European safety regulators aim to clarify electronic flightbag criteria as rapid advances in technology and changes in operational use threaten to outpace previous guidance.

The European Aviation Safety Agency believes there is a pressing need to update approvals given the continuous technological progress and concern that improper use of electronic flightbags constitutes a risk to flight safety.

Electronic flightbags are moving away from simply being a more economical storage medium for charts and other paperwork, towards replacing some of the functions traditionally carried out by aircraft avionics.

"However, most of the time they are not manufactured according to the same design and approval standards as the ones that are used in the frame of airworthiness," says EASA.

The previous guidance - designated TGL36, dating from 2004 - is "somewhat obsolete", it adds, and needs to be updated "urgently".

It proposes to amend this material and enhance it by creating a new airworthiness and operational compliance document. This will bring its guidance into line with modern technical capabilities - taking into account additional applications, such as airport moving-map displays - and clarify the roles of various parties in the flightbag approval process.

EASA highlights a number of accidents and incidents centred on performance data and electronic flightbag design, including a serious Emirates Airbus A340 tail-strike at Melbourne in 2009 and the crash of an MK Airlines Boeing 747-200F at Halifax in 2004.

It adds that a Volpe Center study identified 67 occurrences related to electronic flightbags between 1995 and 2009, while Australian and French studies have also found "numerous" events relating to erroneous take-off parameters.

"If nothing is done, with the proliferation of the number of [flightbags] and the number of applications residing on them, the situation may deteriorate even further in the future," EASA adds. It is seeking comments on the proposal by 18 June.

Source: Flight International