EFB Users Forum, Munich, 24-26 May 2016
Co-chaired by Capt Dr Philipp Haller, A320, Austrian Airlines, and Will Ware, Southwest Airlines, the EFB Operator Experiences forum session was billed as the most interesting event at the forum. That’s why it was saved ‘til last – and it certainly didn’t disappoint.
It seems that we’ve reached a stage in the deployment of EFBs where it’s time to pause, take a breath and work to make the most of all the software, hardware and data that we’ve got. We must now ensure that we fully enable the connectivity and data flow between all the people that make the magic of civil aviation happen. We had an opportunity to listen to detailed reports from Austrian Airlines, Aer Lingus, Delta Air Lines, Lufthansa and Southwest on real-world experiences around EFB deployment, XML manuals, airport moving maps and connectivity.
Will Ware made the point that pilots complain of too many apps and that it must be made easier to switch between apps in the EFB environment. He stressed the importance of connecting the full team around the aircraft and asked the room for a show of hands. How many have connected the aircraft with AID? A small few. How many are using fixed EFB? A tiny few. How many of those using fixed are planning to go portable? All those currently using fixed. Patterns emerged.
EFB Next Generation – Portable, connected EFBs on Austrian Airlines aircraft
Capt Dr Philipp Haller, A320, Austrian Airlines, Operational IT
Captain Haller told about how, in the old days, pilots spread out paper in the cockpit where they thought it would work best. But Austrian Airlines has deployed a new electronic flight bag solution: One EFB for each pilot, with mount, power and AID (Aircraft Interface Device). Austrian are using Microsoft Surface Pro 3 devices.
EFB allowed them to replace 15-20kg of paper weight per aircraft. EFB increases safety and efficiency of all flights. Plan to connect cabin to EFB network with tablets. Currently use a mixture of HTML, XML and PDF. Need to go all XML. PDF is not the preferred document form in the long term. Techlog is one of the most complex projects in the EFB world.
Challenges include keeping to the timeline – everything takes longer when dealing with external suppliers. STCs for server, longer aircraft downtime, internal manpower, budgetary constraints. Consider using final STCs as opposed to being launch customer, to speed up the process. Cooperation between different providers is vital and, amazingly, aircraft layout dimensions can be different within same type so don’t assume anything. Ever.
Type 1 was a good introduction to EFB but the future is fixed and connected to aircraft data. Pilots connect tablets to ethernet at base to speed up doc updates. Surface doesn’t have 3G, AID does. 10-15% spare devices held, for 970 pilots and there were problems with battery power. It took 2 years to fit 70 aircraft, 5 types. Can communicate with EFB via ACARS. Office is installed for pilots, no personal apps allowed.
In an exclusive comment to Arconics, Capt. Haller was asked whether more use needs to be made of aircraft data on the EFB or in connecting the EFB to the ground, and stated:
“I think both connectivity issues are essential. Using aircraft data in an EFB offers new possibilities for applications like electronic triplog, enroute moving map, performance software with FMS-crosscheck etc., which enhance the situational awareness and contribute to safer and more efficient flights. Connecting the EFB to groundsystems in-flight and on-ground is also essential to have real-time data available on the EFB.”
On the potential for confusing pilots with too many apps, Capt. Haller said:
“I do not see a problem having different applications on an EFB as long as they are easily accessible via a clearly structured Portal or Application Manager.”
And on the benefits of XML over PDF:
“The transition to XML is, of course, a challenge and requires editors and users to change some of their old habits but overall I see more advantages in moving to XML than remaining on ‘poor’ PDF or similar type of documentation.”
Delta Air Lines – Building a business case for EFB-to-ground and flightdeck-to-cabin connectivity to report maintenance irregularities
Shane White, Delta Air Lines, Tech pilot, B757
Chris Groover, Manager – PM office, Delta Air Lines Mobility Working Group
Delta Air Lines has moved from Surface 2 to 3. There’s a Catch 22: Apps need connectivity to be justified, but they can’t justify connectivity without apps. Connectivity is key.
Currently testing eCabin logbook app for maintenance reporting. Connectivity everywhere, on ground and in flight. Pilots used iPads, BYOD. Replaced with Surface 2. Refresh programme now: Surface 3 W10. Delta has 12,000 pilots, breaking 10-15 tablets per week. Use Gogo SSID ife wireless system to create secure crew channel, pushing weather updates. On ground, use wifi connectivity. In-flight Gogo for Flight Weather Viewer (turbulence).
What next: pilot and cabin crew connectivity. Business case required to justify investment, operational or safety enhancement. Strategy: cross-divisional team to identify apps and EFB functionality that can justify cost of all crew member connectivity. Delta needs to start somewhere: Pick an app with great potential for operational efficiency. Techlog too broad, focus now on eCabin app. eCabin logbook POC aims to prove the benefits of peer-to-peer connected devices. eCabin app is just one app out of many that can support the case for crewmembers using seamless EFB connectivity everywhere. Connectivity study: Building heatmaps of airport wifi/3g/4G/LTE deficiencies. Then fill in the holes. Infrastructure is a challenge.
