CMC’s pilot-friendly EFB features FMS-style keys

 - April 3, 2007, 7:50 AM

CMC Electronics has introduced the CMA-1100, a handheld electronic flight bag (EFB) computer for the cockpit that fills a gap between off-the-shelf tablet PCs typically costing less than $5,000 and permanently installed devices that can top $30,000.

With a list price of around $15,000, including installation, the CMA-1100 is positioned to entice airlines, as well as “the discerning business jet operator,” according to the Montreal avionics manufacturer. Unique features of the device include a hidden keyboard that slides down from the back of the computer’s housing and touchscreen for accessing EFB software applications.

Designed for use in all phases of flight, the CMA-1100 has a lightweight self-contained electronic display and processing unit and a companion power and expansion module unit. In addition to software-definable “FMS style” line-select keys that surround the display, the CMA-1100 offers a “film on glass” touch-sensitive screen, providing pilots with a choice when accessing or navigating through EFB software applications such as electronic charts, checklists, e-documents, performance calculations, weather, surveillance video and moving maps.

Another unique feature of the device is the CMA-1100’s content manager, developed through a long-term licensing agreement with Montreal-based On-Board Data Systems (OBDS). The content manager allows the device to run a variety of applications and manage and assemble custom content libraries from the user’s desktop PC. This lets pilots make updates to the EFB by dragging and dropping data from a laptop to the unit’s hard drive, or by wireless connection.

Portable EFB computers are broken into three classes. Class 1 EFBs are simple devices such as personal digital assistants that run performance and checklist software; Class 2 devices include laptop and tablet PCs; and Class 3 EFBs represent top-of-the-line devices that are integrated with aircraft systems and are usually permanently mounted in the cockpit. The CMA-1100 is a Class 2 device.

CMC Electronics decided to launch a new line of EFB products in conjunction with the sale last year of its Northstar Technologies subsidiary, based in Acton, Mass., to Brunswick Corp., in Lake Forest, Ill. CMC’s first EFB was the Class 2 CT-1000G, which supports Jeppesen FliteDeck software, moving maps and custom checklists and is offered as an option aboard Gulfstreams.

With the growing popularity of EFB computers for the flight deck, pilots are exploring new uses for the devices beyond showing charts and checklists. The trend likely means that these handheld portable computers will evolve into the airplane’s onboard “digital library,” offering flight crews an array of information and cockpit tools.

OBDS, for example, has also developed a shell for EFBs, called the multifunction flight data browser. The company said the technology is the only such software to provide centrally managed and custom-tailored data delivery and multitasking applications. The company has formed an alliance with Maestro Aviation of the UK, a developer of flight applications for EFBs, including aircraft checklists, oxygen management systems and performance calculations, to provide integrated software for any EFB on the market, according to the companies.