Advancements in the consumer electronics industry are making their way into cockpits of business aircraft. High resolution flat-panel displays, synthetic-vision systems, flight-management systems with integrated situation awareness capabilities, GPS receivers, high-speed computing and mass data storage are all becoming common upgrades in many corporate and general aviation aircraft.
Electronic flight bag
Ireland-based Aircraft Management Technologies (AMT) launched a new electronic flight book system called Flightman. It is claimed to be the first to allow secure, wireless transmission of aircraft and operations data from a portable computing device to an operator’s server.
As the FAA continues to wrestle with the issue of whether to allow portable electronic devices to be used for viewing approach charts during commercial IFR operations, pilots of Part 91 business jets who have been flying with the so-called electronic flight bag (EFB) computers for the past year are expressing generally favorable opinions of the devices.
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.
With more and more pilots bidding farewell to paper approach charts and turning to the convenience of handheld flight-deck computers, official word from the FAA stipulating exactly how such devices may be used in the cockpit has been eagerly anticipated by the industry for some time.
Aeronautical data specialist Jeppesen is investing heavily in a move from paper-based to electronic products that should enhance flight and ground operations while helping eliminate the need for paper manuals and charts.
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.
Tucson, Ariz.-based Universal Avionics announced receipt of a TSO certifying the company’s Universal Cockpit Display, a handheld tablet computer with an 8.4-in. touchscreen. At a list price of $33,500, the handheld device is more expensive than other electronic flight bags (EFB) on the market, but it has the advantage of interfacing directly with the airplane’s FMS.
About 30 TAG Aviation pilots have made the switch from paper to electrons, replacing the Jeppesen approach chart binders in their business jet cockpits with small, lightweight Fujitsu touch-screen computers.
It seems as though every few months Internet message boards erupt with complaints about Jeppesen’s JeppView electronic chart and navigation database service. Now-familiar stories about servers going down, NavData downloads locking up and hardware incompatibility issues clearly are making some users yearn for the good old days–when electronic nav database updates came in the mail on CD-ROM.