Electronic Flight Bags (EFBs) is Rolling in Cockpits

Posted on January 30, 2018 John Jones

In October, the FAA published updated regulation concerning electronic flight bag (EFB) applications. A revised Advisory Circular (AC) has been issued for aircraft system designers, installers and operators who may want guidance for hosting EFB applications on portable devices and installed equipment.

This circular offers new applications and the ability to manage EFB programs with less involvement from the FAA. All guidance associated with EFB classification has been eliminated in the new policy. The circular also clarifies the definition of “EFB” and reorganization application software types according to safety importance.

The FAA is removing its previous prohibition on the display of aircraft location during flight on various EFB applications. This function was previously available only on the ground.

While tablet EFBs have made enormous strides, there are limits to what they can accomplish or be legally allowed to execute. They cannot be relied upon to operate or navigate an airplane — only certified avionics can. Tablet EFBs are COTS devices and therefore are not certified the way the airplane’s avionics are. There are also aircraft design and architecture considerations that limit the ultimate uses of COTS EFB devices. The aircraft control domain is intentionally segregated, closed and independent, using only certified avionics.

One of the new uses of EFBs is the use of tablets by pilots for the SWIM Terminal Data Distribution System (STDDS), which can make raw surface data collected from Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) facilities more accessible, according to the FAA. The information is published and available via the National Airspace System (NAS) Enterprise Messaging Service (NEMS). A potential use of STDDS is to overlay the status of other aircraft on or moving toward active runways.

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