Tag Archives: Business

Aviation: To EFB or not to EFB that is the question

Electronic Flight Bags (EFB) have been around since the early 1990’s, starting out as simple carry on laptops. Today’s new generation of aircraft, Boeing Dreamliner B787, Airbus A380 and A350 have a more modern touch screen EFB and comes as a standard fit.

For an airline to operate EFB’s effectively, all EFB’s need to be controlled centrally, ensuring information stored on devices is concurrent with ground based support systems. Existing legacy ground based paper systems would require a facelift for this to happen and pilots need to be trained in any new hardware and software.

A particular problem for airline IT departments is the authentication of users on EFB devices and how this can be maintained.

If we consider EFB’s that are available today, generally they have a similar look and feel, however each user interface is different, this ties an airline down to one vendor or opptionaly introduces costly training and regulatory requirements to support a mixture of EFB’s vendors.

An airlines dilemma to EFB or not to EFB comes down to a business case, EFB’s are very costly to purchase, retrofit and maintain. For many airlines these costs do not stack up to any benefits identified, making any business case very difficult to justify.

Could there be an alternative EFB that is relatively cheaper to purchase and maintain compared with the traditional devices we know today!!

In my opinion there is …. the Apple iPAD, add a collaboration tool such as Google Apps …. and voilà …. we have an EFB that is easier to maintain and cost-effective to run.

Here are some benefits:

  • Cost savings – iPAD is considerably cheaper than a traditional EFB, Web-based messaging and collaboration apps require no airline hardware or software (except a browser) and need minimal administration, creating time and cost savings.
  • Full administrative and data control – Administrators can customise web-based apps to meet their technical, branding and business requirements.
  • User Authentication – Single sign-on API connects Web-based Apps to an airlines existing authentication system.
  • Information security and compliance – Airline’s critical information will be safe and secure.
  • Airline Techlog applications could run and transmit in real-time.
  • Give the same device to ground based engineers and they have access to the same data as the pilot even if they are in different parts of the world.

Airline ground based operations staff would publish information for each individual flight into the cloud and if required, update at any point in time, even during a flight.

Assume some internet connection is available, either on or off the aircraft and any pilot issued with a iPAD (instead of a ‘Flight Bag’) could realistically copy flight information, such as NOTAM’s MET data, airport maps etc. onto their device.

The introduction of the iPAD and cloud computing has provided a new way of working for many industries, can we ignore this evolution in aviation …. yes we can, but its going to be expensive!!

If your unconvinced check out these links:

  1. ForeFlight – Preflight intelligence
  2. Using an iPAD as an ESB
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eEnabled Aircraft So Whats the Difference

An eEnabled aircraft is an aircraft that has one or more IT networks on board and requires a connection to a ground based network for its operation.

Both the A380 and B787 are classed as eEnabled aircraft and their respective airframers have heralded that eEnabled aircraft will provide opportunities for airlines to operate aircraft more effectively.

For this to become a reality, the main airline challenge is the successful uploading/downloading of aircraft information. This has to be carried out securely and with the confidence that information will be delivered without any external interference.

Consider the diagram’s below, traditionally aircraft security was contained physically on board with no major external interfaces. With the introduction of eEnabled aircraft, you can see this has opened up multiple channel’s of communications with several external IT networks, each having their own independent IT security.

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IT Security and infrastructure are key to the successful operation of these new aircraft and for the first time, the regulatory meaning of  ‘Airworthiness’ now includes the IT networks involved in the servicing of the aircraft.

Assume one of these eEnabled channels had been proven to be weak. Potentially, because IT Security is only as strong as its weakest link, we could assume all communication channels had been compromised.

Airframers have put a lot of effort considering these types of scenarios and provde tools to protect the aircraft.  Airlines however have to consider not just the successful operation of new eEnabled aircraft but the wider protection of their existing IT network operations.

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