American Airlines
Several dozen American Airlines flights were grounded on Tuesday evening after pilots' iPads containing flight paths crashed simultaneously across several planes Reuters

At least two dozen American Airlines flights were grounded on 28 April, Tuesday evening, due to a mass app issue causing the iPads used by pilots to simultaneously crash.

The outage caused significant delays to the flights as the pilots' iPads held the crucial flight plans required to make the journey.

"The pilot told us when they were getting ready to take off, the iPad screens went blank, both for the captain and co-pilot, so they didn't have the flight plan," Toni Jacaruso, a passenger on American flight #1654 from Dallas to Austin, told Quartz.

"The pilot came on and said that his first mate's iPad powered down unexpectedly, and his had too, and that the entire 737 fleet on American had experienced the same behaviour," said passenger Philip McRell, who was also on flight #1654. "It seemed unprecedented and very unfamiliar to the pilots."

The passengers were told they could choose to leave the flight and find alternative routes to their destinations, as the flights would not be leaving until the problem was solved, and at least one passenger complained that the air conditioning was not switched on in the cabin while the plane was waiting on the tarmac.

Pilot just told us ALL 737's in American Airline fleet grounded...iPad shutdown #apple we have no AC

— pmac (@pmcrell) April 29, 2015

American Airlines told USA Today that the iPad glitch was caused by a software app glitch that could only be fixed by connecting to the internet.

"In some cases, the flight has had to return to the gate to access a Wi-Fi connection to fix the issue. We apologise for the inconvenience to our customers," said American Airlines director of corporate communications Andrea Huguely.

"We are working to have them on the way to their destination as soon as possible."

In 2013, American Airlines decided to go paperless, replacing the heavy paper-based reference materials that pilots routinely carried in heavy flight bags with iPad-based "electronic flight bags" created by Jeppesen, a unit of Boeing Digital Aviation.

"Removing the kitbag from all of our planes saves a minimum of 400,000 gallons and $1.2 million of fuel annually based on current fuel prices," American Airlines' Vice President for Safety and Operations Performance David Campbell said at the time.

"Additionally, each of the more than 8,000 iPads we have deployed to date replaces more than 3,000 pages of paper previously carried by every active pilot and instructor. Altogether, 24 million pages of paper documents have been eliminated."

The airline has also found that giving its pilots iPads enables air traffic control and the pilots to make revisions to flight paths much more quickly electronically rather than on paper.

There have been increasing security concerns recently about the possibility of hackers attacking the Wi-Fi networks on planes as more airlines seek to offer the service to their passengers.

It is likely that the pilot iPads are secured, but it opens up the question - by going paperless and relying on computers and software, are we adding risk to the airline industry, rather than increasing safety and productivity?