Business & GA, Commercial

Product Focus: EFBs

By Barry Rosenberg | March 1, 2010
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Manufacturers of electronic flight bags (EFB) are seeing demand beginning to grow again for their hardware solutions, as the FAA and a number of airlines and other operators participate in various demonstrations designed to further the introduction of NextGen capabilities.

At the same time, application software providers are developing rich content to provide enhanced situational awareness on the ground and access to documentation on the flight deck.

FAA’s participation in two demonstrations in particular — the funding of seven airlines to install Class 2 EFBs with airport moving map (AMM) displays and runway alerting, and support of the airport Surface Indications and Alerts (SURFIA) program involving US Airways, ACSS, Goodrich and Honeywell — signal to the industry that the killer app it has been waiting for is on the horizon. (For more on SURFIA and surface management, see page 20.)

“The Jeppesen technical standard order for an airport moving map on Class 2 devices (in 2008) showed a willingness to embrace the technology, and it was that embrace that led to the FAA blessing the Capstone (demonstration) initiative,” said Ken Crowhurst, executive vice president with navAero Inc., of Chicago. “The fact that the FAA is anteing up money to us is a tremendous forward step for the technology.”

In addition, FAA’s involvement in these EFB projects leaves open the possibility that one day the agency might approve the use of enroute Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) information on Class 2 hardware. That capability is presently limited to Class 3 devices.

“Since the FAA has authorized AMM on Class 2 technology, we’re hoping they will embrace some forward thinking about the use of enroute ADS-B data on a Class 2 platform,” said Crowhurst.

Goodrich Corp., based in Charlotte, N.C., is thinking along the same lines, and envisions an important role for EFBs in NextGen, the Next Generation Air Transportation System.

“Where do you put that ADS-B data?” asked Jim Schmitz, EFB business development manager with Goodrich. “To upgrade primary flight displays is very expensive. EFBs can play a role in getting that information in the cockpit.”

Boeing’s recent entrée into the world of Class 2 EFBs is considered an important step forward in bringing additional functionality to the systems.

“Boeing is calling it Class 3 ‘light’ because it is a permanent installation like Class 3 EFBs would be,” said Loring MacKenzie, senior product marketing manager with Esterline CMC Electronics, which is providing its 10.4-inch, CMA-1410 Class 2 EFB to Boeing for all 737NG aircraft.

CMC Electronics, based in Montreal, expects the first proof of concept installations on new production aircraft will begin in June. The company also is working on a supplemental type certificate for retrofit applications, which should be ready in the fall, MacKenzie said.

Such thinking likely was part of the side discussions held at two recent EFB User Group meetings sponsored by ARINC, one on Dec. 8, the other Jan. 11. The meetings were co-chaired by Southwest Airlines and Lufthansa.

The purpose of the meetings was to bring together airlines, EFB manufacturers and software application providers to discuss lessons learned and share data related to the business case and return on investment of the technology.

According to the agenda, Airbus had five issues it wanted to discuss: (1) EFBs and communication via ACARS; (2) security/safety issues and solutions for EFBs; (3) use of LogBook on EFBs and an understanding on data workflow; (4) other EFB applications such as cockpit door surveillance; and (5) EFB ground segment expectations.

Thales wanted to know which processes drive the purchase of EFBs for airlines, how ROI is calculated, what is the right level of integration with the airline IT system and who is going to do it, and the most critical components in terms of integration — board, communication, IT, hardware or software.

Air France’s top three areas of interest were connectivity and onboard/ground synchronization; EFB policies, procedures and training processes; and the use case/business case for Class 2 EFBs.

The EFB Users Forum was scheduled to meet again April 11.

Last year was the year that own-ship position on an airport moving map, displayed on a Class 2 EFB, became a reality, with Continental Airlines installing the navAero t·Bag C2² EFB loaded with Jeppesen’s AMM application. As of this writing, about 50 of the airline’s Boeing 757s had received the installation, with 767s and 737s scheduled next.

