Electronic Flight Bags is a term used to describe a computer-based system

Electronic Flight Bags is a term used to describe a computer-based system


Electronic Flight Bags is a term used to describe a computer-based system that replaces or augments the traditionally paper-based reference materials and documents used on a flight deck. EFB comprises of both the harware and software used to provide this service. It however does not include Personal Data Assistants (PDAs), Calculators etc which are personal belongings of crewmembers. These personal belongings are tagged Personal Electronic Devices (PED).[1]

EFBs were developed in the early 1990s. The market for EFBs underwent a geometric increase after the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) published a circular on EFB giving guidelines for certification, airworthiness and operational approval. [2] Today, EFBs come in a variety of forms with variying software/harware capabilities. They have not only provided the basic information needed on the flight deck but also serve as a medium to communicate new information to the flight deck.

The EFB is an integral part of flight operating procedures and full training is required to utilise all its functionalities. The sensitivity of information derived from the EFB cannot be overemphasised and as such care must be taken by its operator to verify that such information are accurate and derived from verifiable and reliable sources. The EFB is manned by an EFB Administrator.

EFB Administrator is in charge of the EFB hardware and software. His responsibilities include ensuring that the hardware meets the required specifications and also that the current software applications for maximum yield is installed. He is also in charge of the EFB’s hardware that no unauthorised user accesses it and that no unauthorised user amends information on the EFB’s software.

The latest EFB are broad in their mode of operations. They correspond in near real-time to ground structures for example maintenance management, crew roaster and briefing, flight scheduling and safety organization.

Pilots could have the capability to annotate and archive electronically distributed flight plans post-flight and read/acknowledge electronic noticies; provide two-way messaging between pilots and ground staff; allows flight support staff to wirelessly transmit last-minute updates or revisions to aircraft anywhere in the world.


Electronic Flight Bags fall into three hardware classes:

Class 1: Considered as a controlled Personal Electronic Devices, these are generally commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS)-based computer systems used for aircraft operations e.g. a laptop or pen tablet PC loaded with appropriate electronic approach plates, charts and other flight planning software. They are portable and are loaded with data (such as chart updates, weather forecasts and flight reports) outside the aircraft and carried on board by the pilot. They are not attached to an aircraft mounting device but can connect to aircraft power through a certified power source. They are normally without aircraft data connectivity except under specific condition. This class of EFB systems do not require airworthiness approval.

Class 2: Considered as controlled PED, these are commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS)-based computer systems that have been modified by their resellers to include appropriate software and hardware to enable them work with the avionics, particularly the GPS. They are portable and pilots can take them outside the aircraft, they are connected to an aircraft mounting device during normal operations. They provide access to aircraft data and to an optional airborne network server that can be connected to an Airport Terminal Wireless LAN Unit and satellite avionics as well as the ACARS unit. This class of EFB systems require airworthiness approval.

Class 3: These are EFB systems purposely designed and built for use in the cockpit, they are able to access critical systems requiring heavier certification. These:

display the aircraft position on airport runways and the position of surrounding aircraft
connect to airborne file servers linked to various aircraft communication systems, providing real-time weather information
integrate into the airline’s operational systems, providing performance information, technical data and crew information.

Applications that run on Electronic Flight Bags

The applications run on Electronic Flight Bags are categorized in three software categories which are Type A, Type B and Type C.

Type A

These include:

Static applications, such as document viewer (PDF, HTML, XML formats);
Electronic checklists (ECL);
Flight Crew Operating Manuals, and other printed documents like airport NOTAM;
Flight performance calculation;

Type B

These include:

Non-interactive electronic approach charts or approach charts that require panning, zooming, scrolling; (AC120-76A, App B)
Head-down display for Enhanced Vision System (EVS), Synthetic Vision System (SVS) or video cameras;
Real-time weather data display, including weather map;

Type C

Can be used as a Multi-function display (MFD) in at least one case as part of an Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast system. Type C applications are subject to airworthiness requirements, such as software certification. Type C applications must run on Class 3 EFB.


The following are some of the benefits derived from the use of EFB systems:

Weight reduction: The incorporation of EFB systems reduces the amount paper in the cockpit, which decreases weight and cuts down clutter:
Indexing: This allows quick and easy access to information
Improved maintenance readiness
Increased efficiency of operations
Improved aircraft-to-ground data transfer that is near real-time, highly resilient and secure
Keep information up-to-date, enabling easy document revision (e.g., through wireless data transfer)
Reduce time, cost and workload required to update documents
Reduce fuel and maintenance costs by using accurate take-off and landing calculations
Improve safety and punctuality with onboard performance calculations
Increase payload with real-time performance calculations
Improve routing decisions by accessing real-time weather information


Some of the features and advantages of the latest types of EFB systems are:

They are designed to offer exceptional readability in all cockpit ambient light conditions for charts, documents, weather data or other electronic data.
They increase situational awareness in-flight with en-route, approach charts, moving map display, graphical weather information.
Enabling pre-flight scheduling and efficient right of entry to up-to-date aircraft documentation, checklists, and operational scheduling information improves productivity
Compact, light weight design enables easy installation in a variety of cockpits.
There is also additional line select keys, which the EFB offers a “film-on-glass” touch-sensitive screen giving pilots a choice when accessing or navigating through EFB software applications

