Ryanair introduces the electronic flight bag to reduce weight and improve performance14 January 2016
As any traveller who has been charged for excess baggage will know, keeping weight down is critical to the safety and efficiency of flying. This extends beyond passengers to the cockpit, where Ryanair has recently introduced the electronic flight bag, aimed at reducing weight and improving performance. Mark Brierley asks chief pilot Ray Conway about its introduction across the carrier's fleet.
Why was the decision taken to introduce the electronic flight bag at Ryanair?
Ray Conway: The electronic flight bag (EFB) adds accuracy and enhances safety by significantly reducing the potential for human error. The by-products of this are reduced-power take-offs and reduced fuel burn, brought about by more accurate calculations and less weight on board. EFBs replace vast amounts of paper manuals and printed airport charts with electronic versions, ensuring that the most up-to-date content is always available. With Ryanair operating over 550,000 flights a year, removing 15-20kg of manuals from each aircraft creates a substantial fuel saving and a reduction of over 1.1 million kilograms in CO2 emissions.
How has the EFB helped to improve operational performance?
With rapidly expanding operation across more than 75 bases in Europe and North Africa, the logistical challenges of delivering information to crew is instantly simplified. The EFB has provided Ryanair flight crews with instant electronic access to aircraft performance calculations, navigational charts and flight manuals, and other safety-critical information. Ryanair recognised the value of this cutting-edge technology as a powerful and flexible solution.
What additional functionality do they provide over paper flight manuals?
With the introduction of the EFB, Ryanair crews now have instant electronic access to safety-critical flight information, as opposed to the previously labour-intensive means of data retrieval - one example being the ability to now effortlessly reference across an entire library of manuals. The 'pinch and zoom' feature used on charts and manuals ensures ease of reading for all ages in all flight-deck lighting conditions.
Are there contingency measures in place should an EFB fail during flight?
Yes. Procedures were developed to address the unlikely event of a complete failure of an EFB device during flight. The implementation of new systems such as the EFB would not be complete without the inclusion of a robust contingency plan. This contingency plan has been tested in line operations and has proved effective.
What feedback has Ryanair received from its pilots since the introduction of the EFB last year?
One of the goals for the EFB project was to electronically connect our crew. This has been achieved in spectacular fashion. The feedback has been extremely positive from all over the network, so much so that crew are now questioning how they ever coped before the evolution of the EFB, and its associated functionality, ease of use and reliability.
What challenges did Ryanair face during its rollout?
A change in service providers during the initial stages of the EFB project required huge efforts to make the switch with zero impact on the operation. Being the launch customer for the new Navtech charting app meant we had to endure some teething issues, but it also offered us the opportunity to be heavily involved in the app's development, to ensure all our requirements were met. The management of over 3,500 iPads requires robust back-end support to ensure that all devices are fully up-to-date.
Is the move to a paperless cockpit part of a wider push to simplify processes and improve efficiency?
This is not just about efficiency. The switch to paperless will enhance safety, too, by ensuring that crews have the required information to operate flights readily available and up to date. Processes throughout the company are constantly being reviewed for efficiency improvements. Many of the technological advances we make enable improved data capture and business intelligence, leading to more informed decision-making.