The mobile nature of the EFB and of the network connection allows crews to gather information at the home base, in the field or in-flight with ease. “The dynamic and often changing nature of aeromedical operations demands crews have access to up-to-date information all through a single, controlled source. EFBs have greatly reduced the ‘cockpit clutter’ as the industry embraces this new technology,” said David Bashir, Chief Pilot, RACQ LifeFlight Rescue Rotary Wing. “Safety critical information such as weather, wire mapping and HLS information can all be obtained within the EFB, as well as operational specific items such as approved weight and balance calculators, aircraft performance data, electronic risk assessment tools and task sheets and version-controlled document access.”
“Indeed, EFBs and chart server units have replaced the former operations manuals (OM-A, B, C, D) and Jeppesen binders with airway manuals, en-route and terminal charts on the flight deck,” added Volker Lemke, Member of the executive board for Germany’s FAI rent-a-jet.
“EFB technology has greatly increased the efficiency with which our pilots and crews can plan and execute missions. They allow crews to quickly analyse a task request and make informed safety-critical decisions based on real-time information,” Bashir told AirMed&Rescue.
EFBs have also made it easier for pilots and crews to keep organized. “The biggest advantage we see is with the likes of standard operating procedures (SOP), hospital procedures, contact lists, etc. These documents are constantly evolving over time. With an EFB, management can change one file, and suddenly all EFBs are updated through the cloud. This solves any issues with flying with outdated SOPs, frequencies, and even maps,” pointed out Jarrett Lunn, Chief Pilot / ACP for Talon Helicopters.
Flight crews just have to update the EFBs via the cloud by WLAN in any place in the world before flight, where access to any WLAN is possible, observed Lemke, adding: “The actualization of the data itself (company data, except Jeppesen) is the responsibility of the flight operations department at the headquarters of the company.”
For the reliable operation of an EFB, operators should consider the hardware, operating system, loaded software and any antennae, connections and power sources used. “The operating system and applications should be easy to use, yet sufficiently robust for use in demanding environments, where, amongst other challenges, network connections may be limited. Mounting devices should be considered, along with any necessary aircraft engineering order (EO) or supplemental type certificate (STC) approvals. EFB redundancy also needs to be addressed as part of the legislative requirements,” noted Bashir.
Operators must develop their own operations manual amendments addressing the legislative requirements, EFB administration responsibilities, training package, pilot-in-command obligations, operational use and limitation SOPs, crew resource management considerations, power source management and emergency procedures, observes Bashir. Regarding training, everyone will have their own preferences for how to run it, and what to include. For LifeFlight, materials take in a range of options: “LifeFlight’s training package includes course material presented in written and video format along with practical training and assessment as part of our approved CAR217 training and checking programme. LifeFlight’s EFB administrator is responsible for dissemination of new EFB functionalities and improvements as they become available.”
Operators must develop their own operations manual amendments addressing the legislative requirements
In case of operators based in an European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) member state, the development of dedicated procedures and training programs is clearly defined by the applicable EASA regulations that require a specific approval from the competent authority for the use of type B EFB applications, i.e. applications whose use may have a significant safety impact, as Lemke pointed out.
In particular, evidence must be provided whereby a risk assessment related to the use of the EFB device that hosts the application, and to the EFB application and its associated functions, has been conducted, identifying the associated risks and ensuring that they are appropriately managed and mitigated. The human-machine interfaces of the EFB device and the EFB application must also be assessed against human factors principles.
An EFB risk assessment looks at hazards and associated risks within the broader topics of aircraft, crew, equipment, and task. “Aircraft hazards include lithium ion battery fire, electromagnetic interference (EMI), control interference, projectiles and charging cables. Crew-specific items may include inability to operate EFB and awareness, or lack thereof, of new features and developments. Equipment and task hazards include EFB un-serviceability prior to flight, hung software, EFB overheat or failure in flight and corrupted software or documents resulting in unavailability of EFB on task,” explained RACQ’s Bashir. “A comprehensive hazard / risk register containing hazards, associated risks and mitigating risk controls is essential to the development of a robust EFB programme and acts as the under-pinning tool for further development and continuous improvement of the ‘paperless’ system.”
The operator must also establish and implement an EFB administration system and procedures and training requirements for the administration and use of the EFB device and the EFB applications. The EFB host platform must be suitable for the intended use of the EFB application. “The procedures are part of the Operations Manual – Part A and the training is part of the Operations Manual – Part D,” noted Lemke.
Lunn highlights that Transport Canada has set up a useful guidance checklist for making the switch to EFBs. “This guidance helped us set up our required EFB training and procedures to meet the regulations, and to function efficiently,” he added.
Reliability is paramount regarding the specific functionality considerations that must be made about the EFB-installed applications. “EFB applications must be easy to access and use, both during ground planning and in-flight. Due to the requirement for field planning and in-flight use, there must be minimal reliance on network connection to download data. Our EFBs are ‘synced’ at a minimum every 24hrs to ensure the latest version-controlled documents are available. A standard list of approved applications is promulgated and controlled by our EFB administrator,” Bashir told AirMed&Rescue. “The EFB administrator is also responsible for co-ordinating maintenance, validating operations post-maintenance, alerting crews of hardware or operational changes, downloading, and updating software and consulting on any other changes or improvements. The aviation navigation databases, maps, charts and legislative documents are updated by the respective application providers on a periodic basis and it is the crews’ responsibility to ensure this has occurred.”
Reliability is paramount regarding the specific functionality considerations that must be made about the EFB-installed applications
Functionality-wise, Talon Helicopters decided to go about 90 per cent electronic, and kept its aircraft journey logs and its flight tickets (invoices) on paper. “Everything else went EFB – manuals, maps, procedures, checklists, etc. We also kept an EFB that does not interact directly with our aircraft systems, i.e. our EFB cannot manipulate autopilots or other systems, which would require a much higher standard to approve. We felt this was the right balance for us, being a small visual flight rules helicopter operation,” said Lunn.
Changes to systems
Bashir observes that EFB functionality and capabilities are continuing at a rapid pace. Examples include more streamlined flight planning and NAIPS flight plan submission, improved weather tools, addition of ‘one touch / double tap’ functions, terrain warning features and improved traffic awareness features. “Wire-mapping software continues to improve its EFB functionality and usability. We have moved towards a ‘paperless cockpit’, with the development and implementation of electronic risk assessment (aviation and aeromedical combined), briefing checklists, task sheets incorporating mission details, locations, GPS co-ordinates, engine / flight time and fuel calculations. These are all submitted to the Operations Centre in a PDF package at task completion,” he added.
RACQ LifeFlight wishes for the manufacturers of aviation EFB applications to incorporate wire mapping into their respective products
“The best change in the past 12 months for us has been the new features on our moving map setup (ForeFlight). We can now overlay GeoPDF files, with very high-quality local maps, which show hiking and rock-climbing routes,” said Lunn. “During our search and rescue (SAR) operations, these map overlays make searching an area much easier when the pilots and crews can see the trails on their EFB.”
Looking to the future, RACQ LifeFlight wishes for the manufacturers of aviation EFB applications to incorporate wire mapping into their respective products in a move towards a ‘single source’ of critical information. “Ideally, manufacturers would seek co-operation from power companies to import their real-time wire maps, and give the crews the ability to display these as overlays on aviation charts and satellite imagery,” said Bashir. “The safety advantages provided by such tools would be highly desirable in the aeromedical environment. We look forward to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) introducing EFB competency elements into the Part 61 MOS and formalizing these into the flight testing and checking system.”