Product Focus: Electronic Flight Bags

By Barry Rosenberg | June 1, 2008
Send Feedback

Now that software provider Jeppesen has received FAA approval to integrate airport moving maps with "own-ship" display on Class 2 electronic flight bags (EFB), the industry is moving on to an even greater challenge — using Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) to data link real-time ground traffic to EFBs.

The combination of own-ship data and ADS-B ground position reporting is expected to be a powerful tool in curtailing the growing number of runway incursions.

Own-ship by itself is an important first step that is expected to take care of 55 to 60 percent of serious pilot deviations. The balance of deviations requires additional content like runway occupancy alerting, which the industry is actively pursuing.

"Own-ship is a stepping stone to even more advanced and far greater safety benefits," Peggy Gilligan, FAA deputy associate administrator for aviation safety, told Avionics. "As more and more vehicles and aircraft have ADS-B, pilot awareness of where he is and where everyone else is becomes very powerful."

FAA is expected to approve the first ADS-B system to show own-ship and other surface traffic this summer, said John Hickey, FAA director of Aircraft Certification Services. Hickey wouldn’t name the companies involved, but a likely recipient is the team of ACSS, a joint venture of L-3 Communications and Thales, and Astronautics Corporation of America, based in Milwaukee, which has been working on their Cockpit Display of Traffic Information software since 2006.

It won’t be just a matter of flipping a switch and displaying ADS-B data on Class 2 EFBs, however. There are both technical and training challenges associated with a partial ADS-B solution under which only some aircraft can display ground position.

ADS-B requires a different antenna function. Another constraint is the spotty coverage; full coverage is not expected until the 2020 timeframe at least. So, will the lack of full coverage lead to confusion because some aircraft positions will be known and others not? Jeppesen strategist Rick Ellerbrock thinks not.

"Showing some traffic is better than waiting for all traffic to be shown," he said. "It becomes a training issue. Just because you see some traffic doesn’t mean you see all traffic. We’ve already tested this capability in prototypes, so the technology is not beyond our reach. It’s more of an equipage and regulatory approval question now."

For now, though, EFB providers are basking in the first FAA approved use of own-ship on an airport moving map in a Class 2 EFB. Prior to this action, own-ship position could only be portrayed on more capable, but more expensive Class 3 EFBs.

FAA Technical Standard Order (TSO) approval was granted to Jeppesen in March, which followed Advisory Circular 20-159 of April 2007 that allowed airport moving maps with own-ship position to be displayed on Class 2 EFBs. Jeppesen said it is the first and only company to have received TSO approval for airport moving map software.

The system uses a detailed data base to render maps of the airport surface, and through the use of GPS technology, show pilots their position (own-ship) on the airport surface. The result is much improved situational awareness among flight crews, which is a critical safety factor for reducing runway incursions during ground operations at busy commercial airports with complex runway and taxiway layouts. Jeppesen has an airport moving map data base of about 200 commercial airports worldwide.

Approval of the Class 2 application makes enhanced situational awareness available to a much larger group of aircraft, as most airlines haven’t been able to make the business case for retrofitting EFBs into their fleet, particularly for narrowbody aircraft. Airlines can now take advantage of own-ship positioning data on Class 2 EFBs that cost $25,000 to $30,000 for a shipset instead of Class 3 EFBs that cost upward of $200,000 per shipset.

Continental Retrofit

Continental Airlines is retrofitting much of its fleet with the new capability, starting with its approximately 85 Boeing 757s and 767s. In March, the airline began integration of the Jeppesen software onto navAero’s t – Bag C2 squared EFB on a 757. Integration on a 767 is planned for later this year.

NavAero, based in Chicago, said the contract with Continental is for roughly 170 units. Integration of software and hardware was expected to take about two months, leading to a May or June target date for first in-service use of airport moving map on a Class 2 EFB.

"The issue of having a flight crew know exactly where they are on the airport is critical," said navAero Senior Vice President Ken Crowhurst, citing the fatal crash of Comair Flight 191 in August 2006, when the flight crew of a Canadair Regional Jet mistakenly attempted takeoff from a runway that was not long enough for the aircraft to become airborne. "The issue of situational awareness of when you are on airport property is of extreme importance."

Continental is a long-time Jeppesen customer, and has been looking at EFBs for years, Ellerbrock said. "They were interested in airport moving maps," he said. "Everyone was waiting for a pathway for Class 2 EFBs and the new Advisory Circular created the pathway."

TSOs are traditionally granted to a system that includes a hardware component. The Jeppesen TSO is for an "incomplete system," meaning it is for the software only. "That lets us take the approved software and install it on any number of devices," Ellerbrock said. "We still have to do the appropriate integration testing on unique platforms. The initial testing was done on a navAero EFB and a generic pen tablet."

