An iPad App Glitch Forced American Airlines to Ground Dozens of Flights

Oh, technology.

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

American Airlines grounded a few dozen flights Tuesday night after a software issue with pilot iPads prevented planes from taking off. “Some flights are experiencing an issue with a software application on pilot iPads,” Andrea Huguely, a spokeswoman for American Airlines, told the Verge. “In some cases, the flight has had to return to the gate to access a Wi-Fi connection to fix the issue.” American Airlines also acknowledged the glitch via Twitter:

Here’s a bit more from the Verge:

[Bill] Jacaruso, 54, was traveling home to Austin from Dallas/Fort Worth airport on flight AA1654 with his wife, Toni, and his beagle, Masita. “We got on the plane and it was supposed to leave at 8:20PM CT. We got on at 8 and just sat there,” he tells the Verge. The pilot got on the intercom after a while and said that his copilot’s iPad went blank, then 24 minutes later the pilot’s went blank too, according to Jacaruso.

The pilot then announced to Jacaruso’s plane that all iPads on 737s were affected. About 45 minutes later, the pilot came back on to say, “It looks like it’s not just 737s, it’s random, but no one’s going anywhere til we figure it out.”

In 2013, American Airlines became the first major commercial airline to use iPads in all stages of its flights. The new “electronic flight bag” phased out a 35-pound bundle of reference material that pilots used to carry in their bags, replacing some 24 million pages of paper documents altogether. At the time, American Airlines said the transition would save at least 400,000 gallons of fuel a year.

The iPad glitch comes just a few weeks after the U.S. Government Accountability Office warned in a report that in-flight passenger Wi-Fi could make certain planes’ navigation systems vulnerable to hackers. Last week, the FBI and Transportation Security Administration alerted airlines that they should watch out for any signs of tampering or suspicious activity on the networks. With that in mind, seeing a bunch of iPads suddenly go blank looks like a pretty good reason to keep flights on the ground.

The headline of this piece has been modified to clarify that it was a third-party app glitch, not a glitch in the iPad’s software, that led American Airlines to ground flights.