Avionics Update: FAA prepares amendments to EFB advisory circular

 - May 8, 2008, 5:18 AM

Based on feedback it has received from pilots and operators, the FAA is said to be preparing a number of amendments to an earlier Advisory Circular (AC 120-76) stipulating how so-called electronic flight bags (EFBs) may be used in the cockpit. According to those who attended a meeting hosted by FAA officials in Alexandria, Va., last month, the agency plans to introduce the amendments to the AC in January. The changes would do away with current requirements that approach charts be completely viewable on EFB screens with no panning or scrolling and that a crashworthy mount be used to connect the device permanently inside the cockpit. The Air Transport Association (ATA) is also negotiating with the FAA to allow a GPS-derived aircraft symbol to be overlaid on the navigation chart, something the industry trade group believes would improve situational awareness. An EFB is any handheld electronic device used in the cockpit for viewing flight-related information such as checklists, weight-and-balance data, aircraft manuals and navigation charts. In its AC the FAA split EFBs into three categories, the first of which–class-1 devices–are considered to be small handheld personal digital assistants that may be used on the ground only to provide “supplemental information” and not for viewing navigation charts. Class-2 and -3 devices, meanwhile, may be used for viewing approach and en route charts, but only class-3 EFBs are allowed to interface with EICAS, FMS and other cockpit systems. Another difference is that class-3 devices must be permanently installed in the aircraft, while class-2 EFBs can be portable and used away from the aircraft. Part 135 and 121 operators are required to gain specific FAA approval before using EFBs in the cockpit, while Part 91 operators are not.