Currently, the only major airlines to have announced formal Class 2 EFB retrofit programs are Continental and Air Canada (which plans to deploy the devices on its 45 Embraer 190 and 15 Embraer 175 regional jets). All the majors, however, are exploring EFBs, which gives this particular avionics market great potential for growth.

NavAero estimates about 1 percent of commercial airliners worldwide are currently equipped and flying with either a Class 2 or a Class 3 EFB hardware and software solution. The company estimates about 5 percent of global commercial airline operators have made a definitive decision to implement an EFB solution (hardware and software).

NavAero projects that by the end of 2009, about 15 percent of global commercial airline operations will have made a decision to implement an EFB solution.

FAA Steps Up

With own-ship positioning, FAA officials knew they had a technology that could significantly cut down on runway incursions, but were frustrated to watch it languish because most airlines weren’t willing to spend the money on Class 3 EFBs. And yet, because of FAA’s own rules, airlines weren’t allowed to deploy the function on more affordable Class 2 units. The solution and eventual path to certification came in two parts. The first half was Jeppesen’s human factors study that showed use of an EFB with own-ship capability actually increased pilot head-up time (see sidebar, pg. 41). The results were presented to the Commercial Aviation Safety Team (CAST), a public-private partnership of FAA safety officials and industry executives in 2007.

"The premise in the early setting of (EFB) requirements in 2003 was a presumption that the pilot would stay head down," Hickey said. "Jeppesen showed us a human factors study that presented an almost opposite result of what we presumed. When the pilot did not have own-ship position, it was likely he would take an extra three or four seconds to ascertain where he was on the map. With own-ship it is immediately obvious where he is."

The second half of the solution was one of division leading to addition. Armed with results from the Jeppesen study, FAA went about finding a way to reduce the cost of certificating the own-ship software, which would make it economically feasible for Jeppesen to continue development and eventually lower the cost to the airlines.

"We segregated the runway portion of moving maps from the in-flight portion, which still needed high levels of detection," Hickey said. "By lowering requirements we created a streamlined certification process that had a lesser certification requirement to meet. Cost was a full order of magnitude less. This is not something that’s never happened before, but sometimes the bar is set too high and no one comes. We went back and sharpened our pencils."

It’s something that made a lot of sense, particularly to the pilots themselves.

"One of the most important things they did was separate runway own-ship from in-flight," said Don Gunther, a Boeing 777 captain for Continental who is also the airline’s senior director for safety and regulatory compliance and industry co-chairman of CAST.

"We already have multifunctional displays that give us in-flight data very accurately," Gunther added. "My hats off to the FAA for changing the certification process. We would not be putting these systems on our airplanes if it hadn’t been changed."

Avionics Magazine’s Product Focus is a monthly feature that examines some of the latest product offerings in different market segments of the avionics industry. It does not represent a comprehensive survey of all companies and products in these markets.

Five-Year Effort Preceded Moving Map TSO

For engineers at Jeppesen, it’s been a five-year journey to FAA’s recent issuance of a TSO permitting the use of airport moving maps on Class 2 electronic flight bags (EFB).

"It was 2003 when the industry and FAA developed an EFB advisory circular, AC 120-76. At that time, there was a distinction between classes of hardware and classes of software. For a variety of reasons, maps and charts qualified as Type B software, as long as maps didn’t have own-ship. With own-ship, it changes to Type C, which requires a traditional certification type of pathway," said Jeppesen strategist Rick Ellerbrock.

Jeppesen said its Airport Moving Map technology entered service on Class 3 EFBs for KLM’s fleet of 777s in 2003.

"There was a general concern about the compelling nature of that type of display in that pilots would become fixated on that display, and because it could be used, perhaps, beyond its intended function," Ellerbrock said. "It’s been that way for five years. But we recognized early on that own-ship on a surface moving map is different than own-ship on an IFR chart. With the surface moving map function you can look out the window and stop the airplane. That seemed intuitively obvious to many people but the die was cast and we didn’t have a pathway to get this certified on a Class 2 EFB."

Jeppesen conducted field studies using simulators and airline flight crews to validate the benefit of the technology on EFBs. Part of those studies included, in 2006, a human factors study with flight crews from the United States and Europe, measuring normal human factor metrics, including situational awareness, pilot workload, head down time, stress and taxi errors. And using similar scenarios, Jeppesen compared data collected while using an airport moving map with own-ship versus normal mode.

Ellerbrock said the studies were used to determine if there were any improvements using the airport moving map with own-ship and to see if there were any safety concerns by introducing the technology to the cockpit.

