Jeppesen has released version 2.1 of its Mobile FliteDeck iPad app with several significant improvements, including display of own-ship position on geo-referenced approach charts. Jeppesen also revealed that it has begun development of FliteDeck Pro (for commercial operators) for a new platform, and it isn’t Android but Microsoft’s Windows 8/Surface tablet environment.
The new features in version 2.1 for the iPad also include a distance-measuring tool in the form of range rings, which automatically grow or shrink as the user pinches and zooms the range out and in. At the center of the range rings, a useful compass rose helps pilots quickly visualize bearings from the aircraft. The range rings are easy to switch on and off using a button on the side of the display.
Jeppesen has added automatic display of airport taxi diagrams, not only after using an approach chart but also from a STAR procedure or en route maps, saving pilots the trouble of searching for and pulling up the taxi diagram after landing.
When viewing an airport’s charts, it is now possible to select from any or all of the airport’s charts then flip between them with a two-finger swipe.
Jeppesen has also added some a welcome new weather feature, Nexrad (previously radar was limited to echo tops). Other new features include the ability to input multiple alternate airports in the planning function and the ability to save flights.
In a surprise development, Delta Air Lines announced plans to equip its 11,000 pilots with Microsoft Surface 2 tablet computers (formerly the Surface RT) as electronic flight bags, with Boeing 757 and 767 pilots scheduled to receive their units later this year and the rest in 2014. The Surface 2 tablets will run Jeppesen’s FliteDeck Pro as well as be used for document viewing and checklists and will replace 38 pounds of paper per airplane, saving Delta $13 million a year in fuel and associated costs.
FliteDeck Pro will be available to any user of a device that runs Windows 8 RT (for the Surface 2) and Windows 8 Pro (for the Surface Pro), according to Tim Heugel, director of Jeppesen aviation portfolio management. Delta is not compensating Jeppesen specifically for developing FliteDeck Pro for the Windows 8 environment. “We believe there is additional market interest in this solution,” he told AIN.
Jeppesen’s goal is to make FliteDeck Pro for Windows 8 offer the same functionality as the iPad version. “Recognizing there are some flow and user experience philosophy differences between platforms as a function of operating systems and hardware,” Heugel explained, “we are developing Jeppesen FliteDeck Pro for Windows 8 RT [Surface] so that its functionality and user experience is similar to that of Jeppesen FliteDeck Pro for iOS. In all cases, we employ a human-centric design based on collaboration with experienced airlines, military operators and business aviation operators.”
One feature that the Surface tablets will deliver is the ability to open two applications side by side, something that the iPad doesn’t offer, except for apps that allow split windows. An example where this may benefit Surface users is display of weather in one window alongside another window with FliteDeck Pro.
Like the iPad, Microsoft Surface tablets will have to undergo rapid decompression tests, qualification of lithium batteries and electromagnetic compatibility testing. “Additional EFB criteria must be met during FAA authorization, unique to each operator’s implementation,” according to Heugel. “Formal evaluation during the EFB authorization program considers mounting/securing, wiring, egress, glare, readability in different lighting conditions and many other factors. These tasks must be accomplished by the operator, to the satisfaction of their [FAA] inspectors and Certificate Management Office.”
The choice of the Surface tablet by Delta likely has to do with the company’s selection of Nokia Lumia 820 Windows smartphones for its 19,000 flight attendants and other Microsoft software that the airline uses. Future applications for the pilots’ Surface tablets include electronic dispatch and flight release, real-time weather access, operational information and communication with technicians on the ground.