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EFB 'sea change' expected with Apple iPad 2: Jeppesen

Apple's iPad 2, a slimmer, lighter, more powerful tablet than its predecessor, is poised to usher in a new era in the world of electronic flight bags (EFBs), forecasts a top executive at Jeppesen, which has successfully completed a rapid decompression test to an altitude of 51,000ft of the iPad 2.

Since the iPad 2 is a consumer-off-the-shelf (COTS) electronics device, it has "led some folks to wonder if it would be a durable, rugged piece of equipment for a cockpit environment. The answer is proving to be yes. It is very durable," Jeppesen chief strategist, aviation Rick Ellerbrock tells ATI and Flightglobal.

Jeppesen's recent rapid decompression test of the iPad 2 - which confirmed the integrity of the device in the unlikely event of sudden cabin pressure loss - is simply one example of the computer's durability, says Ellerbrock. "We're also getting a lot of field reports that this thing is tough under pressure. It is designed very well. The screen is tempered and extremely tough. The components internally are all solid state so you don't have rotating parts and it does seem to be constructed well."

"We're not seeing many limits on this device right now," he adds. "It's fast. It's got a very powerful processor. The graphics are outstanding. The display is crisp and clear and readable in all kinds of lighting conditions. It has an incredible field of view, which means if you look at it from an angle, you see a very clear image on the screen. Its size is also [very] compact. Cockpits are very space constrained as it is. When a device comes along with this size and this form factor and with all these great characteristics, it is a sea change. Our customers recognize that."

Jeppesen's airport/approach charts provide commercial carriers with vital navigational data. NetJets subsidiary Executive Jet Management recently received US FAA approval to use an iPad App from Jeppesen as an alternative to paper aeronautical maps, setting the stage for this EFB solution to be rolled out by business and commercial aircraft operators alike.

The so-called Mobile TC (terminal charts) iPad App turns the tablet into a Class 1 kneeboard EFB, but Jeppesen sees a Class II offering coming to market soon.

"This will become a Class II mounted [EFB] solution," assures Ellerbrock. "It's starting to happen. Jeppesen doesn't build mounting solutions but there are a number of companies that recognize the opportunity and that's what is good about this. Like any other EFB, a mount has to go through regulatory review, typically through a STC (supplemental type certificate) process. The fact that this [iPad 2] is a small form factor and lightweight, makes mounting easier. We'll see it this year [as a Class II solution] for sure."

A number of carriers, including reportedly Alaska Airlines and Delta Air Lines, are studying iPads-as-EFB solutions.

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