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Time for ETLs to go in EFBs?

ETLs have lagged EFB deployment for several reasons including issues around approval and training time.

Electronic Flight Bags are widely used now, and it is time to move toward the next step in EFB applications, installing electronic technical log (ETL) software on EFBs, according to Steve Russell, CEO of Conduce Mobile Aviation Solutions.

Russell says many airlines collect some data on their EFBs such as aircraft movement times and fuel uplift, but paper processes are generally still in place. ETLs that completely replace paper technical log books for defects, servicing and journey data are very few, installed on probably less than 1% of EFBs, he estimates.

ETLs have lagged EFB deployment for several reasons. As safety-critical software, ETLs are hard to adopt and get approved. Training and roll-out take time. For a long time EFB hardware was not ideal, with touch-screens available only on iOS devices and these devices not robust enough for minimum equipment lists. Green-screen displays were clumsy, and communication was often slow and expensive.

All that has changed now, with Microsoft enabling touch software, Panasonic offering rugged hardware in its Toughpad, international roaming charges inexpensive and most airports having or soon to have 4G or 5G networks.

And ETLs offer several advantages, better safety with all entries validated as within limits, avoiding complicated sign ins, more free time in cockpits to plan, near real-time monitoring of aircraft and avoiding the paper tech log processes of scanning, faxing and manual data entry. Conduce’s ROI model estimates that ETLs can, for a low-cost carrier with 240 aircraft, pay back three times investment in five years. To make installation more attractive, the company offers hardware, software, communications and support, all for a charge per month per tail.

Speed is one big advantage. Using paper tech logs, it can take up to four days for a defect to be entered into the central maintenance management system. eTechlog8 transmits these defects by the fastest means available and, with WiFi or other inflight communication, can cut that delay to 90 seconds.

The software comes with its own eTraining portal, a cabin log that lets attendants enter defects that are then synched into eTechlog8 and several other supporting modules. Implementation of the whole suite takes six to 12 months.

Russell emphasizes that Conduce has the largest number of operators flying with its ETL software and the most approvals from national safety regulators. Conduce customers include a worldwide cargo airline, four airlines with Thomas Cook, two airlines under the SmartLynx brand, Royal Brunei and Airbus’s Beluga program. “This equates to 11 airlines with approximately 400 aircraft under contract. About 150 aircraft are now live. During 2019, we would expect to contract with three or four more airlines with maybe about 1,000 tails.”

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