Electronic Flight Bags

The virtual catalogue case.

In the world of airframe manufacturing, it is a well-known fact that an aircraft is not considered airworthy until the weight of the supporting documents is equal to the empty weight of the machine. Certification is only the beginning as there are hundreds of thousands of pages necessary to provide for the continued support and operational capabilities of the aircraft.

It is still a common occurrence to observe pilots in transit carrying catalogue cases weighing upwards of 40 pounds. When I have questioned the content, the official response has always been, “it is full of navigational charts.” This answer does have some validity as Federal Air Regulation 91.503 states that pilots of large turbine-powered aircraft shall have aeronautical charts and data, in current and appropriate form that are accessible for each flight at the pilot station of the aircraft.

So what is an electronic flight bag (EFB)?

The official Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) definition is:
Electronic Flight Bag (EFB). An electronic display system, intended primarily for cockpit/ flightdeck or cabin use. EFB devices can display a variety of aviation data or perform basic calculations (e.g., performance data, fuel calculations, etc.). In the past, some of these functions were traditionally accomplished using paper references or were based on data provided to the flight crew by an airline’s “flight dispatch” function. The scope of the EFB system functionality may also include various other hosted databases and applications. Physical EFB displays may use various technologies, formats, and forms of communication. These devices are sometimes referred to as Auxiliary Performance Computers (APC) or Laptop Auxiliary Performance Computers (LAPC).

Aircraft operators have long recognized the benefits of portable electronic computing devices, including commercially available portable computers, to perform a variety of functions traditionally accomplished using paper references. EFB systems may be approved for use in conjunction with or to replace some of the hard copy material that pilots typically carry.

EFBs can electronically store and retrieve documents required for flight operations, such as the general operations manual (GOM), minimum equipment lists (MEL), operations specifications (Op Spec), and control documents. Maintenance discrepancy logs can also be created and stored but do need to be downloaded into a permanent record at a predetermined frequency.

Three classifications
They come in various packages with differing degrees of capability and complexity. Availability includes carry-on, entirely self-contained devices to those units that are completely interfaced into the aircraft flight deck. Due to the one size does not fit all concept, the FAA has categorized EFB’s into three classifications.

The Class 1 EFB: Generally commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS)-based computer systems used for aircraft operations; portable; not attached to an aircraft mounting device; not required to go through an administrative control process for use in the aircraft depending on application; and considered portable electronic devices (PED).

The Class 2 EFB: Generally COTS-based computer systems used for aircraft operations; portable; connected to an aircraft mounting device during normal operations; has to go through an administrative control process to add, remove, or use in the aircraft; and considered PEDs.
System power, data connectivity, and mounting devices require Aircraft Evaluation Group (AEG) evaluation and certification approval.

The Class 3 EFB: Installed equipment that will require approval, except for some user modifiable software. Class 3 EFB system certification requirements may enable additional applications and functions.

The EFB may provide a platform for running a significant number of functions which is dependent on internal software category:

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