Airbus aims to revolutionise electronic flight bag philosophy with the A350 XWB. It is to offer a system that combines integrated hardware with the ability to dock a laptop computer, which is operated using the aircraft's on-board controls.
Dubbed a "class 2-plus" EFB, the system has been evolved from the A380's on-board information system (OIS), which is a fully integrated class 3 EFB, says senior Airbus test pilot Jean-Michel Roy. "What we wanted to do is to combine the benefits of a class 2 EFB and a class 3 EFB, by having a fixed integrated keyboard and screen, but with an easily removable central processing unit and memory," Roy says.
Speaking at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London in July, Roy said that the "class 2-plus" EFB architecture is under development and will be standard on the A350 when it enters service in 2013. "The benefit of having fixed and removable parts is that it is open and flexible," he said.
"Unlike the A380's class 3 solution, where computers that are part of the aircraft are connected to flightdeck screens, the A350's class 2-plus EFB enables a pilot to connect his laptop into the docking station and control it using the KCCU [keyboard cursor control unit] on the pedestal or the keyboard and touch panel integrated into the table, and it will be displayed on the lateral outer screen."
Roy says that the A350's EFB will offer the flexibility of today's class 2 system - which some airlines prefer if they like to issue their pilots with their own laptops - with the integrated hardware solution of a class 3 configuration.
"If an airline - for example Lufthansa - likes to give a laptop to each of its pilots, he can plug it into the aircraft's docking station, it will be displayed on the flightdeck screens, and can be removed at the end of the flight," he says. "Another configuration could be an airline that keeps it on board and removes it just for updates."
The applications offered for the A350's EFB will be modular and scalable depending on airline's needs, says Roy. "We will offer typical applications like our E-documentation - for example flightcrew operating manual or minimum equipment list - redesigned for the big screens, as well as performance programmes and mission management support."
By offering the main flight operations applications on the laptops, the Airbus system will be able to stay abreast of advances in hardware technology, says Roy. "The laptop world is changing so rapidly that we prefer to leave that open to the airlines to choose suppliers etc."