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McConnell captain pilots KC-135 Stratotanker for deployed refueling efforts
Capt. Brett Pierson refers to a computer tablet during preflight checks aboard a KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft bound for a refueling mission May 8, 2011, in Afghanistan. Pierson is a pilot with the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. William Greer)
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Electronic flight bags could boost operational safety, effectiveness

Posted 12/13/2011   Updated 12/13/2011 Email story   Print story


by Capt. Kathleen Ferrero
Air Mobility Command Public Affairs

12/13/2011 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill.  -- Just as emergency doctors might thumb through tons of pages of manuals to reference follow-on care procedures for a patient they just stabilized, mobility aircrew members sift through volumes of reference materials in the cockpit during in-flight emergencies.

Today's technology makes it easy to turn those precious minutes into seconds at the touch of a fingertip.

Improved safety, operational effectiveness and efficiency are just a few reasons Air Mobility Command is looking into using tablet devices as Electronic Flight Bags, or EFB.

"Moving from a paper-based to an electronically based flight publication system will not only enhance operational effectiveness, it can also save the Department of Defense time and money," said Maj. Gen. Rick Martin, AMC Director of Operations.

In coming months, AMC will be conducting an in-depth analysis of Electronic Flight Bag implementation on multiple airframes based on earlier test results from a study at Travis AFB, Calif.

Officials anticipate a final decision on the EFB initiative by early spring with the goal of using the devices across the Total Force mobility fleet.

As part of the DOD's efficiency efforts, AMC is always on the lookout for innovative, cost-effective solutions that also enhance mission effectiveness, Martin said.

"Electronic Flight Bags are becoming an industry standard due to their operational, environmental and cost savings benefits," said Martin.

"While AMC's mission is similar to commercial carriers in several ways, we are examining every factor before we make a decision. We must ensure that the technology not only augments our mission capability, but it would be employed to the maximum extent possible and that we implement appropriate control measures," he said.

According to Maj. Pete Birchenough, who heads AMC's EFB test, the Mobility Air Forces fleet's required flying charts are updated every 28 days.

"This equates to approximately 70 pounds of paper per aircraft each month that must be meticulously sorted, accounted for, and updated," Birchenough said. "Accomplishing this one publication at a time requires considerable manpower and detracts from higher-priority tasks."

Additionally, each crew member's flight bag contains required technical orders, flight manuals and regulations and various other flight-related materials that add weight -- burning fuel on each mission. With air mobility's rigorous operations tempo, elimination of 70 pounds of paper weight on each mission over time could add up to serious fuel savings.

"With limited space in the cockpit and the amount of paper that each crew has to manage, it can quickly become controlled chaos," Birchenough said. "An Electronic Flight Bag could solve this issue by putting all information in one place to be recalled and updated almost immediately."

Another likely benefit is the reduction of flight publication printing and distribution costs.
An executive order released by the White House on Nov. 9 promotes efficient spending, partly by cutting printing costs: "Agencies are encouraged to limit the publication and printing of hard copy documents and to presume that information should be provided in an electronic form, whenever practicable."

AMC officials estimate a timely return on investment for EFB tablet devices.

"The Air Force is historically devoted to efficiency, fully supports OSD efforts, and is committed to make every defense dollar count," Martin said.

If test results reveal that an electronic flight publication system would enhance operational effectiveness and prove cost-effective, then AMC's next step would be to seek an EFB device that best fits mission requirements.

"This is not a new initiative. AMC has been looking at tablet and mobile devices for several years as possible tools for increasing mission productivity, decreasing office automation costs, and achieving other potential benefits such as portability and flexibility," Martin said.

"As the evaluation process wraps up during the coming months, we're going to scrutinize all information on the table to make the best decision for our operators and our future force," he said.

