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Online Extra

FAA Authorizes iPads as Sole Charts Reference

March 8, 2011

FAA's authorization for Executive Jet Management and Cutter Aviation pilots to use Apple's iPad as sole reference for electronic approach charts in the cockpit has opened the floodgates for other operators eager to shed up to 60 pounds of paper charts.

Since iPads weigh about 1.5 pounds, an increase in useful load of as much as 58.5 pounds is near miraculous, especially for business operators.

Businesses operating under FAR Part 91 Subpart K (fractional) and FAR Part 135, as well as other commercial operators, require FAA approval for use of iPads as primary chart references. Those operating under FAR Part 91 (other than Subpart K) do not. However, the FAA suggests that the standards found in FAA Order 8900.1 and Advisory Circular 91-78 can be used as a ‘best practices' standard for Part 91 operators.

FAA authorization for Executive Jet Management came after 55 pilots test-flew the iPad in 10 different airplane types over 250 flight segments. Three months of testing included an RTCA DO-160 rapid decompression to 51,000 feet on a working iPad, which "survived with no anomalies observed," according to an Executive Jet Management official. The final paperwork included authorization to use the iPad as the sole chart reference even during taxi, takeoff and landing.

Authorization for Cutter Aviation was granted on February 28 and used the ForeFlight HD program and ForeFlight charts. Both approvals were for use of the iPad as a Class 1 Electronic Flight Bag (EFB). Industry observers said the FAA authorization for the two operators also opens the door for approval of iPads as Class 2 EFBs permanently mounted as part of the aircraft.

According to both Executive Jet Management and Jeppesen officials, iPad authorization was a model of cooperation. "This serves as a model for how the FAA can be engaged (in defining) a solution that moves the industry forward safely and efficiently," said Mark Van Tine, Jeppesen president and chief executive officer. "Executive Jet Management…possessed the necessary skills, credibility and EFB experience to help all parties understand, from an operator's perspective, the unique issues and benefits related to using iPad in flight."

The Executive Jet Management and Cutter Aviation authorizations will provide real-life guidance for other operators ready to gain up to 60 pounds of useful load. "We've learned a lot about an operator's authorization process, and this will enable us to help other Jeppesen customers obtain authorization as well," said Tim Huegel, director of portfolio management for Jeppesen Aviation.

In granting authorizations, the FAA requires specific procedures for system problems, software crashes and other issues. Both Executive Jet Management and Cutter Aviation pilots will carry a second iPad in the cockpit and Executive Jet Management pilots will also carry paper versions of enroute charts until Jeppesen finishes its iPad version of enroute charts, which will include weather overlays, integrated flight planning and an airport moving map.

Interest in the iPad as an EFB is soaring. "Inquiries are pouring in," said Tyson Weihs, co-founder of electronic chart provider ForeFlight in Houston, TX. "This is really a watershed moment for iPad adoption in business aviation."

ForeFlight reports "tens of thousands" of FAR Part 91 customers already using an iPad in the cockpit, and is receiving requests from FAR Part 91 Subpart K and FAR Part 135 operators looking for help with FAA authorization of their iPad and ForeFlight software.

"Customer demand for [an iPad EFB] was very high across all of our markets, business aviation, general aviation, commercial and military," said Huegel. "Our customers were very vocal that they wanted Jeppesen charts on this hardware platform." He pointed to the more than 50,000 downloads of the Mobile TC application and charts since Jeppesen introduced the product on July 25, 2010.

Authorization of the iPad for operators is just the beginning, according to Huegel. He said he sees a day when such tablet computers will provide "door-to-door management" of a pilot's information, including crew scheduling, weather information, flight planning and even data-integrated navigation charts.

Several airlines are also flying with iPads as EFBs, according to Jeppesen. Alaska Airlines began testing iPads in November 2010, and about 100 pilots are now evaluating the devices for convenience, visibility, durability and safety. But airline spokeswoman Marianne Lindsey best summed up the value of iPad, which weighs about 1.5 pounds. "It's replaced about 25 pounds of manuals and charts," she said.

To learn more, visit the Members-only EFB page (password required).

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