The Regulatory State of the iPad in the Cockpit
Three popular Apple iPad applications were central to the first of several education sessions dedicated to the iPad-based electronic flight bag (EFB) at NBAA’12. Speakers featuring Jeppesen Mobile FliteDeck, ForeFlight Mobile and WingX Pro 7 all had their time at the podium offering information on how the products can enhance flight safety and efficiency across the business aviation fleet.
All of the speakers were quick to acknowledge that none of their products would be such a hit with business aviation were it not for favorable regulator treatment–namely the revision of Advisory Curricular 126-76B, “Guidelines for the Certification, Airworthiness, and Operational Use of Electronic Flight Bags,” published in June 2012; and the FAA letter of authorization guidance for use of iPads in particular in the cockpit, which was released in February last year after much pressure from Part 135 operators in the U.S. This precipitated a significant increase in FAA EFB cockpit authorizations, from roughly four a month to more than 30 a month. And this year alone FAA EFB cockpit authorizations in the U.S. are running at more than 100 per month.
Jeppesen studies documented that iPad EFB users find that the device increases their situational awareness, decreases pilot workload and simplifies flights in general. The pilots were, of course, using the Jeppesen Mobile FliteDeck app. Tyson Weihs, co-founder and CEO of ForeFlight, produced similar data about his product’s users.
“In the last 30 days there were 2.7 million ForeFlight sessions, with 50 percent of the app usage being in short bursts of 30 seconds to 10 minutes in length.” He also said that half the users triggered the app four to 20 times a day on any given day. Just 15 percent of ForeFlight users keep the app on for more than 10 minutes at a time.
As for whether all the EFB apps for in-cockpit use actually work, one can only look at the graph that Weihs placed on the screen at the end of his presentation. “Since the beginning of portable terrain awareness GPS-equipped products in the cockpit, there’s been a 75-percent reduction in the number of controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) accidents in aviation,” he said. His vision for the future includes more “magic boxes” such as ADS-B and auxiliary back-up AHRS connecting to iPad-based EFBs, Arinc129 integration and interactivity among apps with complementary services.
Another recent development is the ability for WingX Pro 7 and ForeFlight Mobile to display the position of a personal computer-derived simulated aircraft when running the X-Plane flight simulator program. This feature helps pilots by allowing them to train how to use the app before taking off in a real airplane.