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Airlines Testing iPads as EFBs

By Tish Drake | September 1, 2011
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Airlines are taking their paperless cockpits a step further, deploying Apple iPads to operate as electronic flight bags (EFB) to display operating manuals, nav charts, flight checklists and more.

A number of airlines, including United, Continental, British Airways and Alaska Airlines, over the last six months have been a part of this digital conversion of using the 1.5-pound iPad to replace traditional flight manuals.

Several companies are designing apps for the iPad, to convert the tablet to a Class 1 or Class 2 EFB. Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen developed the Mobile FliteDeck, which includes interactive data-driven en route navigation information and worldwide geo-referenced terminal charts. Additionally, the tablet will eliminate a pilot's luggage load, which will reduce the risk of injury while on duty by carrying less and easing lifting hazards.

United Continental Holdings distributed 11,000 iPads, with the Jeppesen app, to all United and Continental pilots Aug. 23, a first for major network carriers. All pilots will have the device by the end of the year.

"The paperless flight deck represents the next generation of flying," said Capt. Fred Abbott, United's senior vice president of flight operations. "The introduction of iPads ensures our pilots have essential and real-time information at their fingertips at all times throughout the flight."

British Airways says the iPad will help cabin crew as well as pilots.

"It gives cabin crew a whole library of information at their fingertips including timetables, safety manuals and customer service updates," the airline said in an Aug. 17 statement. "It also means any issues can be logged with ground-based colleagues around the network prior to departure so solutions can be delivered while the flight is airborne."

The iPad is being trialed with 100 British Airline cabin crews, with an aim to roll it out to all senior crewmembers across the airline in the coming months.

FAA issued regulations for use the iPad and other suitable tablet computing devices as EFBs, in InFO AFS-430, issued May 13, 2011. The FAA authorized a certificated operator to use an iPad as a Class 1 EFB a few months prior to the InFo's release.

The iPad is not approved or certified by the FAA, as it is a commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) electronic hardware, however, it can be authorized for use by a principal operations inspector if it meets the EFB criteria discussed in the Flight Standards Information Management System (FSIMS), volume 4, chapter 15, section 1 and AC-120-76A.

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