|The Boeing Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) system has been expanded to include ground software components that enable airlines to turn airplanes into nodes on their information network. This expansion allows airlines to implement a Boeing Electronic Logbook (ELB) application that resides both on the airplane and on multiple ground components. It also allows the future implementation of airborne and ground applications that will enable the airline to operate more efficiently as a business. This new application will be implemented first on the 777 and will be available for the Next‑Generation 737, 747-400, 757, 767, and 747-8. It will be basic on the 787.
By David Allen
Chief Engineer, Crew Information Services
An airplane in the air is an asset. An airplane that cannot meet its next departure cannot generate revenue. That reality was the impetus behind the Boeing ELB application. Because airplanes can only produce revenue when they are flying, the aviation infrastructure exists to keep them operating safely and efficiently. When an airline is forced to cancel a flight, the revenue from that flight may be lost and the disruption costs affect the airline bottom line. Yet airplanes are basically out of touch with the airline operations (except for some system messages and voice reports) most of the time. The system-generated failure messages many times do not provide enough information for airline maintenance to provide a solution in the time necessary to support the next dispatch. Pilot workload many times precludes using voice to communicate problems. As airlines increase airplane utilization and reduce airplane turn time, information to resolve issues becomes more important.
The Boeing ELB connects the airplane systems to the airline information technology infrastructure, providing data to the appropriate departments that allows them to strategically react to airplane problems. This knowledge helps the airline schedule the airplane operation so that all deferred faults can be resolved during a time when the airplane is available, thereby reducing costs.
This article discusses the evolution of the Boeing EFB, the definition and benefits of a Boeing ELB, the advantages of connecting airplanes in flight with ground systems, and the infrastructure required to support this kind of connected system.
THE EVOLUTION OF THE BOEING EFB
When first introduced in 2003, the Boeing EFB was seen as a major step toward e-enabling the entire air transport system — from the flight deck to the cabin, maintenance, and the airport. (See “Electronic Flight Bag,” AERO third-quarter 2003.) EFB benefits included reduced fuel and maintenance costs through precise, accurate takeoff speed calculations; improved taxiway safety; flight-deck entry surveillance; and elimination of paper from the flight deck and access to digital documents.
Nearly five years later, the Boeing Class 3 EFB has evolved from a simple flight bag replacement to a generalized computer system that can link information provided by airplane systems, flight crews, and cabin crews to the airline when the airplane is remote from the airline home base. Integrated with the Boeing ELB, it provides real-time administrative information from the airplanes to the airline so that the airline can make high-value operational decisions. Administrative information is that information which helps the airline manage its business and is not associated with the flight currently in progress. For example, if an airplane has a deferred fault that needs to be resolved, but the required downtime exceeds the current turn time on the schedule, the airline can use this information to swap airplane route assignments to ensure that it has the time necessary to resolve the issue before the airplane needs to dispatch again.