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With the right Electronic Flight Bag – ‘EFB’ for short – you can carry all the Type A flight information and technical documentation you need in a small electronic package; no books and bags required! Better yet, the most sophisticated EFBs – known as Class III EFBs – can provide a pilot with GPSbased ‘own-ship tracking’ during flight on an electronic ‘moving map,’ and even connect to a Flight Management System (FMS) to help monitor and record the aircraft’s overall performance.


July 10, 2007
By James Careless

Topics

183-gpsYou wouldn’t rely on a handheld compass to navigate an aircraft. So why
would you clutter up the cockpit with paper logbooks and manuals? It’s
a good question, given that the alternative – Electronic Flight Bags –
are as superior to paper as 21st century avionics are to handheld
compasses. With the right Electronic Flight Bag – ‘EFB’ for short – you
can carry all the Type A flight information and technical documentation
you need in a small electronic package; no books and bags required!
Better yet, the most sophisticated EFBs – known as Class III EFBs – can
provide a pilot with GPSbased ‘own-ship tracking’ during flight on an
electronic ‘moving map,’ and even connect to a Flight Management System
(FMS) to help monitor and record the aircraft’s overall performance.

Of
course, since Class III EFBs have to be certified as ‘avionics grade’
and be capable of running DO-178B Class C or higher software, they are
priced out of reach for most pilots. Still, Class I and II EFBs are no
slouches: Beyond carrying all the applications listed above, many Class
I and II EFBs will run Jeppesen charting programs such as JeppView
FliteDeck, WSI InFlight real-time weather (delivered by satellite to an
airborne receiver), weight calculation formulas, fault messaging, and
even provide cabin surveillance, provided that they are connected to
in-cabin video cameras. In addition, Class II EFBs with appropriate
interfaces such as ARINC 429 and/or RS232 can receive information from
the FMS/GPS to provide centred moving map displays (without own-ship
position depicted), aircraft position information for real-time weather
applications, and can automatically display approach and terminal
charts for airports logged in as departure and arrival locations.


The Three Classes of EFBs


So what does all this talk about Class I, II, and III EFBs mean in plain English?

A
Class I EFB is typically a COTS (Commercial Off the Shelf) laptop
computer, tablet PC, or perhaps even a high-end PDA that has been
loaded with Type A software. This means you can take the Class I EFB
along wherever you go. However, the fact that it is portable means a
Class I EFB must be stowed during landing and takeoff. In flight, you
may end up with it sitting in your lap, for easy access.

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A Class
II EFB is similar in functionality to a Class I EFB: The difference is
that a Class II EFB is physically mounted in the cockpit (which keeps
it off your lap). The obvious advantage is that a Class II EFB can be
used in all phases of flight, including takeoff and landing. In
addition, unlike Class I EFBs, Class II EFBs can be purchased as
software-loaded laptops/tablet PCs, or ‘purpose-built’ EFBs designed to
suit a pilot’s habits.

A case in point is the PilotView Class II
EFB, which is built by CMC Electronics of Montreal. Basically a
‘purpose-built’ tablet PC with a colour LCD display, CMC Electronics’
EFB controls are “based on standard avionics design,” said Gulfstream
senior experimental test pilot Tom Horne. This is why Gulfstream has
installed the predecessor of the PilotView (the CT-1000 G) as standard
equipment in its IVs and GV-SPs and is currently in the midst of
certifying CMC’s new PilotView EFB. “You don’t want to struggle with a
different input style when you’re busy in the cockpit,” Horne said.

As
for Class III EFBs? Given that they are permanently integrated into the
aircraft’s avionics systems, Class III EFBs are really a form of
avionics system. This is why they require regulator certification for
installation and use: It is also why Class III EFBs can offer such
useful systems as ‘own ship’ tracking in real time.


Who Can Use EFBs?

Not
surprisingly, a search for EFBs on the Web will often lead to sites
associated with business jets. However, EFBs are just as useful for
propeller and rotary-wing aircraft.


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