Virgin America mulls switch to Class III EFBs on A320s

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Virgin America is considering switching from using a mounted Class II electronic flight bag (EFB) in the cockpits of its Airbus A320 family aircraft to an installed Class III EFB to support NextGen technology.

"Like with everything that we do, we're constantly keeping our radar up to look at what's going on in the industry and leverage technology to the highest degree. One of the things we're looking at very, very carefully right now is whether or not to make a change from a Class II device to Class III so we're weighing that out against cost and complexity and flexibility," Virgin America director of engineering Ken Bieler told ATI in a 6 June interview.

He added: "There are always tradeoffs with one relative to the other [Class II versus Class III]. The right solution for the next few years is really paramount to what we're doing."

Pilots at Virgin America currently use Class II EFBs from NavAero. "We're evaluating all kinds of different EFBs. We're looking at a lot of different options out there and have not made a decision at this point. I have a meeting next week with our flight operations team to look at their wish list and compare what they've seen and craft out a direction we might go in the relative near future," said Bieler.

Apple iPad-based EFBs are among the devices being studied by Virgin America. "We actually use the iPad as an EFB for delivery flights so when we take a plane from [Airbus in] Europe and bring it over here, we use an iPad for that function, but when we get the airplane, we install the standard Class II devices," noted Bieler.

Boeing's Jeppesen unit is currently assisting operators as they turn iPads into portable Class I and mounted Class II EFBs. Jeppesen is also seeing a requirement for using iPads as both a productivity tool for pilots or as back-up to current EFB solutions.