Anecdotally, the system is performing well, according to Scott Powell, Jeppesen manager of cockpit solutions. Powell mentioned one incident, for example, where a Continental plane was trailing a truck on a snow-covered airport surface when it appeared that the truck drove past a turn the AMM indicated should have been taken.

“The flight crew stopped the airplane and called ground control,” said Powell. “Turns out that the truck missed the turn, and if they had followed the truck they would have gone into a dead end and needed to be towed back. The AMM prompted them to stop, ask questions and evaluate before proceeding.”

Jeppesen this month will introduce new iterations of its AMM — the Flitedeck-Pro and Flitedeck-Military. Rick Ellerbrock, a strategist with Jeppesen, said the second-generation AMM software was three years in development.

The two products are virtually the same, except for some specific military functionality, such as air refueling or tactical situational awareness in the theater of operation.

One of the key functions of the new software is the ability for pilots to use a finger to highlight certain sections, then electronically transfer the displayed image between the pilot’s and co-pilot’s EFBs.

“The crew member doing the highlighting uses his finger right on the map,” explained Ellerbrock. “You can erase things that didn’t work, zoom in or out, and the highlighting stays on the display when you send it to the other crewmember. We see that as something completely novel and intuitive for cockpit use.”

With Flitedeck-Pro and -Military, 75 percent of all the data needed by the flight crew can be accessed with one click, according to Jeppesen. No more than two clicks will be necessary to access all Jeppesen data on the EFB, Powell said.

EFB hardware manufacturers regularly make the point that their systems are application agnostic, and that they will be able to run applications from a variety of providers like Jeppesen and Dublin, Ireland-based Aircraft Management Technologies (AMT).

“We’re talking to no less than 60 application providers in various fields of focus. There is a far wider range and choice of applications out now,” said CMC Electronic’s MacKenzie.

Just as the thousands of apps available for the Apple iPhone helped to make that device viable from a business standpoint, EFB hardware manufacturers expect that applications will help to make the business case for their products.

The ease of uploading those applications to the EFB will also play an important role in the future success of the technology. The key there is having the ability to leverage available network infrastructure to transmit data and updates directly to aircraft, rather than using more expensive aviation infrastructure like the ACARS system. That will go a long way toward making the business case for EFBs within the circle of airline chief financial officers, according to AMT CEO Joe McGoldrick.

“What we’ve had until now has been the sending and receiving of discrete messages,” McGoldrick said. “Getting data onto the aircraft with ACARS is restricted because it doesn’t handle graphics and rich binary content, compression is inefficient and it is expensive to get data on and off the aircraft.

“We’re beginning to leverage 3G and cellular networks operating on GSM or CDMA to provide data connectivity to the aircraft, and to make sure what’s on the aircraft is up to date. Having the communications infrastructure is the driver for that. The customers we deal with have that communications infrastructure, but only a minority of EFBs has that connectivity built in. The bottleneck is in transferring the data and in supporting different communications networks, not in the displaying of data,” he said.

There also is concern that EFB hardware operating systems won’t be able to keep up with all the applications being developed for them.

“Operators want to have assurance that if we put ADS-B capabilities on the hardware that it will run without issues,” said navAero’s Crowhurst. “As we layer software on top of the hardware we want to be able to process the data without crashing (the system).”

Another limiting factor for EFB technology is the use of lithium ion batteries for backup power on the devices, which is something FAA is concerned about because of the risk of fire or explosion.

“The FAA has some ambitious plans, which have been idled because of regulatory issues related to lithium ion batteries,” said Crowhurst.

“I’m sure the airlines and EFB manufacturers are frustrated because there is no clear definition from the FAA on this issue.”

Crowhurst added that the problem could be overcome by using nickel-metal hydride batteries instead. He said navAero already has eliminated Li-ion batteries in favor of NiMH, and it is expected other hardware manufacturers will do the same over time.

