Electronic flight bags with moving maps will reduce runway incursions

SAN DIEGO 3 June 2009. The integration of electronic flight bags that posses integrated airport moving map displays will significantly improve runway safety, say commercial aviation experts.

By John McHale

SAN DIEGO 3 June 2009. The integration of electronic flight bags that posses integrated airport moving map displays will significantly improve runway safety, say commercial aviation experts.

EFBs enhance the safety of operation, improve flight-deck and back-office operational productivity, lower overall operational costs, says Ken Crowhurst, senior president at navAero in Chicago. "Airlines must increase their utilization of available technology and automation to take out the human factor."

"About half of all serious incursions are caused by pilot deviation and industry experts estimate half of those could be eliminated with airport moving maps," said Rick Ellerbrock, strategist at Jeppesen in Englewood, Colo. "Pilot deviation related incursions are on a steady rise" and unless this technology is integrated the industry should expect more of the same.

Crowhurst and Ellerbrock made their comments the Avionics USA conference in San Diego, sponsored by the PennWell Aerospace and Defense Media Group.

EFB airport moving maps show the pilot not only their own position on the runway but that of other moving and fixed objects as well, Ellerbrock said.

Ellerbrock said there are three different categories of runway safety events

- runway incursion – where an uncleared airplane is on a surface designated for take-off or landing;
- runway confusion –where and airplane is on a wrong runway (or taxiway) for takeoff or landing; and
- runway excursion – where an aircraft makes an inappropriate exit from a runway.

"The industry has moved from the thought that the display of supplemental information was nice to have to a point-of-view that it is an absolute must have," Crowhurst said. EFBs can move information more quickly and accurately and can reduce manual processes and distribution steps, he added.

Integrated/connected systems -- Class 2 and Class 3 – "will be the main points of focus for operators who are serious about implementing available and future technologies to streamline their operational processes and increase situational awareness," Crowhurst said,

The downside for implementing this technology will be cost, which make it difficult to justify retrofits, Crowhurst said. There also been some reluctance in regulatory acceptance of EFBs, Crowhurst noted. This "old school thinking," he added.

Roadblocks faced in these regulatory industries include how to define the difference between pure and specialized commercial-off-the-shelf technology, the difference between Class 1 and Class 2 EFBs, aircraft interface connectivity, etc.

"No one regulatory body wants to be the first," Crowhurst said. "A change in mindset is critical and essential in order to achieve success and start regaining financial health in today's economic climate."

Current economic conditions require a faster return on investment for retro-fit programs, which is where Class 2 EFBs come in, Crowhurst says. They are easier to certify, faster to deploy – less aircraft downtime, and have "greater flexibility for adding new functionalities and gaining operational approval."

Class 2 EFBs provide an expandable platform for multiple varied applications written to a common operating system such as video surveillance.

"Class 2 EFB technology for retro-fits is going to be a significant market factor for the long-term future," Crowhurst says. "Delays/deferrals of new aircraft deliveries are mandating operators to get more life and efficiency out of existing fleets.

"Use of Class 2 open-architecture flight deck technology for enhanced situational awareness and deployment of business process productivity tools is a priority with most every airline operator today," Crowhurst noted.

Some early adopters such as FedEx and Virgin America are now "into realizing the operational benefits and financial savings as the result of implementing EFB technology," he said.

Continental Airlines is already moving forward with deploying a Jeppesen airport moving map display. Their deployment architecture shows the potential for what Class 2 EFBs can accomplish today," he said.

Their system will include an airport moving map with own-ship position shown, 3G data connectivity, automatic data updating communications manager software, and an upgrade path to Class 3 EFB technology, Crowhurst said.

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