The functionalities of the Application Manager capabilities include the following:

Electronic Tech Log – this a log with all technical a data entries, pattern of workflow control to guarantee quality of the aircraft release procedure and quick-entry tools for fault logging; ARINC 429 compatible
Journey Log – this section of the log keeps records of crew hour, tracking the location and time left on the journey and it also records data and data capture, including ground-service usage, block times and fuel uplifts
Flight Library –. There’s a complete navigational support which is reliable and booked marked with search facilities that will reduce pilots’ time to find and access necessary information
Flight Folder – this is a folder has capacity for pilots to make notes on and this archive is electronically distributed flight strategy post-flight and read / accept electronic notices; it is also
endow with two-way messaging between pilots and ground staff; permits flight support staff to wirelessly transmit last-minute updates or revisions to aircraft anywhere in the world
Forms Library – with these flexible data-capture through airline-configured form templates it allows keyboard or pen entry, attachments, comments and pictures; with simple validation rules certify data quality; form data is sent wirelessly to the proper recipient
Charts, Weather, and CCTV – An easy and fast integration of specialist tools for performance, charts, weather and closed-circuit TV allow you to change stuff whenever you choose.


Usability: EFB systems come in different shapes and forms and because there are no “standard” or “fixed” specifications with respect to dimensions, some may be difficult to use by the pilot during flight. For example, a large flip-top laptop used as EFB may be too bulky and awkward to work with in the cockpit; similarly, a tiny PDA may have a keypad which pose a difficulty in data entry or a screen size too small to be read at a particular distance. Some EFB systems may even have greater advantages in some situations than others.
Complexity: EFB systems incorporate several functions into their make up, thus making it complex. This complex nature may make it difficult to use. Some may even require their users to undergo special training sessions before using them.
Costs: EFB systems can have high initial/installation costs, especially class 3 EFB. Some EFB systems may require the purchase and installation of additional software to make them work.
Legal requirements: Legal issues such as non-interference requirements, evaluation and certification approval have to be taken into account in the use of EFB systems. For example, Class 3 EFB systems are required to meet the same certification requirements of any avionics product.
Technical issues: As with almost all electronic devices, some technical difficulties may be encountered in their use e.g. battery life, availability of backlight in case of use in the low lighting conditions, usability in certain weather conditions, etc.
Data integrity: Typically, EFB systems accept data as input, processes the data and gives result as output. If the data fed into it is inaccurate, it gives wrong results.


The non-standard and personalised nature of some of EFB systems can make the process of selection of an appropriate system a challenge. The high initial and/or installation costs of EFB systems do not make this process any easier. While EFB systems are designed to have the primary objective of replacing or augmenting the traditionally paper-based reference materials and documents used on a flight deck, other factors are worth considering before investing in them.

Bitterfield (2010) shows a “decision matrix” which is a compilation of factors in the form of questions to consider before selecting an appropriate EFB system:

Questions to ask before selecting an EFB system:

Initial purchase cost
Annual subscription cost
Software Features that you must have
Flight Planning (on/offline)
VFR Charts
IFR Charts Low Enroute
Approach Plates/Procedures
Airport Directory of one kind or another (AFD or AOPA)
Do you fly above 18KIf so high-enroute. Good to have if you have a turbo and might need one day.
How long does it take to update the information
What is included
Is it priced by region/country
Do I pay for everything ala-carte
Hardware Features
Can I buy my own hardware
What is the warranty
How is warranty work done
What platform(PC/iPAD/Proprietary)
Is an SSD Required (Do you fly above 10k’ regularly?)
External USB port for Jeppesen / King updater
Screen Brightness
Moderate Bright for Low Wing
Regular screen for High Wing
Can the GPS be used in flight(AC 92.21)
Does it work with your aircraft (Hi/low wing)
How long does the battery last(Recommend a 4hr).
Heavy use of transmitters Bluetooth , WiFi, or 3G limit battery life
Weather (Is it an option)
XM [ Paid ]
ADS-B [Free ]
What does the receiver cost
Terrain(Is it an option)
Do I need it
Might already be in my 430/530.
What is my total cost of ownership for the year


Since the advent of the computer age, the world has been tending more and more towards digitization and computerization of systems. The aviation industry has not been an exception to this and among the evidences that support this opinion is the emergence of EFB systems. While the total replacement of the use of traditional paper-based documents and reference material in the cockpit may not immediately be in sight, current trends seem to show that EFB systems are here to stay.

Based on the arguments presented in this essay, it is safe to say that the implementation of EFB systems takes other factors into consideration in order to be effective and it will be of use for the aviator to be aware and consider some of those factors before venturing into investing in EFB systems.

Isle of man Aircraft Registry
27th International Congress of the Aeronautical Sciences

Bitterfield, Colin (2010) How to Select an Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) Available at: http://mooniacs.blogspot.com/2010/09/how-to-select-electronic-flight-bag-efb.html (Accessed: March 31, 2011)

Smith, Dale (no date) What’s New With Electronic Flight Bags[Online] Available at: http://www.aeapilotsguide.com/pdf/03_Archive/AEAPG03EFBs.pdf (Accessed: March 31, 2011)

Teledyne Controls (2010) Electronic Flight Bags (EFB) Available at: http://www.teledyne-controls.com/productsolution/efb/benefits.asp (Accessed: March 31, 2011)