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

Economic Benefits Renew Focus on EFBs

The operational and financial benefits of electronic flight bags are attracting the attention of smaller carriers, according to Lufthansa Systems of Kelsterbach, Germany, a provider of software and data products for all classes of EFB systems.

In recent months, the Lufthansa Group subsidiary has announced agreements for its Lido/FlightBag EFB system with several smaller airlines. Applications for the system include data management, document viewer, navigation charts, take-off data and flight operations manuals. In late January, Singapore Airlines calculated the route of a flight from Los Angeles to Singapore via Tokyo under the Asia Pacific Initiative to Reduce Emissions (ASPIRE) using the FreeFlight route-optimization application of Lido.

Among the new contracts, German carrier Condor will use Lido/Route Manual charts; and TUI Travel airlines Arkefly, Jet4you and Jetairfly will use Lido/RouteManual and Flight Management System data. Danish airline Cimber Sterling selected Lido/RouteManual and Lido/TakeOff for take-off performance analysis; and Croatia Airlines will use Lido/Flight Bag.

“If you look at the size of Croatia Airlines fleet — they’re operating 12 aircraft — [it] is an erroneous impression that EFBs are something for the big players in the industry. That is pretty much proven wrong,” declared Marc Szepan, Lufthansa Systems senior vice president of Airline Operations Solutions. “Even an airline the size of Croatia Airlines can see a lot of value, a lot of cost savings derived from an EFB.”

Lufthansa Systems estimates fleetwide installation of an EFB system can save a major international network carrier about $4.3 million per year. The company said various components of its system are flying on about 500 aircraft worldwide.

“What we’re seeing now as economic and financial pressures in industry are continuing [is that] airlines have already exhausted the obvious, short-term savings potential. So if ever airlines wanted to further improve their cost structure, and wanted to improve their efficiencies, you’ve got to focus on the intelligent use of technology to increase productivity. That’s where EFBs come in,” Szepan said.

Overall, he said, airlines big and small are opting for Class 2 or modified Class 2 devices in order to gain the benefits of an EFB without the implementation and total lifecycle costs that come with a Class 3 system integrated with the cockpit avionics. —Emily Feliz

Market Moves

Following are recent developments announced by manufacturers of electronic flight bag hardware and software products.

➤ Esterline CMC Electronics made several announcements in 2009 related to its Class 2 PilotView EFB. On Nov. 2, CMC said Boeing had selected its 10.4-inch EFB for Next-Generation 737s.

In October, CMC said PilotView was certified by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) for ATR regional turboprops. ATR selected PilotView as a standard option for new aircraft and retrofit of in-service ATR-42s and ATR-72s. Also, EASA certified PilotView for the Dassault Falcon 7X. PilotView is a standard option for the Falcon 7X, 2000DX, 2000LX, 900DX, 900EX and 900LX series.

➤ ASG Inc., based in Miami, is in the final stages of the patent approval process for its Constant Friction Mount Class 2 EFB mounting system. ASG said the systems 360 rotation and low profile make it an ideal mount for air transport operators. Armand Wong, ASG president, told Avionics he expects the patent process to be completed in 2010.

ASG owns supplemental type certificates for installation of EFB mounts on various aircraft, including Airbus 319/320/321, DC-10, MD-11, Boeing 727, 737, 747, 757 and 767, and from various EFB hardware manufacturers, including navAero and DAC International. Wong said the company is working on amending STCs for the Airbus 320 and Boeing 737 to include Astronautics Corporation of Americas EFB. About 250 of the companys EFB shipsets are installed in aircraft.

“We have quite a few STCs,” Wong noted. We probably hold the most STCs on the air transport side of any engineering house. I think were going to continue to build on that in 2010.

➤ Aircraft Management Technologies (AMT) in December announced a contract with cargo carrier Atlas Air to deploy AMT’s Flightman suite of EFB applications on its fleet of Boeing 747-400 freighters. The system will be integrated with Jeppesen’s Airport Moving Map application and incorporate eJourney log, large content manager and eForms applications.

