An EFB or electronic flight bag is an electronic alternative or replacement for regular paper flight bags. They contain information, such as NOTAMs, aircraft operating manuals, flight-crew operating manuals, and navigational charts. Additionally, they can sometimes contain tools such as take-off performance calculations.
Electronic flight bags allow pilots to access the latest, most reliable and accurate data about their flight plan, weather conditions, and NOTAMs. They also significantly reduce the weight of items the pilots need to carry.
Electronic flight bags for commercial airline pilots are usually on an iPad that is installed with either proprietary airline software or commercially available software from companies such as FliteDeck Pro.
The FAA has hardware classes for electronic flight bags. The FAA has since discontinued and removed as of FAA AC 120-76D on October 27, 2017. These classifications no longer apply and are temporarily here for reference only.
- Class 1
- COTS (commercial-off-the-shelf) equipment such as iPads and laptops.
- Class 2
- COTS equipment that has been modified or purpose-built devices.
- Usually temporarily mounted or handheld device.
- Typically requires an STC.
- Class 3
- “Installed Equipment”
- Usually installed inside aircraft and or semi/permanently mounted
- Subject to airworthiness and crash safety requirements.
EFBs usually already have a suite of tools and software pre-installed. On the other hand, class 1 electronic flight bags are usually provisioned to each pilot instead of being provisioned to each aircraft (as is the case in most class 2 and 3 EFBs)
Like hardware, the FAA also has 3 software categorizations. They are named Type A and B
- Type A
- Static applications
- Document viewers or electronic versions of documents (such as NOTAMs)
- Crew Operating Manuals
- Applications that usually require no/minimal interactions (scrolling)
- Type B
- Charts/Maps (Both Static & Dynamic)
- Applications that involve zooming in, panning, scrolling
- Type C (This classification has been removed as of FAA AC 120-76D on October 27, 2017 due to the increasing complexity of previously classified Type C software)
According to the press release by United Airlines (which has since been taken down for unknown reasons), electronic flight bags save 16 million sheets of paper and 326,000 gallons of fuel a year.