LARA news - Off the charts

Electronic flight bags have become standard in the commercial airliner cockpit over the past decade, with the technology on a continuous path of development. More is to come with the ongoing expansion of applications and increasing connectivity, as Emma Kelly discovers.

1.png Electronic flight bags (EFBs) have established themselves in the cockpit of commercial airliners and are here to stay, with their functionality set to grow. Initially a useful tool to replace heavy and cumbersome paper maps and charts, EFBs today are offering a whole lot more.

A new generation of applications focusing on issues including turbulence awareness and fuel-savings are delivering safety and efficiency benefits to pilots, airlines and their customers.


With this growth in functionality, the issue of application overload has also reared its head, but numerous solutions are under development to address this as well. An effective turbulence tool has long been on the pilot and airline EFB application wish list and Israeli firm SkyPath has come up with the goods. SkyPath is a software solution which runs on Apple iPads and uses the iPad sensors, connectivity and GPS to deliver turbulence warnings. It can be deployed as a native app, downloaded on the iPad or as an integrated layer in an EFB app, running with or without connectivity during the flight. Without connectivity, turbulence and PIREP information is downloaded on the ground before departure and all information gathered during the flight is recorded and uploaded to servers after landing. In-flight connectivity, meanwhile, supports real-time turbulence reports.

Hagay Makov, SkyPath’s Vice President Business Development, says: “SkyPath is a unique crowdsourcing platform based on a patented algorithm that utilises iPad accelerometers, detects turbulence and alerts pilots and ground operation services regarding upcoming encounters in real-time.”

The solution was developed by El Al Boeing 787/737 Captain and check airman, Oran Hampel, as a result of frustration with the lack of accurate turbulence data. It addresses safety and cost issues associated with turbulence, which costs the industry approximately US$2.5 billion in maintenance and fuel globally. “There are no adequate tools to accurately report and predict turbulence,” says Makov. “Meteorological forecasts and pilot turbulence reports are inaccurate in 85% of the cases and weather radar cannot detect clear air turbulence.”

SkyPath is both an ecosystem and a data service. “In addition to the native application and web interface, SkyPath provides an integration kit that other solutions, such as EFB/EFF (Electronic Flight Folder) applications and other systems, can easily integrate with,” says Makov.

As a crowdsourcing network, every EFB becomes both a turbulence sensor and a consumer of the accurate data layer, he explains. SkyPath’s data application programming interface (API) supports flight planning and optimisation tools. Today, the app has 30,000-plus users flying with six airlines, including United Airlines, which performed six months of due diligence before it selected the product.

Makov says that in the coming months SkyPath will expand to Europe and the Asia-Pacific region. “There are other legacy solutions, but they are not as accurate, are costly and not as straightforward as SkyPath. The main difference is that SkyPath is a software-only solution and is not dependent on costly and timely aircraft integration. In addition, other solutions do not have the same ecosystem of app, web and integration kits to simply view the information and get the real time updates and alerts.” SkyPath is already integrated with EFB solutions from Thales (AvioBook) and Boeing, and in the integration phase with several other EFB providers and flight plan optimisation apps. Makov says industry response has been positive due to the app’s ability to help prevent injuries, reduce carbon footprint and optimise flight plans.

MAKING SAVINGS Data analytics company APiJET continues to develop its Digital Winglets solution aimed at delivering efficiency, fuel and time savings. Digital Winglets is based on technology developed under NASA’s Traffic Aware Strategic Aircrew Requests (TASAR) initiative. TASAR algorithms identify real-time fuel and time saving flight trajectories, providing recommendations to pilots via the EFB.

During NASA TASAR tests with Alaska Airlines on its Boeing 737-900ERs in 2019, the technology reduced fuel burn and flight time, indicating it could yield an estimated annual savings of US$14.97 million for the airline.

Seattle-based APiJET was the first company to obtain a commercial licence for TASAR and has been trialling, refining and developing the product over the last couple of years.

“We are in trials with several airlines,” says Tarn Sublett, APiJET’S Finance and General Manager. “The most technologically curious and real-time data-driven airlines are all very interested. Each of our trials have exceeded the NASA trial results. We are continually impressed with the non-intuitive routes suggested for fuel and/or time savings.”

