As part of an ongoing effort to use the best technology available, industry has improved the timeliness and accuracy of information available to the pilot by converting it from a paper to a digital medium. An electronic flight bag (EFB) is an electronic display system intended primarily for cockpit/flightdeck or cabin use. EFBs can display a variety of aviation data or perform basic calculations, such as determining performance data or computing fuel requirements. In the past, paper references or an airlineís flight dispatch department provided these functions. The EFB system may also include various other hosted databases and applications. These devices are sometimes referred to as auxiliary performance computers or laptop auxiliary performance computers.

The EFB is designed to improve efficiency and safety by providing real-time and stored data to pilots electronically. Use of an EFB can reduce some of a pilotís time-consuming communications with ground controllers while eliminating considerable weight in paper. EFBs can electronically store and retrieve many required documents, such as the General Operations Manual (GOM), Operations Specifications (OpSpecs), company procedures, Airplane Flight Manual (AFM), maintenance manuals and records, and dozens of other documents. [Figure 6-4]

In addition, advanced EFBs can also provide interactive features and perform automatic calculations, including performance calculations, power settings, weight and balance computations, and flight plans. They can also display images from cabin-mounted video and aircraft exterior surveillance cameras.

An EFB may store airport maps that can help a pilot avoid making a wrong turn on a confusing path of runways and taxiways, particularly in poor visibility or at an unfamiliar airport. Many runway incursions are due to confusion about taxi routes or pilots not being quite sure where they are on the airport. [Figure 6-5]

The FAA neither accepts or approves Class 1 or 2 EFBs which contain Types A, B, or C application software. Those who operate under 14 CFR parts 91K, 121, 125, 129, or 135 must obtain authorization for use. Advisory Circular 120-76, Guidelines for the Certification, Airworthiness, and Operational Approval of Electronic Flight Bag Computing Devices, sets forth the acceptable means for obtaining both certification and approval for operational use of Class 3 EFBs. It also outlines the capabilities and limitations of each of the three classes of EFBs, which are grouped according to purpose and function. Depending on the features of the specific unit, these devices are able to display a wide range of flightrelated information. The most capable EFBs are able to display checklists, flight operations manuals (FOMs), CFRs, minimum equipment lists, en route navigation and approach charts, airport diagrams, flight plans, logbooks, and operating procedures. Besides serving as a cockpit library, they can also make performance calculations and perform many of the tasks traditionally handled by a dispatch department. Some units can also accept satellite weather data or input from global positioning system (GPS) receivers, combining the aircraft position and graphic weather information on a moving map display.

Class 1 EFBs are portable. They can be used both on the ground and during flight, but must be stowed for takeoff and landing. They are limited to providing supplemental information only and cannot replace any required system or equipment. It may be connected to aircraft power through a certified power source, to operate the EFB and recharge its batteries. They are allowed to read data from other aircraft systems, and may receive and transmit data through a data link. Class 1 EFBs can display many different kinds of tabular data, such as performance tables, checklists, the FOM, AFM, and pilotís operating handbook (POH).

While a Class 2 EFB is also removable from the aircraft, it is installed in a structural-mounting bracket. This ensures that the EFB will not interfere with other aircraft systems. While Class 1 and 2 EFBs are both considered portable electronic devices, a logbook entry is required to remove the Class 2 EFB from the aircraft. It can be connected to aircraft power and to the aircraftís datalink port. The EFB can exchange data with aircraft systems, enabling it to make interactive performance calculations. It can be used to compute weight and balance information as well as takeoff and landing Vspeeds, and to display flight critical pre-composed data, such as navigation charts. Since it is not necessarily stowed for takeoff and landing, pilots can use it to display departure, arrival, and approach charts.

The most capable EFBs are Class 3. These are built into the panel and require a Supplemental Type Certification (STC) or certification design approval with the aircraft as part of its equipment. Paper charts may not be required. Depending on the model, it may be connected to the GPS or Flight Management System (FMS), and it may be able to combine GPS position with the locations and speed vectors of other aircraft and graphic weather information into a single, detailed moving map display. Its detailed database can also provide obstacle and terrain warnings. It is important to remember that an EFB does not replace any system or equipment required by the regulations.