Definitions

flight bag

Electronic flight bag

Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) is an electronic information management device that helps flight crews perform flight management tasks more easily and efficiently with less paper. It is a general purpose computing platform intended to reduce, or replace, paper-based reference material often found in the Pilot's carry-on Flight Bag, including the Aircraft Operating Manual, Aircrew Operating Manual, and Navigational Charts (including moving map for air and ground operations). In addition, the EFB can host purpose-built software applications to automate other functions normally conducted by hand, such as performance take-off calculations.

The EFB gets its name from the traditional pilot's Flight Bag, which is typically a heavy (up to 40 lb/18 kg or more) documents bag that pilots carry to the cockpit. The Electronic Flight Bag is the replacement of those documents in a digital format. EFB weights are typically 1-5 pounds, about the same as a laptop computer, and a fraction of the weight and volume of the paper publications. There are numerous benefits for using an EFB but specific benefits vary depending on the size of the operation, type of applications used, the existing content management and distribution system, the type of applications deployed. Some common benefits include: weight savings by replacing the traditional flight bag, reduced medical claims from handling traditional flight bags, reduced cost, and increased efficiency by reducing or eliminating paper processes. There are also claims of increased safety and reducing pilot workload.

According to the FAA's Advisory Circular (AC No. 120-76A), an Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) is an electronic display system intended primarily for cockpit/flightdeck or cabin use.

There are also militarized variants, with secure data storage, Night Vision Goggle (NVG) compatible lighting, environmental hardening, and military specific applications and data.

EFB devices can display a variety of aviation data or perform basic calculations (including performance data and fuel calculations.). In the past, some of these functions were traditionally accomplished using paper references or were based on data provided to the flight crew by an airline's "flight dispatch" crew.

For large and turbine aircraft, FAR 91.503 requires the presence of navigational charts on the airplane. If an operator's sole source of navigational chart information is contained on an EFB (no paper backups), the operator must demonstrate the EFB will continue to operate throughout a decompression event, and thereafter, regardless of altitude. The only way to achieve this capability is by using a Solid State Disk drive or a standard rotating mass drive in a sealed enclosure.

History

The earliest EFB precursors came from individual pilots in the early 1990s who used their personal laptops and common software (such as Spreadsheets and Word Processing applications) to perform such functions as weight & balance calculations and filling out operational forms. One of the earliest and broadest EFB implementations was in the mid 1990's when FedEx deployed their Auxiliary Performance Computer to carry out aircraft performance calculations on the aircraft (this was a commercial off-the-shelf HP computer and was considered portable). In addition, FedEx also began deploying Pilot Access Terminals on their airplane in the late 1990's. These later devices were common laptops that used certified docking station on the airplanes (to connect to power and data interfaces). In 1996, Aero Lloyd - a German carrier - introduced two laptops to compute the performance and access the documentation. The system called FMD (Flight Management Desktop) permits Aero Lloyd to remove all the documentation and RTOW in paper from the cockpit with the Luftfahrt-Bundesamt (German Civil Aviation Authority) agreement. Other companies, including Southwest followed with "carry-on" performance computers, but they remained on the airplane as a practical matter. JetBlue took a different approach by converting all of its operations documents to electronic format and distributing them over a network to laptop computers that were issued to pilots (versus to the airplane).

As personal computing technology became more compact and powerful, with extensive storage capabilities, these devices became capable of storing all the aeronautical charts for the entire world on a single three-pound (1.4 kg) computer, compared to the 80 lb (36 kg) of paper normally required for world-wide paper charts. New technologies such as real-time satellite weather and integration with GPS have further expanded the capabilities of Electronic Flight Bags. However, for large commercial airlines, the primary problem with EFB systems is not the hardware on the aircraft, but the means to reliably and efficiently distribute content updates to the airplane.

While the adoption rate of the Electronic Flight Bag technology has been arguably slow among large scheduled air carriers, corporate operators have been rapidly deploying EFBs since 1999 due to reduced regulatory burden and easier cost justification.

Hardware classes

Electronic Flight Bags are divided into three hardware classes and three software types.

