Thursday, July 12, 2012


The following report in The Australian, July 13, 2012, by Aviation writer Steve Creedy, is interesting not only because of the subject of the piece, but also because of its language and logic. The implication is that the introduction of tablet technology into the cockpit will make an environmental difference to the operation. The new technology - cunningly promoted by brand of tablet twice in two sentences, complete with detailed specifications but no price - will apparently reduce the quantity of paper used and the weight carried on each flight. Wow!

Qantas pilots turn to iPads in a move designed to improve communication

QANTAS will deploy 2200 iPads to its pilots in a move designed to improve communication and data access while cutting down on cockpit paper.
The 64Gb iPads with 3G connectivity are also expected to provide about $1.5 million in annual savings through a combination of reduced printing and distribution costs as well as weight saving of about 20kg per aircraft.

The message seeks to give the classic ‘good news’ message of a ‘win-win’ situation: improved efficiency with money saved, with less paper used and less fuel wasted. It also clearly promotes one brand of tablet. It is the sort of language frequently used for positive ‘environmental’ promotional and sales messages.

The concern is that like most environmental and sales messages, this looks like a cynical public relations exercise in a ‘feel-good’ advertorial story rather than reporting on genuine concerns with real outcomes.

While the matter of latent tablet sales advertising is a concern, one has to ask: is weight on flights so critically managed that the effort to save 20kg on each flight is required – even considered? Forgetting about that person who always seems to be able to get the enormous bag on board as hand luggage that never fits, when you have struggled so hard to keep yours to size and weight, one only has to think about the other concern of personal size - that extra-large individual who nearly always has been given the seat next to you. Both these situations go unmanaged, randomly adding who knows how many ‘kg’s to the flight, all while we are asked to believe that Qantas is working so hard to be totally responsible in reducing its weight by 20kg. No, surely not. Is the main aim tablet sales? Has a deal been done here? Gosh, the decorative paint on an aeroplane weighs hundreds of kilograms.

Environmental matters are a weighty issue, but this media release seems to be a flippant game in manipulation of opinion on brands rather than a serious response to a real issue. Environmental matters only become degraded by such approaches. They become jokey when they are really much more serious, allowing others to treat these matters with a sceptical disdain - and why not?

 We need to manage these issues with much more rigour and responsibility if we expect others to respond accordingly, and act appropriately. Linking sales promotions to environmental concerns is a dangerous business that degrades both sides of the campaign. Has anyone asked about the embodied energy used in the manufacturing and distribution of the technology quoted? Has anyone asked about the batteries that these tablets use? What happens to the tonnes of batteries used every day? In Australia, with any luck, they find their way directly into landfill with other general waste. Who cares? The smart technology and stories like this only serve to distract us from such serious issues that need attention. The whiz and bang of wonder games and feel-good yarns keep us content with our entertainments, until a newer model arrives with better stories and faster outcomes. Who cares about anything else? We should.

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