Flying Offshore or EMS?

An Electronic Flight Bag Could Lighten Your Load
James Careless
July 10, 2007
By James Careless
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.

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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