He adds that APiJET’s roadmap is full of “real-time data opportunities to help make real-time actionable decisions”.

LIGHTEN THE LOAD The growth in EFB applications has, however, given rise to concerns surrounding application overload and operating in silos, with data not being shared. Pilots have a raft of information to process and when this is coming in a variety of forms – paper and digital – and from a variety of sources, rather than easing pilot workload, it can cause further complexity.

A number of electronic flight assistants (EFA) under development or already launched are addressing this issue, aimed at reducing pilot workload and operational complexity.

Airbus subsidiary NAVBLUE launched its Mission+ EFA in late 2021 and it is already in service with eight operators worldwide – Air Malta, Air Transat, Airbus Transport International, Cyprus Airways, flyadeal, Jazeera Airways, National Airlines and Peach Aviation.

Mission+ integrates all of the information a pilot needs to prepare and execute a flight with the FLIGHT electronic flight folder module and MAPS charting module, as well as airport moving map and weather data, says Arnaud Thurat, NAVBLUE’s Head of Electronic Flight Bag Business Solution. For Airbus operators, Mission+ is also tightly integrated with Flysmart+ aircraft performance and documentation and it can leverage FOMAX, the Airbus Aircraft Interface Device connectivity with avionics.

Mission+ is a true electronic flight folder (EFF), says Thurat, presenting mission management data and documentation, cockpit checklist, navigation charts and airport maps, real-time weather conditions and aircraft performance data, all of which usually comes via multiple sources.

Information is organised around the pilot’s needs at each stage of the operational workflow, providing easy access to information to enhance situational awareness for quick decision-making. As a result, it reduces pilot workload, streamlines the flow of information and increases efficiency.

Mission+ is available and approved on Windows and iOS and features optional modules that can be customised to airlines’ requirements. The software was developed specifically in response to issues surrounding a lack of data-sharing between EFB applications, with pilots worldwide contributing feedback.

Thurat says says: “Our vision, which started materialising with the first version of Mission+ and its tight integration with Flysmart+, is to transition from an array of siloed applications into a unified integrated EFB platform in a seamless manner.”

The company adds that it has received “very positive feedback”, with Peach Aviation highlighting its ease of use and customisation.

ROUTE RECOMMENDATIONS Collins Aerospace, meanwhile, recently launched its FlightHub EFF, which centralises data sources from an EFB and workflows into a single stream, covering an entire flight.

The solution is designed to provide fast and easy access to all flight information in a single stream, from pre-flight documents including flight plans and weather information to post-flight summaries with timing and fuel burn reports.

“We are currently working with a number of airlines around the globe who have expressed interest,” says Jon Merritt, Associate Director, Flight Deck Applications for Collins Aerospace.

“FlightHub is a solution that has been on their wish list for many years. The opportunity to use their own data in a platform uniquely built for the flight deck and pilots to improve efficiency and sustainability is something they have wanted for quite some time.”

Collins has worked closely with pilots to establish requirements and gain feedback and Merritt says it will continue to take into account pilot needs now and into the future as the EFB arena evolves with new and emerging technology – with the solution being configured to airline requirements.

“Some data is standard, like their flight plans, but other data is very customised to their airline or operation. Once we have identified the data, we work with pilots to figure out how they use it and when getting access to that data is important.”

Unlike other solutions, Merritt says FlightHub allows pilots to remain focused and simplify their EFB experience – “not forcing them to ‘flip’ between various apps to accomplish a task”.

FlightHub will also include Collins’ Flight Profile Optimisation (FPO) tool, which delivers real-time route recommendations throughout a flight to reduce CO2 emissions – estimated at around 1% per annum. “We are currently working with a customer on testing our FPO product in various real-time situations, ensuring that the service will provide desirable outcomes,” says Merritt. ** KEEPING CONNECTED** Increasing cockpit connectivity is expanding EFB functionality. SkyPath, for example, is fully functional and provides turbulence awareness without connectivity – with data remaining valid for four to five hours and the average US flight taking approximately 1.5 hours (2.2 hours in Europe).

