Aircraft IT OPS Issue 58: Winter 2023

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Aircraft IT OPS Issue 58: Winter 2023 Cover

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WHITE PAPER: The Value of EFBs in a Connected Aircraft

Author: Rene de Vogel, Eastern Hemisphere Lead for Boeing Global Services’ Flight Deck and Data Solutions

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Rene de Vogel, Eastern Hemisphere Lead for Boeing Global Services’ Flight Deck and Data Solutions, reveals the benefits of integrating Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) apps with your aircraft via an Aircraft Interface Device (AID).

This white paper explores Aircraft Interface Devices (AIDs) and sheds light on the business rationale behind their integration with diverse Portable EFB applications. Drawing from my experience before Boeing at KLM, where I led the development of a business case for AIDs, numerous benefits were identified from a Flight Ops perspective. Forging a compelling business case demands collaborative efforts from all stakeholders across an airline. Figure 1 illustrates this cooperative approach.

DATA FOR EVERY APPLICATION

Achieving collaboration across various departments – Maintenance, OCC, Flight Ops, Crew, and Cabin Crew – is pivotal in building a robust business case. When these departments work together seamlessly, there is a substantial opportunity to justify the integration of Aircraft Interface Devices (AIDs).

Looking ahead, with the emergence of new aircraft, there are more and more AID’s as forward fit, such as FOMAX on Airbus and the Boeing AID. This development inherently eliminates airplane down time and other installation costs associated with AIDs, thereby significantly enhancing the business case. However, it introduces potential challenges from having different AIDs within your fleet. Understanding how these different AIDs interact with your applications is crucial.

Pilots should not have to manually select the applicable AID every time they enter an aircraft. Doing so would require navigating through various menus and selecting the correct AID. Imagine a scenario where there’s a common type rating, like A330 and A340, or B777 and B787, each equipped with different AIDs.

Boeing Jeppesen avoids this through a solution called the Aircraft Integration Component (AIC) (figure 2). The AIC simplifies the process, ensuring a seamless and user-friendly experience for pilots without the need for manual selection (figure 2).

Jeppesen’s AIC efficiently manages data from several OEM and third-party AIDs. The data is converted into a standardized format that can be easily used by our suite of applications. Thanks to the AIC, the applications automatically identify and select the appropriate AID in the background.

In practical terms, if you operate a mixed fleet, as illustrated in figure 2, for example with both Boeing 737s and Airbus A320s, pilots won’t experience any distinctions. They’ll receive uniform data across all applications without the need for manual selection.

A SUITE OF APPLICATIONS

Looking at Boeing and Jeppesen’s suite of applications (see figure 3), currently AID parameters are integrated in FliteDeck Pro, which is Jeppesen’s charting application, and in Aviator, our integrated EFB. AID integration also supports FliteDeck Advisor, our fuel efficiency application and OPT, Boeing’s Onboard Performance Tool, where aircraft parameters are ingested.

As an example, FliteDeck Pro accesses a list of the most popular AIDs by navigating to settings and then services. In this menu, you can choose multiple AIDs if you operate a mixed fleet with different AID equipage. Some AIDs not listed may still comply with Jeppesen standards, and, of course, the Boeing AID will be added there. Additionally, we support ONS, the Boeing Onboard Network Server, and Sentry, an ADS-B receiver, that can be linked to Jeppesen FliteDeck Pro to display enroute and ground traffic, and ADS-B weather in the USA. Multiple selections can be made if you have multiple devices enabled.

The number of available parameters utilized in our apps will undoubtedly expand over time. There are a lot more opportunities to incorporate data from AIDs.”

MAKING A BUSINESS CASE FOR AIDs

When crafting an AID business case, many airlines encounter challenges in putting together enough value propositions and identifying Return on Investment (ROI). From a Flight Ops perspective, without applications utilizing the provided parameters, there isn’t really a viable business case.

Let’s explore a real life practical use case involving an operator with a mixed Boeing fleet that still relied on Installed EFBs. In this scenario, the EFBs remained on the aircraft when the pilots leave, and the EFBs needed to be restarted upon arrival. The maintenance organization at that airline handled and updated those EFBs. The reason for keeping the EFBs attached to the aircraft was the presence of various aircraft that appeared similar to pilots but had different configurations. Despite using small decals and other markings to distinguish each aircraft and identify its configuration, the cockpit experience remained similar.

The airline’s concern was that, while transitioning to portable EFBs would offer additional benefits such as enabling pilots to conduct flight preparations anywhere, it might lead to pilots selecting the wrong aircraft configuration in the performance tool. We solved this problem by enabling the Portable EFB to automatically detect the information required by the Onboard Performance Tool (OPT), and select the correct Standard Computerized Airplane Performance (SCAP) module via their AIDs.

Now, with the transition to pilot-assigned Portable EFBs (which could be an iPad or Windows tablet), when flight deck crew come on board, they connect their EFB to the mounting device, establishing a connection with the AID through our AIC to the aircraft systems. The aircraft then communicates essential information to the EFB, such as the specific aircraft it’s on, the aircraft type, engine rating, and more. This ensures that the OPT app selects the correct module. But the benefits don’t end there.

Previously, the airline faced challenges with GPS positioning on iPads in some aircraft due to signal shielding inherent with certain heated windows and/or composite airframe. Now, they receive this information directly from the aircraft, ensuring a constant GPS position for the pilots. This provides continuous display of own-ship position in Jeppesen FliteDeck Pro and Aviator for supplemental situation awareness.  With Jeppesen Aviator, they take advantage of the Nav-logging feature that automatically fills in the Nav-log when crossing waypoints utilizing data supplied by the aircraft through the AID.

Another advantage of having pilot-assigned EFBs is that the crew can conduct flight preparations and accept briefings and flight plans from anywhere they may be. These activities, previously limited to time on the aircraft, have enhanced operational flexibility. Connectivity through their chosen AID (for example in this case , Collins InteliSight) enables them to receive updates to their data during pre-flight and flight.

In addition, leveraging Aviator, which features a common data store. Information shared from the aircraft and other applications can be used across different applications. For example, data from the flight planning system in the form of .eff files, or information from the aircraft, is shared among integrated applications via the common data store.

Our flight efficiency app, FliteDeck Advisor, is also connected to the aircraft systems, which has proven beneficial in reducing manual data entry. After more than a year of using FliteDeck Advisor, an analysis based on the data provided indicates a 2.0 to 2.5 percent cruise fuel savings. Pilots appreciate it more as they no longer have to manually enter data. Everything is presented based on the data retrieved from the aircraft via the AID

Jeppesen FliteDeck Advisor had previously only been available as a standalone application, but with the upcoming release of Jeppesen FliteDeck Pro 5.0, its capabilities will also be integrated within the core application (see figure 5). This streamlines the flight crew workflow and increases the number of times the capability is utilized, which delivers even more savings to the airline. This feature provides pilots with an optimal speed, considering the aircraft’s actual tail-specific performance. It allows for a different recommended Cost Index, saving both fuel and often time by flying faster—an aspect pilots truly appreciate.

With Auto Nav-logging with Aviator  enabled the process remains unchanged. But thanks to the AID integration as pilots cross waypoints, data is automatically extracted from the AID and transferred to the NavLog. Pilots have the flexibility to override this information if they want to enter different data. To help maintain situation awareness and track with flight progress, the system includes a purple line indicating the current waypoint.

The intent of  this brief overview is to highlight the benefits of a connected aircraft and how it can be realized for any fleet. Readers are encouraged to delve deeper into the potential advantages for their business.

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