The authorization follows three months of rigorous testing and evaluation of the iPad and Mobile TC, a map app developed by aviation chartmaker Jeppesen.
The latest decision applies only to Executive Jet Management, but it has implications for all of aviation. By allowing the company's pilots to use the Apple iPad as a primary source of information, the FAA is acknowledging the potential for consumer tablets to become avionics instruments.
To receive authorization the iPad was subjected to numerous tests including rapid-decompression testing from a simulated altitude of 51,000 ft.
Jeff Buhl, Jeppesen's product manager for the Mobile TC app, said iOS proved "extremely stable" and in the "unlikely" event of a software crash "the recovery time for an application crashing or the OS crashing is extremely rapid."