But connectivity is an advantage and the right path forward, says Makov. Data management specialist Teledyne Controls continues to develop its connectivity solutions to allow airlines to unlock real-time data opportunities.

It recently announced a partnership with Inmarsat whereby its Aircraft Interface Device (AID+) enabled GroundLink Comm+ communication system will be integrated with Inmarsat’s SB-S platform using its European ELERA satellite network and thirdparty EFB software to bring real-time IP connectivity to aircraft across Europe.


The move will allow airlines to benefit from reduced delays, fuel savings and reduced carbon emissions.

Inmarsat and Teledyne will integrate and test commercial off-the-shelf EFB applications from a variety of third-party partners, including real-time multi-source meteorology, system-wide information management, flight profile optimisation and electronic document management for crew.

“We will be testing soon once the lab integration is complete,” says Teledyne, declining to name EFB partners.

The company already has agreements in place with multiple satcom vendors, including Viasat, Intelsat and Panasonic, and discussions ongoing with others. There is increasing interest in connectivity as airlines seek to unlock the benefits.

Teledyne says approximately 20 airlines are using GroundLink connectivity solutions, with 300-plus aircraft equipped with GroundLink AID+, 100 aircraft using GroundLink Data Link (ACARS over IP) and 170 aircraft with GroundLink Broadband providing in-flight connectivity.

The company adds: “In the past we have seen flight deck connectivity being an afterthought for airlines after implementing satcom solutions for passengers. Now there are a number of airlines who are incorporating tenders which include flight deck connectivity and how to extract maximum value.

“AID solutions have the ability to provide the cockpit with real-time aircraft performance data and enables pilots to make the most fuel-efficient decisions through the use of an application and an AID-connected EFB.”


DATA POINTS Further EFB developments are also on the horizon. NAVBLUE’s next milestones are the release of the PERFO and DOC modules covering aircraft performance calculation and documentation needs, followed by “further integration between what used to be siloed applications, more connectivity with the ground and with avionics – a connected flight management system vision – to support effort toward reduction of crew workload”.

Collins has roadmap items it wants to incorporate in 2023, primarily focused on sustainability and enabling a more connected flight deck.

Merritt says: “We see EFBs continuing to be a predominant factor in the flight deck, along with connectivity. We believe that FlightHub is an important part of bringing our vision of the Connected Aviation Ecosystem to life.

“Connected aviation involves bringing together billions of data points from across the aviation industry – in the airport, on the aircraft and on the tarmac. But it’s not enough to simply aggregate and store this data. We need to put this data to use to make every part of the aviation ecosystem better, more efficient, more sustainable and more convenient for the passenger. We see EFBs and FlightHub as key enablers in making this vision a reality.”

APiJET’s Sublett concurs, saying: “We see the EFB becoming a connected real-time data source for integrated solutions using avionics data to find increasingly efficient and safe ways to manage routes and fleets.”

He adds that APiJET’S goal is to make sure its platform is easy to implement, quick to provide actionable data and makes a difference to the pilot, passenger and airline in route efficiency and fleet management. SkyPath’s roadmap includes machine learning to support nowcasting – short-term predictions for turbulence – as well as additional EFB/EFFs and flight planning systems.

“EFBs will continue to grow and evolve exponentially in the next five to 10 years,” says Makov. “The key trends we foresee are connectivity and integrated EFBs focusing on bringing the most accurate information into the cockpit and helping pilots make better decisions. There is a common understanding in the industry that connectivity with the wisdom of the crowds can reduce costs, carbon emissions and enhance an airline’s capabilities and safety.”

Teledyne’s developments also feature machine learning, as well as next generation communication standards. It foresees EFBs becoming even more powerful and interconnected, including integration with or at least being an extension of the flight management system (FMS). Teledyne says: “Pilots are now so familiar with their EFBs – and they will become a trusted source of information. We already see on the current generation of aircraft the ability to project portable EFB screen information on forward displays. This is a clear reaction from the OEMs to support the pilots’ requirements and it will continue to expand.”