Starting today, the familiar flight attendant warning to power-down all electronic devices before takeoff will have one notable exception: the pilots’ own gear. ZDNet’s Jason O’Grady reports that the Federal Aviation Administration has approved iPads for service in the cockpit, another sign that mobile devices are the future in service, whether on the ground, in the oil fields of West Texas, or 35,000 feet up in the air.

We reported earlier this year that the FAA had begun testing the iPad as a navigational aid earlier this year, and several other airlines have experimented with the iPad for pre-flight procedures. But starting Friday, American Airlines will be the first airline to use the devices through all phases of the flight, from pre-flight checklist through takeoff and landing.

According to a blog on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s website, iPads could save American Airlines a significant amount of money in weight reduction alone:

“The iPads weigh about 1.5 pounds, replacing 35 pounds or more of paper, saving an estimated $1.2 million worth of fuel a year and lightening the load that pilots must haul around.”

Aviation may not be the first industry that comes to mind when one thinks of field service, but the benefits pilots expect to see from iPads should resonate with any mobile worker. They’re portable, easy to use and they virtually eliminate the information gap that so many field workers struggle with.

Hank Putek, a safety committee member of the Allied Pilots Association, a group representing American Airlines pilots, said iPads will make pilots’ lives easier and more productive.

“By eliminating bulky flight bags filled with paper, EFBs (electronic flight bags) mean less weight for pilots to carry, reducing the possibility of injury on duty. … In addition, they enable pilots to immediately download updates, rather than waiting for paper versions of required documents to be printed and distributed.”

With the iPad, critical information — whether it’s pilots’ flight paths or equipment history for an HVAC unit needing service — is available virtually instantly. No more guesswork and no more waiting, at least on the ground. While pilots may soon be using iPads during flights, the rest of us will have to wait until we land to check our mail and close out the work orders.