USA to speed low-cost EFB approval

Washington DC
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FAA heralds portable device with 'own-ship' display as 'game-changer' as it pushes to reduce runway incursions

The US Federal Aviation Administration plans to fast-track certification of a low-cost electronic flight bag unit specifically built for displaying an aircraft's "own-ship" position on the ground via a moving-map display in the cockpit.

The effort is part of a broader drive by the FAA to boost runway safety through a combination of ground and cockpit-based technologies and training.

"We've been working at reducing incursions on the runway," says FAA administrator Marion Blakey. "This is a game-changer. We're confident that it's ready for prime time."

Avionics manufacturer Aviation Communication and Surveillance Systems and aeronautical data supplier Jeppesen are working with the regulator on the Class 2 portable device, which uses GPS navigation system technology. The device is expected to be ready this summer and cost about $20,000 per unit.

At present only Class 3 EFBs, permanent fixtures integrated directly into an aircraft's navigation and operating systems, can be certificated to display "own-ship" position. Class 3 devices cost in the neighbourhood of $200,000, according to the FAA.

The administration has come under mounting pressure from the National Transportation Safety Board to develop a system that gives immediate warnings of probable collisions/incursions directly to flightcrews in the cockpit.

The board has carried the item on its "most wanted" list for 17 years. The Class 2 system under development will show an aircraft's position on an overhead map of an airport, but it will not display the position of other aircraft and traffic.

The NTSB last week held a one-day forum in Washington DC focusing on runway incursions and accidents as well as potential solutions. The meeting occurred on the 30th anniversary of the collision of two Boeing 747s at Los Rodeos airport in Tenerife. The accident killed 583 people and the NTSB stresses that another incursion disaster is imminent if new technologies, such as the EFB solution, are not introduced.