In order to discuss the fundamentals we will start with a definition:
The definition of an Electronic Flight Bag (EFB), according to the FAA's Advisory Circular (AC No. 120-76A), is an electronic display system intended primarily for cockpit / flightdeck or cabin use. EFB devices can display a variety of aviation data or perform basic calculations (e.g., performance data, fuel calculations,etc.). 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" function. In short, an EFB is an electronic information management device that helps flight crews perform flight management tasks more easily and efficiently, in a less-paper environment.
As they are designed to replace the heavy and cumbersome traditional pilot flight bag, EFB systems are relatively small and light (only a few pounds at most). They typically consist of a screen and a control unit that may be installed, mounted or contained in one sole portable unit. EFBs can electronically store and retrieve documents required for flight operations, such as the General Operations Manual (GOM), Minimum Equipment Lists (MEL), Flight Crew Operating Manual (FCOM), and other controlled documents/data. One of the major motivators for using an EFB is to reduce or eliminate the need for paper and other reference materials in the cockpit.
Question: I want an EFB solution, what are the selection criteria?
Under Part 91 operations a Pilot-In-Command can replace his paper based charts, procedures and directories with an electronic version. There are compliance issues as well as safety issues. For compliance issues please check our compliance section here.
Generally there are the following criteria to consider:
Not all EFB solutions are compliant. In order for the solution to be legal the device it is used on must be legal for use in a cockpit and the charts must be an correct rendering. So charts that are modified for format or incomplete do not meet the requirements. Also devices that that are not compliant with FAA or FCC regulations for emmissions are not compliant.
I am reminded of:
Albert Einstein's maxim that "everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler."
In the world of today's feature rich software, more featueres are not always a good thing. Think about how many features/functions you use in your word processor or how easy it is to find something simple. Features and Functions that seem like a great idea on the ground can also be detriments in the air. For instance, can you activate the feature or use the platform in light chop while safely flying the airplane? How many hands are required? You only have two and one is required for the yoke. Also, virtually every major pilot organization provides a flight planner, logbook, and weather capability online for it's customers. Since the services require being online to receive data, is a software application required or just a browser? A good EFB is a poor man's co-pilot; it reduces workload.
3. Software Updates/Nav Data Subscriptions
In today's market many things are subscription and service contract based. One question to ask is what is the EFB subscription and software updates going to cost me for the whole year. Initial purchase is only one part of the total cost of ownership. Some companies charge an expensive initial investment and on going software upgrades in addition to the subscription cost. Another aspect to consider is the service too "cheap". If the company won't be there because it is unprofitable, you may have purchased a paperweight. Consider the 1 and 3 year total costs of operation in addition to the initial investment. Also, is the platform open or proprietary?
There are two kinds of platforms, open and proprietary. An example of a proprietary platform is a Garmin 496, iPAD, or an iFly700. You can only buy the software hardware and subscription through one source. Example of non-proprietary platforms are Chartflier, Skypad, or AnywareMap they use Windows platforms of one variation or another. Propriortary platforms usually have higher subscription costs and can not be used for additional functions.
5. Upgradeability/Additional Uses.
Platforms that run on Windows variants can be used for additional uses like updating your panel mounted GPS or checking email. The advantage of an open platform is that you can change software vendors without replacing your investment. All Windows XP, VISTA, 7 based systems can run the Jeppesen updater, Garmin Updater, TomTom Updater and etc. Consider home many computing devices you want to travel with? They all have weight which affects your useful load.
Displaying weather on an EFB is fantastic tool for situation awareness. Currently there are two methods of in flight weather deliver XM Radio and ADS-B (FIS-B). XM Radio requires a monthly subscription of 30-60 dollars and ADS-B is provided via the FAA at no cost. XM Does provide a more feature rich weather data system but there is only one provider and the price tag goes along with it. All in-flight weather requires a receiver of one type or another. The receiver will require power either through the EFB itself or an external source.
Once a pilot chooses to replace the paper in the cockpit with an electronic solution, there are a couple of safety factors to consider. a.) Can you use the solution without additional workload, b.) Is the solution stable?, c.) Will the electronic device have enough power for the flights duration and a reasonable safety margin or have removable batteries or ships power hook up? The device should have a battery source. In case the cockpit gets dark from an Alternator or Battery failure. d.) Can you read the approach plate or chart without reading glasses or scrolling? You don't want to be fumbling with a computer when you hit the missed approach fix.
Chartflier is the clear choice for an easy-to-use full featured electronic flight bag.
View screen shots and see for yourself how well Chartflier hits the mark.
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