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From toys to tools: the electronic flight bag story

Aircraft Management Technologies is touting the electronic flight bag as a source of business intelligence and a content management tool - and looking to extend the concept into aircraft cabins.

"I think at one stage, at the management level, there was a view that EFBs were a toy for the flightcrew," says Joe McGoldrick, AMT's chief executive. "And I think that's changing. People now see it as a productivity tool."

Dublin-based AMT offers applications brand-named Flightman, intended to be usable with any hardware (or "agnostic"). It has lately been focusing its efforts on integrating the electronic flight bag with back-office flight-planning systems.

AMT's electronic flight bag applications are "hardware independent" 
"With all the data flowing off the aircraft, you now have really a rich set of real-time data describing how your airline is performing," says McGoldrick.

Adherence to flightplan fuel requirements, on-time performance and load factors are among the variables that can be monitored using this data. Such analysis once "could have taken weeks", says the AMT chief. "Flightcrew put data into the flight envelope, it would be posted and eventually, some time later, somebody would enter that data into some kind of electronic system," he recalls. Now, however, "you can have that data in your reporting systems in real time".

AMT has also developed applications for managing content such as charts and technical publications or databases. "Content is being produced at the airline on a 14- to 28-day cycle, typically," says McGoldrick. "Regardless of what EFB you have on an aircraft, the key is that you can go to one particular place and get all the content that you need."

With Italian carrier Neos as launch customer, AMT has added cabin applications to its offering, as a means of providing pursers with passenger information in a paperless format.

The applications offered by AMT - such as the journey log, technical log and electronic flight folders - do not encompass a full EFB product. As they run alongside different vendors' products - an XML document viewer, a charting application, perhaps an airport moving map - the need to ensure users can switch seamlessly between applications is a development challenge.

EFB technology and the paperless operation it facilitates can bring savings of $200,000 per aircraft tail per annum, argues McGoldrick. Among its efficiencies, the EFB can eliminate the need to physically transport tech logs to and from aircraft, with maintenance personnel having access to real-time data. The chore of physically distributing notices to airmen is similarly scrubbed. Additionally, crew briefing can take place away from the airport.

"There's no one single killer application, but it's the streamlining of data and the process around the aircraft that really gives you the killer return on investment," says McGoldrick.

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