There are specific regulations for the use of Electronic Flight Bags (EFB) that came into effect in Europe in July 2019.
What's an EFB?
An Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) is a system that is used by flight crew, on the flight deck of an aircraft, for storing, updating, displaying and processing information to support flight operations or flight crew duties. The most common EFB applications are hosting the operations manual, displaying maps and charts and making mass and balance and performance calculations.
EFBs are classified according to the device used (hardware), which may be installed or portable and the applications (software) which may be ‘Type A’ or ‘Type B’.
EFB hardware is classified as either ‘installed’ or ‘portable’.
Installed EFBs are part of the aircraft and are, therefore certified as part of the aircraft airworthiness approval.
Portable EFBs are not part of the aircraft and can be used away from the flight deck but it may be connected to the aircraft by (for example) a power supply or data connection.
Portable EFBs may be mounted in the flight deck. This might be using a mounting that’s part of the aircraft equipment or another ‘viewable storage device’. If the EFB is to be used during ‘critical phases of flight’, for example display of charts used during taxi, take-off, approach or landing, then it should be visible within 90 degrees of the pilot’s line of sight, it shouldn’t interfere with controls or impede the pilots view of aircraft instruments or the view outside the aircraft. It should be easy to remove the EFB (in case it catches fire). If the EFB is only used for short periods of time, such as to make a landing performance calculation, then it may be handheld and returned to a stowage when not in use.
The applications (software) on an EFB are classified according to their function. Applications whose misuse or malfunction has no safety effect are ‘Type A’, other applications are ‘Type B’. Any application that replaces avionics or aircraft systems displays or is used to communicate with ATC cannot be classified as an EFB application (these systems are subject to airworthiness certification).
Type A applications include reporting forms, passenger information, flight and duty rest calculators, display of certificates and documents (except for safety-related documents used in-flight).
Type B applications are those that are used in-flight for operational purposes. These include:
- display of maps and charts, e.g. Jeppesen FD, LIDO etc.
- displaying safety-related manuals and documents in-flight e.g. the operations manual, QRH, FCOM, weather information, the operational flight plan, NOTAMs etc.
- performance and mass and balance calculations e.g. Boeing OPT, Airbus LPC, iPreFlight, performance GURU etc.
What are the requirements for using an EFB?
Operators using an EFB should make a risk assessment and have procedures for managing the EFB.
The risk assessment should cover everything that could go wrong with the EFB such as power failure, data loss, mechanical damage, fire etc. Where the risk (probability x severity) of a particular consequence is unacceptable then the operator needs to describe how the risks will be managed. These risk mitigations might include pre-flight checks, carrying extra devices or paper back-ups, new fire procedures etc. There are specific requirements for assessing the risks associated with power sources for the EFB, batteries, connecting cables, electromagnetic interference and rapid decompression.
EFB procedures should include a description of how the applications are used and how the data are controlled, for example updating maps and charts or performance data. Procedures should be documented, either in the operations manual or a separate EFB manual and flight crew should be trained according to those procedures. There should be an ‘EFB Administrator’ who has primary responsibility for making sure that the correct versions of software and data are available, and that no unauthorised software is installed.
Is an approval required?
Commercial Air Transport operators using ‘Type B’ applications must have approval from the competent authority. The approval is shown on the operations specification document (OpSpec) and lists the approved applications and (for portable EFBs) the hardware. Other operators (non-commercial and specialised operators) do not require approval but should still complete a risk assessment and have procedures.
How do we get an EFB approval?
In order to get approval for use of EFB Type B applications an operator needs to provide the competent authority with the risk assessment and procedures described above. For new EFB applications an operator will also need to carry out an ‘operational demonstration’. This is typically six months of operation with a paper back-up available. The demonstration needs to show that the EFB application is as good as the paper-based system and, of course, the operational demonstration and it’s results need to be fully documented.