11/30/2012 9:39:10 AM ET
Guest you speak emotionally with out knowing the background. If AMC crews operated only in teh day then a Kindle would be fine. As a matter of fact the Kindle was the first device tested. However much of AM C operations are at night requiring a lit device. Also laptops were and are used in AMC. The tablet is much easier to use on a flight deck. Also by sourceing off the shelf technology the AF is saving significant amounts of tax dollars. I tested an ipad back in early 2011 as part of this program while deployed. It had flaws but was much better than anything else we had used or was available.
Extender Driver, Kansas
2/12/2012 5:12:22 PM ET
Are you kidding me? They are using this as an excuse to buy new toys. A laptop is a much more appropriate device to access manuals from. It could serve multiple purposes. If they simply want to make manuals available via a device, a cheap kindle or other tablet is just as suitable. It is a must that these business requirements be sent out in an RFP and the vendor who proposes the best solution at the lowest cost should win the business.
guest opinion, california
1/18/2012 12:10:43 PM ET
It is not easy to compare utility costs and risks for catastrophic failure, but I already use this kind of Info Mgt Tech as a civilian. The need for Tempest shield might add a thousand dollars per unit, but we save hundreds of dollars per flight so it looks like the study is justified if only for the spin-off technologies.
12/22/2011 1:25:48 PM ET
TJ, That's kind of a moot point considering the aircraft electronics would get fried by the EMP as well, therefore the planes and the people would be going nowhere. Way to go with the typical Air Force well what if this happens mentality. It does nothing but hinder progress.
you know who, CONUS
12/20/2011 5:24:55 PM ET
I asked a Boeing rep the same questions posted before me and I'm still waiting for a follow-up reply. Eventhough this a great idea for the 'heavies' I asked specifically about using the EFB and another Boeing product on fighters and helicopters. I know of several helo crews who use their own iPad for getting current weather and airfield info along a flight route.
Greg Gaunt, DM AFB
12/20/2011 3:07:15 PM ET
I believe all the pubs they are talking about are unclassified FAA pubs, so no OPSEC issues. Saves money and time makes perfect sense for AMC. Reminds me of when we got rid of libraries of Air Force Pubs to use the AF Elec Pubs, CDs and then web only works pretty well now.
12/20/2011 10:46:38 AM ET
Working on the HH-60's, many of our AV guys half joke about the air Force installing various Ipod/Ipad devices in the cockpit to rid our selves of the electronic nightmares we come across...I'm pretty sure that if we commissioned them, Apple could come up with an app for that...
gabe, moody
12/20/2011 5:29:13 AM ET
This is the best idea ever. Those pubs bags are a pain in the back and StanEval updates are quite possibly the largets time sink of any aviator's life. I can't wait .... oh ... ya... I can't have electronics on my aircraft. Oh well.
GH, Afghanistan
12/16/2011 6:32:37 PM ET
TJ that's a great idea. That way pilots can sit in their completely dead aircraft on the ramp and look at their pubs after a magnetic pulse. Or do you propose putting a thick lead shell around all of our aircraft as well?
Maj, SWA
12/16/2011 2:50:12 PM ET
What a great idea. For those of us who have carried those pub bags up the crew entrance ladder and up the flight station ladder of a C-5 welcome these tablets. I already have an iPad and I'm hoping to be able to load the required pubs on it.
TSgt Carl D. Hayden Loadmaster, Wright-Patterson AFB Oh
12/16/2011 11:24:32 AM ET
Being that we always face the potential of nuclear conflict, hopefully each tablet will be issued with a thick lead shell to protect it from the electromagnetic pulse created by the detonation of a nuclear weapon. Otherwise this electronic flight bag idea is little more than a pipe dream.
12/16/2011 9:44:21 AM ET
EFB, I think is a great idea. As for the possibility of loss, we would obviously want to encrypt the data stored on these devices/plus up security before mass deployment. In addition, we'd probably want to figure out how to lock down the devices as we do with the AF SDC to circumvent any malicious tampering by either the end user or some unknown third party. I think it would work particularly well in rotary wing aircraft - papers and maps seem to fly out the windows/crew compartments all the time rather than strapping a bundle of papers to a kneeboard a single tablet seems like a better idea.
Louis Nguyen, Keesler AFB
12/15/2011 11:11:24 PM ET
The tablet being tested is clearly an iPad as the photograph associated with this article clearly illustrates.iPads have been used in airline cockpits by multiple airlines since shortly after its release with great success. Last week, the FAA issued formal approval for the iPad as an EFB.The AF is always behind the power curve when it comes to adopting the latest and greatest advances in civil aviation when it clearly has worked out. One of the AMC officers in the article even pointed out how similar the missions that AMC carrys out bear similarity to commercial air carriers.One example that comes to mind is the adoption of global navigation upgrades like RVSM, GATM, TCAS, the polar routes, etc. The USAF always adopts this technology after years of testing even though the civilians have proven it for 20 years prior, flying way more flights and trying to stay profitable while doing it.
salim, South Korea
12/15/2011 10:09:09 AM ET
I cant see anyone doing something with these things they shouldn't and screw this up...sarcasm alert.
12/15/2011 8:49:55 AM ET
The update process is automatic, the program will check every time it connects to the internet and will download or notify the user of any change. Critical changes will be sent with an email to notify the crew member. I have been using this type of system on MD-80's with the US Marshal service for over 2 years now. It is the way of the future and saves thousands of pounds of paper and hundreds of hours of labor. Access to emergency items if far faster on the ipad than any paper checklist and contains critical system diagrams and additional information that the QRH doesn't contain.
David Lewis, Alexandria LA
12/14/2011 6:27:43 PM ET
I hope they do not use the expensive IPad but are testing other tablets like the Nook or Kindel. What about OPSEC? What would happen if a crew-dog lost one of these? And since when has flight pubs caused a safety problem?
12/14/2011 5:39:31 PM ET
My 1st thought is who would maintain the electronic tablet devices? And how would they be verified against the required technical orders flight manuals and regulations and various other flight-related materials? I guess OPS would, but how would you A page a tablet?
John, Oregon
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