentation prior to the flight, meaning it is then available offline during the flight. The immediate availability of manuals, charts or checklists consisting of several thousand pages enormously increases the ability to take action in the air," Philipp Haller explains the advantages from the perspective of a pilot.  

Tradition in the air
However, one element of the tradition will remain in future: "No matter how much we like to believe otherwise, freedom above the clouds is not without limits," says the pilot, who has been flying for Austrian Airlines for more than 16 years. Even if the content of the paper-based flight bag is replaced by a tablet, this ultimately needs to be transported as well. Philipp Haller believes there are other reasons why flight bags will not disappear entirely: "The flight bag will continue to be very popular as a baggage item – for personal travel accessories, at least. And there is one thing we mustn't forget: even if everything in the cockpit is now digital, the pilot license will continue to accompany pilots in paper form for some time."

More information
• Printable images for this release are available here (Credits: © Austrian Airlines; use by media free of charge)
• Learn more about Microsoft's solutions for airlines at
• Learn more about Austrian Airlines at; additional press photos are available at

Austrian Airlines
Austrian Airlines is Austria’s largest carrier and operates a global route network of round 130 destinations. That route network is particularly dense in Central and Eastern Europe with 41 destinations. Thanks to its favourable geographical location at the heart of Europe, the company’s hub at Vienna International Airport is the ideal gateway between East and West. Austrian Airlines is part of the Lufthansa Group, Europe’s largest airline group, and a member of the Star Alliance, the first global alliance of international airlines. The flight operations of the Austrian Airlines Group have been bundled at its 100% subsidiary Tyrolean Airways since 1st July, 2012.

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