"What we found, though, was that head-down time decreased. We had 14 specific hypotheses related to the five human factors categories, and every one showed improvement with the technology of own-ship and moving map. Some didn’t surprise us at all; others, like head down, we didn’t know how they would play out," Ellerbrock said. "What we found was that pilots became comfortable with their surroundings at a glance and their head was right back out the window. We saw increased head-up time, lower levels of perceived stress and fewer taxi errors."

Jeppesen hired Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Anacapa Sciences, which specializes in human behavior research, to "remove any biases in the test." The test results were then shared with the Commercial Aviation Safety Team (CAST) in 2007.

"CAST has a broad base of industry and regulatory participation, and there was a lot of support and energy at that meeting leading to the action that eventually became AC 20-159," Ellerbrock said. "CAST had already been doing a lot of really great work looking into runway incursion mitigation, and our small contribution may have helped make a final push."

FAA finalized AC 20-159 in April 2007, and it was that AC that was the basis for the TSO achieved by Jeppesen. —Barry Rosenberg

Market Moves

The following are some recent developments announced by EFB manufacturers.

  • Flight Deck Resources, Irvine, Calif., in December 2007 released a pair of next-generation software suites for EFB operations, content management and configuration control.

    The Version 2 software suites provide integrated software for Class 1 or Class 2 EFBs. The "Flightline Application Suite" offers a secure main menu application, document viewer, checklist application and communications/messaging application. "Flightline Ground System" updates EFB charts and documents.

    Also, last September, Flight Deck Resources was selected by Embraer to provide EFB hardware for its Phenom 100s and Phenom 300s. The company will provide its SkyTab 3200E 8.4-inch Class 2 EFB in a forward fit capacity.

  • Teledyne Controls, El Segundo, Calif., announced in April that it had been selected by Aeroflot Russian Airlines to provide its Class 2 EFB on Aeroflot’s 56 A320s and B767s.

    The aircraft will be equipped with dual EFBs. Teledyne will supply all EFB hardware components, along with the associated aircraft installation kits, including certification. The deployment is expected to start at the end of the second quarter 2008. The EFB package chosen by Aeroflot consists of a Processor Unit, a 10.4-inch tethered Display Unit and their associated mounts.

  • Goodrich, Charlotte, N.C., in January said its EFB system won supplemental type certification from Transport Canada for the Bombardier Global Express family. The system, which can include an 8.4-inch or 10.4-inch display, includes video surveillance system capability and optional wireless connectivity.

    Last June, Goodrich was selected by Emirates Airline to provide laptop docking station EFB systems for its fleet of Boeing 747, 777 and Airbus A310, A330 and A340 aircraft. The system includes Goodrich’s EFB display and laptop docking station hardware as well as EFB software. Goodrich will provide system design, development, complete integration and Supplemental Type Certification for each aircraft type.

  • Lufthansa Systems in April said Dutch carrier Amsterdam Airlines will use its Lido eFlightBag EFB. The companies signed a five-year contract for the Lido eFlightBag suite including modules for take-off performance analysis and electronic navigation charts.

    Lufthansa Systems, an IT service provider, is also supplying its Lido eFlightBag solution to its airline sister company, using a laptop docking station and touch-screen display from Goodrich. Among aircraft equipped with the Class 2 EFB will be Lufthansa’s Airbus A380s, which begin arriving in the summer of 2009. The airline has ordered 15 A380s, which can be provisioned with Class 3 EFBs.

  • Paperless Cockpit, Memphis, Tenn., last August introduced its EBoard XP3 v5 EFB, the latest generation of its Class 1 and Class 2 EFBs. The company said the system can integrate with in-cockpit weather and GPS devices. It has standard 1.06 GHz Core Duo Intel processor, 2 GB DDR RAM and 60 GB hard drive. Other features include two USB 2.0 ports, cinematic display, built-in Giga-Ethernet, on-board mouse and keyboard and built-in 1.3 Megapixel camera.

  • DAC International, Austin, Texas, said ABX Air, a cargo airline based in Wilmington, Ohio, was granted a Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) to allow the installation of its GEN-X EFB as a Class 2 device on B767s.


Arconics Aviation
ASG Inc.
Astronautics Corp. of America
CMC Electronics
DAC International
Exalit Ltd.
Flight Deck Resources
Global Airworks
Innovative Solutions & Support
Lufthansa Systems
Navtech/European Nautical Group
On-Board Data Systems
Paperless Cockpit Inc.
Rockwell Collins
Teledyne Controls
Universal Avionics Systems Corp.

Receive the latest avionics news right to your inbox