➤ NavAero, based in Chicago, in January said its tBag C22 EFB received an EASA supplemental type certificate for the Airbus A318/319/320/321 narrowbody line. The system consists of cross-connected dual tBag C22 EFBs, tPad series displays and UMTS/HSDPA 3G cellular modem for on-ground data transfer, WiFi, and ARINC 429 connectivity.

NavAero in November 2009 signed an agreement with Latin American airline GOL Linhas Aéreas Inteligentes S.A. to install its tBag C22 EFB on the airline’s fleet of B737NGs. NavAero will deploy its EFB hardware in conjunction with an ACARS-though-Iridium communications system being provided by Avionica, of Miami.

➤ Astronautics Corporation of America, of Milwaukee, and ACSS in October received FAA technical standard order authorization for a new release of their Universal Cockpit Display of Traffic Information (CDTI) software. The software is designed for operation in Astronautics’ EFB as well as in the EFBs of other suppliers. The U-CDTI enables the display of a moving map of the airport surface with own-ship position on a Class 2 EFB. When coupled with ACSS’s SafeRoute Surface Area Movement Management application, the U-CDTI will also display the position of other traffic operating on the airport grounds, the companies said.

Astronautics started partnering with ACSS to develop CDTI software for cargo carrier UPS in 2006.

➤ Boeing on Dec. 9 said China Cargo Airlines will incorporate its Class 3 EFB system in the airline’s 777 freighters. The Boeing EFB, supplied by Astronautics Corp. of America, incorporates Onboard Performance Tool (OPT) and Electronic Document Browser (EDB) applications. OPT provides pilots with ideal speeds and engine settings in any weather, on any runway, with any payload, Boeing said. The EDB module allows instant access to the latest information, replacing paper documents and minimizing the need for manual updating and revision.

➤ Navtech, based in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, on Jan. 4 announced an agreement with Norwegian Air Shuttle for its Class 1 and 2 EFB software on the airline’s Boeing 737s. Navtech will supply its Aircraft Performance and Mass & Balance products, eCharts, Seamless Electronic Navigation Chart and FMS Navigation Data products.

➤ Greenwich AeroGroup, of Connecticut, in June acquired the assets of Banner Aerospace Holding and its aviation subsidiaries from The Fairchild Corp. DAC International, of Austin, Texas, is a subsidiary of Banner Aerospace. Greenwich AeroGroup provides general aviation services including maintenance and avionics; FBOs; aircraft sales, charter and management; interior refurbishment; engineering; and parts distribution.

In May 2009, Shuttle America selected DAC International’s GEN-X Class 3 EFB system for its fleet of EMB170s and EMB175s. DAC said the system is PMA’d as a Class 3 EFB, but installations can be accomplished under the operator’s choice of either a Class 2 or Class 3 STC.

➤ Arconics, based in Dublin, said Irish carrier Aer Lingus has deployed its AirPortal Web portal, which enables communications and delivers manuals to flight, cabin and ground operations personnel. Arconics said the system will provide a single point of access for Aer Lingus staff to the range of information required to support operations.

➤ The IMS Company, based in Brea, Calif., in April 2009 acquired Flight Deck Resources. Flight Deck is now known as IMS Flight Deck and has joined IMS Entertainment and IMS Engineering as a division within The IMS Company.


Air Gator
Aircraft Management Technologies (AMT)
Arconics Aviation
ASG Inc.
Astronautics Corp. of America
DAC International
Carlisle Interconnect/ECS
Esterline CMC Electronics
Evoke Systems
Exalit Ltd.
Global Airworks
IMS Flight Deck
Innovative Solutions & Support
L-3 Communications
Lufthansa Systems
On-Board Data Systems
Rockwell Collins
Teledyne Controls
Universal Avionics Systems Corp.

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