Pilots get electronic flight bag
Everything but the sandwiches
If the Captain is conducting on-the-job flight training of junior officers, they also carry their own and the trainee's records. To speed up back office management here, Evoke is aiming to add online training records management as part of the EFB.
"Each pilot has to undertake a number of formal training exercises every year and these must be available for audit at any time," Howard said. "This does, however, demand that each pilot has access to a laptop system - either issued on a per trip basis, or as their own machine."
Evoke is again opting for a web-based user interface, with the Tablet PC as the primary target platform. It has been using the Tablet PC extensions built into Vista in its development work. "Much of the data being captured by the crew is numeric, and is therefore easier to capture by pen," Howard said. "In a flight deck environment It is easier to write 'flight level 350' than click on a box with a mouse, so the pen interface has worked very well, and better than the keyboard for much of the work, though for lengthier reports they do really need a full keyboard as well."
This does mean crews carrying Tablet PCs around with them and the company has looked at holding relevant data held on USB memory sticks as an option, but feels there are better solutions. Some airlines are looking at this as something to plug into the on-board EFBs, but Howard indicated there are numerous inherent problems with that.
"Crew can lose memory sticks, and there is the issue of validating the memory stick being inserted to check it has no viruses or that it is the company's device and not a personal one."
There can also be problems if systems are updated, when memory sticks may suddenly be seen as incompatible devices.
"The more elegant solution is for the pilots to carry the system with them, and to have an internet connection available wherever they are. Most of the major airports now have at least 3G mobile communications and they use it the same way that passengers are allowed to use their mobile phones," he said.
The current back office system is hosted by a professional hosting company, Rackspace, which holds the central database and applications. The laptops will essentially be running an offline subset of the airline's database together with their own specific data, in much the same way that anyone can use Microsoft Outlook offline, connecting and synchronising as required.
Future developments in airline training also make the EFB an attractive proposition. For example, the Alternative Training Qualification Program, a Joint Aviation Authorities initiative, is being set up to monitor the quality of training by analysing training data trends. This is designed to show how pilots are improving and developing. It also covers flight data monitoring such as fuel burn rates etc. "This is ideal for Evoke as we are already collecting all the data," he said. ®