Five EFB “Wants” From This Year’s EFB Users Forum


Last week, I attended the annual EFB Users Forum in Dallas, TX. This event, organized by the Airlines Electronic Engineering Committee (AEEC) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA), brings airlines, aircraft operators, and flight crews together with Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) solution providers to discuss the state of EFB adoption.

During this event, the airline industry gets to speak directly with companies manufacturing EFB hardware, applications, and accessories. End users can directly share their experiences, needs, and requirements with the organizations that make their solutions. It’s also a chance to look at the future and how advancements in EFB solutions and broader aircraft connectivity will shape the industry in the future.

As a provider of leading Electronic Flight Folder (EFF) and EFB solutions, the Collins Aerospace team was on-hand at the EFB Users Forum to listen to our users. I also had the honor of speaking to EFB solution providers and users during an afternoon address.

However, I wasn’t just speaking at this year’s EFB Users Forum…I was also doing a lot of listening. I repeatedly heard EFB users at the Forum share five key requirements that seemed universal across the airlines I heard from. These requirements all resulted from specific challenges airlines face, new pressures being placed on airlines from passengers or shareholders, or an internal desire to build on investments airlines have already made in one area to deliver operational improvements or efficiencies in another.

Here are the five things that I heard commercial airlines ask for from their EFB providers at this year’s event:

Seeking improvements in sustainability and fuel efficiency
Airlines are focused on being more green—both from a sustainability and a profitability standpoint. Passengers increasingly demand that airlines reduce their carbon emissions and become more environmentally friendly. Simultaneously, shareholders and executives are pushing airlines to increase profitability by reducing operating expenses wherever possible.

It may come as some surprise, but this is an area where EFBs can—and should—make a difference. A new generation of flight path optimization solutions is now available for flight crew EFBs. These solutions can identify flight paths that are more efficient and burn less jet fuel.

Jet fuel is one of the largest operating expenses for airlines. Burning jet fuel is one of the largest contributors to airline carbon emissions. By factoring in all available data and using advanced algorithms to help make smarter flight path decisions, these flight path optimization solutions can help crews and air traffic managers make smarter, more fuel-efficient flight path decisions. This results in lower carbon emissions and cost savings for the airline – increasing sustainability and profitability.

Connecting to legacy infrastructure
In many places, the commercial aviation industry relies on older technologies and equipment because they’re not broken and don’t need fixing. Also, replacing these technologies could cut into profitability.

There’s really no problem with this approach since these solutions are working and doing what the airlines need them to do. However, it does create challenges when airlines want to integrate new, more advanced technologies into their operations. This is a problem for EFBs because the data that advanced EFB applications need to function often comes from those legacy systems.

Legacy systems built on Fortran simply will not talk to an iPad unless an integration can be developed to make them talk. Any new EFB solution must be created with the intelligence necessary to enable it to connect and interoperate with legacy aviation technologies and solutions if it’s going to be effective.

Delivering dynamic, real-time data
Once an EFB solution or application can effectively interoperate with an airline’s legacy systems, it will have access to the data from that system. However, the data is often available in large data sets that aren’t managed, organized, or analyzed to help make better, more data-driven decisions.

It’s up to the EFB and application to take that data and deliver only what is needed to the flight crew when it’s needed. That data must also be presented in an interface that is easy to use and understand, or else pilots won’t use it.

Let’s use the Collins Flight Profile Optimization (FPO) solution as an example. FPO looks at all available data to make effective and efficient flight path recommendations to flight crews and air traffic managers. However, not all of that data comes from external sources, such as FlightAware location data or weather service data. Some of the data needed to make those recommendations must come from the plane, including the amount of available fuel and the aircraft’s zero fuel weight.

If that information is shared as numbers and letters with the flight crew, who then must make their own calculations, they would never use FPO. If the data being used wasn’t real-time and up-to-date, the recommendations being made may no longer be optimal. This is why the EFB and its applications must access the latest, real-time data and present it when and where the pilots need it most.

If a new EFB solution is simply a cost center, airline IT decision-makers will have difficulty justifying the expense to executives.

Also, much of that data should be integrated into one place, or pilots could suffer from the dreaded app fatigue. Which brings us to our next requirement…

Avoiding app fatigue
Did you know there are almost 1.8M applications in the Apple App Store?  Chances are, you only have a small percentage of those 1.8M apps loaded on your mobile devices and that you spend most of your time on only five or ten of those applications.

By some counts, mobile device users in the United States spend approximately 80 percent of their overall app usage on their top three apps and about 96 percent of their usage on their top ten apps. The rest of their apps are either forgotten or deleted.

Mobile device users can become overwhelmed with applications. If they need to use too many applications to get all their pertinent information, they’ll likely forgo some of the apps and information they deem less valuable.

This is a problem since modern apps are being introduced that can deliver benefits like cost savings and increased sustainability. The airline only receives those benefits if the flight crew uses the applications, and they might ignore them if they feel overwhelmed or fatigued by the sheer number of applications they need to download and consult on their EFB.

This is why it’s more efficient to aggregate all requisite information in a single application or a small set of applications. This is also why Collins designed our application with the pilot workflow in mind to ensure we push information to the pilot when and where it’s needed. This ensures that flight crews aren’t fatigued by the number of applications, alerts, and the sheer volume of information they receive.

Justifying the expense
With airlines working to reduce expenses and increase profitability, any technology or IT solution they purchase and implement today must pay for itself over time. The same thing applies to EFB solutions.

If a new EFB solution is simply a cost center, airline IT decision-makers will have difficulty justifying the expense to executives. However, it will be much easier to get executive buy-in if the EFB solution delivers advanced functionality or new capabilities that can deliver a return on investment.

Can the EFB solution save money and reduce fuel consumption by recommending more optimized flight paths? Can it use real-time data to determine the traffic in the airport, identify taxi times, and make more efficient taxi decisions? An EFB solution that can deliver cost savings on top of advanced functionality is necessary in today’s commercial aviation industry.

To learn more about these five challenges and some new EFB capabilities available to airlines, click HERE to watch the on-demand Webinar, “Efficiency at Any Altitude.”


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