Trend to EFBs Enticing Aircraft Makers

 - April 18, 2008, 5:28 AM

EFBs are becoming not just accepted but entrenched in business aviation, with hundreds of professional pilots today powering up lightweight pen tablet computers rather than using cumbersome Jeppesen chart binders. Gulfstream recently certified a two-EFB installation for the GV that uses Northstar CT-1000 computers, while fractional provider Flight Options last year went entirely paperless in its fleet of about 90 pre-owned jets.

A new option for buyers of EFBs is the recently introduced tablet computer from Spirent Systems of Wichita. The AvVantage electronic flight bag (EFB) from Spirent will go into service this fall with Qantas, and is expected to be available to business aviation early next year.

The AvVantage recently completed a series of flight evaluations by Embraer in an ERJ-145. Flown from São José dos Campos Airport in Brazil, the compact handheld computer was used to view approach charts, operations manuals, MEL, flight plans and notams. Embraer pilot Heliano Cabral said the Spirent EFB performed “exceptionally well” during the flights.

“Our pilots were pleased with the unit’s ease of operation and readability during actual flight conditions. The resolution is good, switching from chart to chart is simple and the scrolling of charts by touchscreen is very handy,” he said. Five pilots flew six evaluation flights over the course of six days.

Cabral also commented on the AvVantage’s takeoff and landing performance application: “Pilots do not have to enter runway data each time they use AvVantage. Data such as runway length, slope, obstacle information and so forth is stored in a database. All the pilot has to do is type in which runway is intended and the actual weight of the aircraft, and AvVantage then figures out limit weight, speeds and flap settings automatically.” He added that the use of an airport database made the system more functional than other EFBs, where the pilot has to enter runway/obstacle data before each takeoff.

Embraer and Spirent are now working to develop EFB packages for regional airline customers.

The AvVantage EFBs, unveiled last summer at the Paris Air Show, are available with 8.4- and 10.4-in. liquid crystal displays, and either device includes an internal hard drive capable of storing several binders worth of Jeppesen approach charts. A spokesman said pricing has not yet been determined.