American Airlines Flights Delayed by iPad App Failure

In a victory for Luddites everywhere, American Airlines was forced to issue paper maps of Reagan National Airport to pilots after a software glitch caused the airline's iPad map navigation app to crash. The app, which is published by a division of Boeing Co. called Jeppesen, provides pilots with information about the various airports serviced by American Airlines.

The failure, apparently limited to the Boeing 737 airplanes in the company's fleet, resulted in the delay of 24 flights on Tuesday evening and another 30 Wednesday morning.

Software engineers determined that the software error was caused by the entry of a duplicate map of Reagan National into the app. Pilots who had Internet access were able to restore much of the app's functionality by deleting the app and re-installing it. In some cases, however, pilots had to take their jets back to their gates to be within range of Wi-Fi networks.

We reached out to American Airlines to find out what happened. "We experienced technical issues with an application installed on some pilot iPads," a spokesperson told us. "This issue was with the third-party application, not the iPad, and caused some departure delays last night and this morning. Our pilots have been able to address the issue by downloading the application again at the gate prior to takeoff and as a backup, are able to rely on paper charts they can obtain at the airport. We apologize for the inconvenience to our customers."

Inconvenience but No Danger

It is important to stress that the software failure of the iPad app posed no threat to the safe operation of any of American Airlines' planes. The documentation contained on each pilot's iPad is separate and apart from the tools needed to navigate the plane in flight. While airport maps are helpful on the ground, they are not essential,...

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