Why change cabin maintenance reporting? Master copy is paper logbook. Reported via ACARS or radio by pilot. Maintenance control enters in SCEPTRE. Flight attendant creates paper write-up and slides under cockpit door. Then reporting via ACARS or radio. Maintenance Control enters in SCEPTRE. Aircraft paper logbook in cockpit remains master record. Why challenging? Slow. Inaccurate. Often happens during descent while pilots are busy. Benefits of eCabin logbook: Fast. Accurate. Enhanced reliability and revenue potential.
What next? Full aircraft e-logbook, leveraging EFB instead of ACARS. Crew member comms tools. Pilots>FAs, pilots>maintenance, pilots>dispatcher. Company to crew and back. Everyday comm tools that allow each employee associated with a flight to receive the right data at the right time.
Hard to justify connectivity without apps that show a financial or operational ROI. Starting with one or two connected apps enough to justify and build on. Success with current projects will lead to expanded funding for seamless worldwide connectivity for all employees and investment in servers or AIDs (Aircraft Interface Device) on every aircraft.
EFB Deployment at Aer Lingus
Richard Niland, Aer Lingus, Senior Flight Ops Engineer, EFB Administrator
Aer Lingus use Arconics AeroDocs XML authoring and the Arconics CrewPortal is very successful. AeroDocs enables Aer Lingus to give pilots offline access to all manuals and notices, and Lido briefing pack, on crew mobility devices, plus company portal and email.
Avoided PDF and went straight to XML airline documents. Use Flightman software for journey log, fuel, delays. Integrations: aircraft/crew scheduling, mainframe systems, content management, performance. Flightman integrations: A/C library, ALPS performance application.
Class 1 EFB achieved objectives of removal of paper manuals (except QRH) and optimising performance. Toughbooks never became popular with pilots. New solution: Surface Pro 3, Navaero installed, AID. Still using Flightman, Arconics library, ALPS, introduced LIDO eRoute.
Surface Pro 3 – popular, responsive, fast to boot. Windows 8 is not launched in use. Volume switch has been modified and now controls brightness. Problems: Min brightness still too bright. Device loses time. Some device failures: touchscreen unresponsive, failed to boot. Still, overall very happy.
Navaero hardware – some issues with network drops during some power transitions. Aircraft data feeds, AID – Navaero API. Discretes – weight on wheels, oil pressure each engine. ARINC 429 ADIRU, CFDIU/CMC, FMCEG. ARINC 717. Navaero provide raw data – steep learning curve. Differences between aircraft types. Surface Pro 3 has no 3G, so Aer Lingus use a USB modem in tablet mounting.
EFB device control software: With tablets, it’s a more complicated system, networked devices, data sharing (Flightman/Lido). Difficulty diagnosing problems. Developed in-house device manager application, manages startup of apps. Lido eRoute very popular, en route moving map, own ship position desirable. Live weather desirable.
Regarding onboard connectivity, Panasonic eXconnect on A330 fleet, wifi, dedicated EFB SSID for live weather updates and critical data updates.
Future plans include expanded use of data feeds. Cross-check pilot inputs, weight, take-off speeds. Airport moving map. Live weather. Route optimisation.
In an exclusive comment to Arconics, Richard was asked about what the Aer Lingus focus is now, data or connectivity, and stated:
“In Aer Lingus, our focus now is to develop the EFB system to make greater use of the data and connectivity that will be available to our devices. We are in the final stages of fitting an AID to our entire fleet and will shortly have an en-route data connection for the EFBs on our A330 fleet. We would like to develop the system further to make greater use of these facilities, by implementing, for example, a real-time weather application and/or airport moving map. For us, it is important now to use all of the hardware and data that’s available to us to its greatest potential, so as to improve the EFB functionality and maximise operational efficiency.”
And that concluded a very successful EFB Users Forum. While many of us went straight to Munich’s quite splendid airport – complete with beer garden atrium! – many of the attendees made their way back to the legendary Hofbräuhaus in the centre of Munich. To talk EFBs, of course!
AeroEFB Modular Electronic Flight Bag Software by Arconics: https://www.arconics.com/efb-eff-aerodocs/
AeroDocs Airline Document Control Software by Arconics: https://www.arconics.com/document-control-compliance-aerodocs-dms/
Munich skyline – Arconics Crew
Inside the EFB Users Forum – Arconics Crew
Austrian Airlines A320 in retro livery – By Alan Lebeda [GFDL 1.2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html) or GFDL 1.2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
Delta Air Lines A330 – By Gietje (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Aer Lingus A320s at Dublin Airport – Arconics Crew
Hofbräuhaus, Munich – Arconics Crew
efb, electronic flight bag, users forum, munich 2016, aid, connectivity, data, Austrian Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Aer Lingus, Lufthansa, Southwest