As the EFB Users Forum prepares for its 15th conference, we reflected on our history and how the Forum has evolved with and helped shape the development of EFBs. This conference was the brainchild of several distinguished and dedicated aviation professionals. After a meeting with the FAA, the group decided that sharing knowledge, exchanging ideas and promoting change would be good for everyone, especially fellow colleagues struggling with new technology, complex regulations and EFB program issues.
Delta Air Lines hosted the first Forum at its corporate headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. As fate would have it, the Icelandic volcano disrupted air travel for many Europeans in the days preceding the event. Consequently, European attendance was reduced, but the Forum still drew 195 participants, an impressive number for an inaugural event. Everyone agreed that continuing the Forum was a very good idea. At our second conference in Brussels, we joined our colleagues from IATA. This incorporated the perspectives of airlines from all around the globe. It is a rewarding partnership that continues to this day and we have never looked back.
The EXPO typically leads off each conference. It includes airframers, hardware and software suppliers, system integrators and service providers who showcase the latest products and services. In Singapore, this will take place Tuesday, Nov. 14 from 12 to 5 p.m. The EXPO will include a stand-up buffet featuring local favorites and an open bar from 2 to 4 p.m. The Forum then follows Nov. 15 and 16.
At this event, we will review the latest regulatory developments, progress in connectivity, certification and operational approvals, and recent experience of airline operators. As always, you will get candid answers from the authorities on each of these subjects and can even chat with them during one of the breaks or at lunch. You will also hear from new airlines that have not previously presented.
Early conferences alternated between North American and European locations, reflecting the composition of most attendees then participating. Over time, global recognition of the Forum began attracting a wider audience. Due to increasing requests to host events outside of Europe and North America, other regions, such as Asia and the Middle East, have been included at times. Today, the EFB Users Forum is the world’s largest conference dedicated to EFB, regularly attracting more than 300 participants from around the globe.
From the outset, we wanted the EFB Users Forum to be a conference where attendees could learn substantially by attending. Those first seventeen presenters in Atlanta set a high bar for providing current, relevant and actionable information attendees could apply at their own airline. To this day, we strive to provide that singular experience to our attendees at every event. A unique feature of the EFB Users Forum is that attendees choose subjects they would like to see addressed. Regulatory Issues and the ever-popular Operator Experiences are permanent half-day sessions covered at each Forum, and the other two half-day sessions are chosen by attendee balloting.
We also encourage participation in our initiatives that have helped set the course of EFB progress over the years. One example of this is own-ship position indication on EFB, which has now been codified and will be an integral part of next update (AC 120-76D) of the FAA’s chief governing EFB document. EASA and other regulators are considering incorporating this change as well.
EASA and FAA guidance initially categorized EFBs as Class 1 (portable), Class 2 (mounted) or Class 3 (installed). Most airlines struggled with difficult decisions regarding which class, or classes of EFB, and which applications, could best meet their needs within available budget and resource constraints. Consequently, EFBs fell well short of their ultimate potential.
One of the traditional advantages of installed Class 3 EFBs was connectivity to aircraft systems (e.g., ARINC 429 and ARINC 717 data bus). This provided accurate position, speed, altitude, aircraft and environmental data to the EFB. More recently, several suppliers have developed Aircraft Interface Devices (AIDs) that are optimized for retrofit installation. The AID provides a secure interface to read the information from onboard systems, enabling additional capability for portable EFBs while mounted and secured in the cockpit. Just as iPad and Windows tablets made EFB cost-effective and deployable across an entire airline fleet, retrofit AIDs enable affordable data connectivity for legacy aircraft.
The regulatory authorities have also taken note of these developments. Both the recent EASA AMC 20-25 and upcoming FAA AC 120-76D do away with the former Class 1, 2 and 3 EFB hardware definitions. Instead, they will now categorize EFBs as either portable or installed.
One of the keys to advancing technology is a common set of standards upon which airlines, suppliers, and airframers agree. The EFB Subcommittee develops EFB-related standards using an industry consensus process. There are four ARINC EFB Standards currently in use:
ARINC Characteristic 759: Aircraft Interface Device (AID)
ARINC Specification 828: Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) Standard Interface
ARINC Specification 834: Aircraft Data Interface Function (ADIF)
ARINC Specification 840: Electronic Flight Bag Application Control Interface (ACI)
Presently, the EFB Subcommittee is updating ARINC Specification 840 for use in the tablet environment most airlines operate with today. The goal is that the user will have single sign on and data entry, along with seamless navigation between the myriad of applications available today. AVS