What Are Electronic Flight Bags and Their Classification?

When discussing electronic flight bags (EFB), one is referring to any type of portable electronic display hardware that is primarily used in the cabin or cockpit of an aircraft. In some instances, an electronic flight bag may also be defined as “any device, or combination of devices, actively displaying EFB applications.” Often, these EFB devices are used to collect and display certain aircraft data, or they may assist in various processes through calculations. In this blog, we will discuss the electronic flight bags used in aviation applications, allowing you to better understand their functionality and use.

Prior to the creation of electronic flight bags, many data pertinent operations were conducted with paper references. As such, the EFB serves to replace such methods to achieve a fully paperless flight deck. The first EFB precursors came about around the 1990s, coming in the form of personal laptops used by FedEx pilots for the means of conducting various aircraft performance calculations. The first true EFB, the electronic kit bag, came about in 1999. Since then, EFBs have become more advanced alongside personal computing technology, replacing the pilot flight bag entirely. Now, such devices can store aeronautical charts, flight management information, and other data at a minimal weight as compared to paper documents.

When discussing EFB system hardware, it is important to understand that such technology is separated into classes which serve to separate devices by their functional sophistication. Class 1 EFB systems are those that did not require NAA airworthiness approval to be used, only requiring storage during takeoff and landing procedures. Generally, such EFB hardware was only capable of offering supplemental information. Class 2 EFB systems required limited NAA airworthiness approval, serving as a removable device that only required an Aircraft Technical Log entry to remove. These devices were capable of being connected to the aircraft power and data link port, allowing them to exchange data for the means of generating interactive performance calculations. Class 3 EFB systems could be installed with a Supplementary Type Certificate or certification design approval alongside NAA Airworthiness Approval. Generally, such hardware had the possibility to work alongside the GPS and Flight Management System for the means of creating a detailed moving map display in which pilots could follow weather information, locations of other aircraft, and more.

Despite such classes being made, Classes 1, 2, and 3 have all since been superseded by portable equipment that would match ICAO initiative to cater towards more complex systems. Although fully portable, EFB hardware often requires the installation of some components to ensure proper powering and data connectivity. Generally, installed components are upheld to airworthiness regulations while the portable EFB components are exempt.

Beyond the classes of EFB system hardware, a flight bag kit may also be classified by its applications. EFB systems that feature Type A applications are those that are capable of document storage and retrieval only. Type B applications, meanwhile, are those that enable independent performance of calculations that are required for aircraft operations, display aeronautical charts devoid of aircraft position, utilize electronic checklists and the internet, and display weather information or utilize aircraft video camera surveillance displays. Type C applications are the most robust, centering around the active control of the aircraft while in flight and/or the duplication of certified avionic systems. As of the present, Type C applications are not considered to be potential EFB applications, and Type A and Type B applications must be approved for airworthiness before they may be relied on as a certified avionics function.

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