• Op-Ed: What In The World Is An EFB?

    What In The World Is An EFB?

    By William Friedman

    25 years ago, I received my private pilot certificate. It was one of the greatest moments of my life. Fast forward a quarter of a century and my how things have changed. Take the weather, for flight planning. Who remembers calling Flight Service for a weather briefing? Then came DUATS. In the early 1990s you could now get a weather briefing without calling. With a DUATS terminal you received the typical:

    KBOS 031254Z 00000KT 10SM BKN110 13/05 A3006 RMK AO2 SLP180 T01280050

    Today you can get your real or virtual weather briefing online from hundreds of sources! They even translate it into plain English.

    Charts ere the same way. We had to have current copies of the AIM/FAR, IFR, VFR charts, and E6B flight computer. Airport facilities manual, approach plates, Binders full of SIDS, STARS. Don't forget your aircraft manual, and checklist also. It was literally a flight bag. Remember seeing airline pilots at the airport carrying those huge briefcases? That was their flight bag. Often the bag was so large it was transported on a hand cart. I lived next door to an American Airlines pilot who would give me all his old stuff. SIDS, STARS, IFR maps. It was one cycle out of date, but I thought it was awesome for flight simulator.

    With the progress of technology, somebody figured out that you could go green by eliminating all the paper from the flight bag and going digital. By switching to a tablet based digital system you would save paper, as well as reduce weight. Some flight bags were 50 lbs. That's 100 lbs of weight saving between a pilot and co-pilot. No longer would airlines and in some cases pilots spend hours and thousands of dollars replacing their charts and publications. At a touch of a button, all your information is updated. The EFB or Electronic Flight Bag was born.

    How can this help us the virtual pilot? Sites such as http://skyvector.com/ are a source of charts for us virtual pilots. Sites such as http://airnav.com/ can give you airport, navaid and airport diagrams, as well as STARs, IAPs, DEP charts. All of this is great for virtual flying, except you either need multiple screens, or have to switch what is on your screen. This is not practical when flying online and talking to ATC through controlled airspace!

    Most EFB's consist of two parts. The first part is a PDF reader, such as Good Reader, or Adobe. With this you can store all your virtual airline publications, rules, regulations, aircraft checklist, weight and balance charts, and aircraft manual. It's all there in one spot for you at the touch of a button.

    The second part is a chart application or app. Many of you use Plan G (http://www.tasoftware.co.uk/) or FSTramp (http://www.fstramp.com/) or something similar. These are great for "seeing" the big picture. However, you need a second screen, or are continuously flipping back and forth between Flight Sim and your map. A standalone tablet has the benefit of leaving your computer monitors to the task of flight simming, not navigation. Most EFB's feature a moving map feature via GPS where you can follow your flight on a VFR or IFR chart. Obviously this does not work as our simulators don't move. However, http://www.flightsimgps.com/ can connect to FSX and do this, although I cannot personally vouch for this.

    Companies such as Jeppesen, AirvlaSoft and http://www.foreflight.com have EFB software. For the price of an iPad or tablet and a subscription, you have a "real world" functional EFB. https://www.fspilotshop.com/ also has EFB products ranging from $4.95 USD to $24.95. For those on a limited budget, you can source SIDs, STARs, maps, and manuals and create your own EFB.

    In conclusion, I was skeptical about having an EFB, but now cannot imagine flying (real or virtual) without one. I have everything I need to have a successful virtual flight at the touch of a button, without tying up my computer or a computer screen.

    It is much more efficient than having maps, and approach plates spread out over your desk when flying Flight Simulator. I don't have to head down to the local FBO and buy charts every time a new one is released. I simply sync my EFB. My how times have changed.

    William Friedman
    William Friedman is a real work FAA Private Pilot and flight simulator enthusiast.

    1 Comment
    1. avallillo's Avatar
      avallillo -
      I well remember those heavy kit bags! Back in the "day", when the flight engineer was still alive and well and part of the crew, the pilots kit bags were considerably lighter. The FE, you see, carried the really heavy stuff - the aircraft operating manuals and the performance charts. The Captain and FO merely carried the approach plates and enroute charts. When I was hired by AA in 1977, we carried only approach plates for the relatively small number of airports we served, plus a few extra as alternates (including Havana Cuba- - those really were the good old days!). The Captains usually carried just a briefcase, often one of those then-stylish aluminum Halliburtons. Most FO's were more frugal, and carried more pedestrian briefcases most likely bought at Sears! And we all, even the FE, carried the things, and our suitcases too. In those days "real men" didn't use wheelies!

      All of that changed with the two-pilot cockpits of the 1980's and beyond. The operating manuals still needed to be carried, and they were split up between the Captain and the FO. Deregulation produced an exponential proliferation in the number of airports we served, and the Jepps got weighty - even though they were printed on near-tissue paper. Somewhere, at some airline, one pilot bit the bullet and started using those wheelie drag-alongs, and the rest of us followed suit once the stigma had gone away!

      I retired just as the EFB concept was coming into being, so I lugged the Jepps around to the end. But today I use an iPad for all of my CAP flying, backed up by an iPhone with the same app installed. As long as the batteries hold up, I'm golden!

      As for flight simulation, although the money you could spend on an iPad might be better spent on a new and more powerful graphics card, if you already have an iPad then the world is your oyster! One of the EFB apps is even completely free - Fight Plan Go, from the folks who bring you Flightplan.com. Some others that you pay for, like ForeFlight and WingX Pro can connect over a network to your FSX and/or XPlane and operate as a moving map while you are simming.

      And the iPad can even serve as the FMC in the 757 add-on for XPlane!
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