The iPad Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) solution was only recently considered a wild card in the paper-free flight bag process, but with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) allowances and apps from Jeppesen, Lufthansa Systems and Navtech, the tablets are now in cockpits worldwide.
Jeppesen’s FliteDeck Pro became available for iPad August 2012 and was “enhanced” this November. Sales were accordingly up in 2013, as six airlines signed contracts with Jeppesen, including Portugal-based Hi Fly, Saudi Arabia’s national carrier flynas and Norwegian airline Wideroe in December, MNG Airlines of Istanbul in late November and Qatar Airways and Frontier Airlines earlier in the year.
Jeppesen Chief Strategist Rick Ellerbrock said many of the carriers operating FliteDeck Pro are new EFB-adopters. “Jeppesen FliteDeck Pro is heavily adopted by airlines that have no previous EFB experience, or various history of Class 1, 2, and 3 EFBs.
Some have retired previous Class 1, 2, and 3 with mobile EFB. Others use mobile EFB to augment and/or back up their Class 2 and 3 EFBs.”
Among such additional carriers using or about to use the app are American Airlines, FedEx, Executive Jet Management, NetJets, UPS, Alaska Airlines, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Srilankan Airlines, Volga-Dnepr and Frontier Airlines.
Photo, courtesy of Jeppesen.
EFB Competition and FliteDeck Pro Updates
Lufthansa Systems and Navtech have also made headway since Lido/iRouteManual became available in August 2012 and Navtech released iCharts in September 2011, though iCharts wasn’t ready for operational use at large and didn’t gain EASA approval until July 2013.
In terms of design, Jeppesen has collaborated and tested exhaustively with commercial airline, fractional business jet operator and military fleet program pilots to ensure their app meets the operational needs of all three. Through that process they came up with the updated FliteDeck Pro’s two-finger swipe, user-configured auto-display airport taxi diagrams and an integrated distance-measuring tool.
With FliteDeck Pro's two-finger swipe, pilots can now avoid unintentional chart-changes while trying to pan or zoom during heavy workload. Users swipe with two fingers for chart changes and one finger for panning, removing command ambiguity. Both Lufthansa Systems and Navtech still operate their EFB software with one-finger touch.
Pilots using the Jeppesen app can also now configure speed settings for taxi diagrams, which can switch automatically on-screen from a Standard Terminal Arrival Route (STAR) procedure, the enroute map or an approach procedure.
A distance-measuring tool capable of calculating off-map position distance is integrated in the new Jeppesen software and will be available for use on displays once the US EFB Advisory Circular allows own-ship display, or on-chart display of aircraft position, via “Change 1,” due for publishing in 2014.
Jeppesen has conducted own-ship field evaluation with Executive Jet Management using iPads and airport taxi diagrams; this data has helped authorities accelerate airport situation awareness applications from Type C to Type B and to leverage current off-the-shelf EFB and GPS technology, said Ellerbrock, who believes own-ship will be a great safety benefit.
Other FliteDeck Pro updates include the “chart clip” for current route, showing the user both the full list of charts and an instant preview, and a remapped night theme with a new color palette and symbols, rather than the color inversion mode which doesn't translate correctly and can confuse the pilot into thinking water bodies are terrain.
While Ellerbrock said Jeppesen will see connectivity capabilities in the short term to update weather and send notices to airmen (NOTAMs) in real-time in the cockpit, Lufthansa Systems’ Lido/iRouteManual already performs NOTAMs and gives pilots access to weather charts and Internet access.
EFBs of the Future
In the long term Jeppesen will look to develop Airport Operational Communications (AOC)-hosted systems for two-way messaging and real time flight plan updates. “Our EFB strategy centers on the concept of connecting the crew and connecting the airplane. The key technologies to this vision include mobile connected devices, intelligent airplane interfaces and air/ground secure connectivity. We see good progress in all of those areas and the future becomes very exciting,” said Ellerbrock.
However, Lufthansa Systems is a step ahead on the connectivity front, with the flight deck already connected to ground IT.
iCharts is available on other tablets, not only iPad like FliteDeck Pro, and also offers the most affordable EFB solution via a partnership with Fokker Services to provide a hardware/mounting option with Swedish Civil Aviation Authority approval; the affordable solution is available for Bombardier, Airbus
aircraft in addition to Fokker’s.
Looking to the future, Jeppesen believes charts will be data driven. Instead of using pre-composed images, pilots will select the route and the flight terminal will determine what is presented, said Ellerbrock. “We’re moving our product more and more to be data driven, instead of using pre-composed images. ... The terminal charts, which are pre-composed, are vector based, they’re really clean, but in the future those will be data-driven as well and it will be seamless.”