EFB hardware classes include:

  • Class 1 - Standard commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) equipment such as laptops or handheld electronic devices. These devices are used as loose equipment and are typically stowed during critical phases of flight. A Class 1 EFB is considered a Portable Electronic Device (PED). These may connect to aircraft power and interface to other systems via certified (STC) docking station and/or power source. This would allow the Class 1 device to interface with other systems through the certified interface and other devices through an expansion port interface.
  • Class 2 - Also Portable Electronic Devices, and range from modified COTS equipment to purpose-built devices. They are typically mounted in the aircraft with the display being viewable to the pilot during all phases of flight. Mounts may include certified structural mounting devices or kneeboard devices. These may connect to aircraft power and data sources, e.g. through an ARINC 429 interface. A Class 2 EFB can be used for bi-directional data communication with other aircraft systems. In this class, a single LRU device would be an optimal solution based on the ease of installation and replacement.
  • Class 3 - Considered "installed equipment" and subject to airworthiness requirements and, unlike PEDs, they must be under design control. The hardware is subject to a limited number of RTCA DO-160E requirements (for non-essential equipment—typical crash safety and Conducted and Radiated Emissions (EMC) testing). There may be DO-178 requirements for software, but this depends on the application-type defined in the Advisory Circular. Class 3 EFBs are typically installed under STC or other airworthiness approval.

Applications

The EFB may host a wide array of applications, categorized in three software categories:

  • Type A
    • Static applications, such as document viewer (PDF, HTML, XML formats);
    • Electronic checklists (ECL);
    • Flight Crew Operating Manuals, and other printed documents like airport NOTAM;
    • Flight performance calculation;
  • Type B
    • Non-interactive electronic approach charts or approach charts that require panning, zooming, scrolling; (AC120-76A, App B)
    • Head-down display for Enhanced Vision System (EVS), Synthetic Vision System (SVS) or video cameras;
    • Real-time weather data display, including weather map;
  • Type C

Note: Type C applications are subject to airworthiness requirements, such as software certification. Type C applications must run on Class 3 EFB.

Regulations

According to the FAA, Class 1, Class 2 and Class 3 EFB may act as a substitute for the paper manuals that pilots are otherwise required to carry with them. While Part 91 Operators (those not flying for hire, including private and corporate operators) can use their Pilot In Command (PIC) authority to approve the use of Class 1 and Class 2 EFBs (which are PEDs), operator with OpSpecs (Part 135, Part 121) must seek operational approval through the OpSpecs process.

EFB users and installers should be aware of recent, clarified guidance for FAA Inspectors. Draft guidance pertaining to EFB operational authorization and airworthiness/certification requirements may be found at the following link: http://www.opspecs.com/FAAInfo/Policy/opSpecs/DraftOpspecs/Docs/A061_EFB_OpSpec.doc

Clarifying the intent of FAA Advisory Circular AC 120-76A, new draft inspector handbook guidance includes the following requirements:

  • PEDs used in a Class 1 or Class 2 configuration must meet the rapid decompression testing requirements of standard RTCA DO-160E.
  • Any data connectivity of PEDs used in a Class 1 or Class 2 configuration to aircraft systems shall be performed in accordance with a Supplemental Type Certificate, Type Certificate or Amended Type Certificate.
  • Any mounting or attachment of PEDs used in a Class 1 or Class 2 configuration to the aircraft shall be performed in accordance with a Supplemental Type Certificate, Type Certificate or Amended Type Certificate.
  • Electronic chart software: The display of own-ship position ('spotter') on the ground must meet the requirements of AC 20-159 and/or TSO C-159.
  • Electronic chart software: The display of own-ship position in flight is prohibited on Class 1 or 2 configurations.

Available EFB Systems

Operational Approval is only necessary for part 135 or 121 operators. Operational Approval process is individual to each of the flight operation and involves a detailed process with their FSDO through an FSB Report system. Regardless of whether an EFB has been approved for use in one aircraft, application for operational approval for these operator types has to be done for each aircraft and for each operation.

For Part 91 Operators, Operational Approval process is self-approval, exercising Pilot-In-Command authority. For more on this and subsequent information, please reference the latest FAA Advisory Circular on EFBs (AC 91-78) from July, 2007. Below is the list of companies that offer EFB products currently on the market. Some of these companies are also the manufactures of the EFB hardware and others are re-sellers for third-party hardware systems that are either industrial or consumer grade. Many of these are Class 1 and Class 2 EFBs, but some cover broad spectrum hardware from Class 1 to Class 3 EFB devices:

Some EFB hardware and software providers (not at all an exhaustive list) are below:

References

  • FAA AC 91-78 (July 2007) - Use of Class 1 and 2 EFBs

For historical reference on EFB market progression, also see:

  • Job Aid documents on EFB use and approval
  • FAA Advisory Circular 120-76A
  • FAA Advisory Circular 120-76
  • JAA Temporary Guidance Leaflet 36

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