JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas –
An initiative that benefits students and instructor pilots in the flying training squadrons at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph and throughout Air Education and Training Command continues to gain momentum.
The 12th Operations Group’s Electronic Flight Bag, or EFB, program, managed by the 12th Training Squadron EFB Office, supplements paper publications used by pilots with iPad touchscreen tablet computers.
The use of a digital medium such as an EFB – a small device that carries the same amount of content as multiple paper publications – is seen as a way to improve information management in the cockpit, providing ease of access, efficiency in data recall and accuracy. EFBs offer other advantages as well.
“As it pertains to flight operations, the EFB continues to provide increased situational awareness capabilities for our pilots,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Carducci, 12th TRS director of operations. “Device interconnectivity with multiple agencies and data sources while airborne give the modern-day pilot incredible situational awareness advantages over previous generations of pilots.”
EFBs offer numerous advantages over paper publications, said Maj. Nathan Moseley, 12th OG innovation chief.
“The electronic flight bag is so much more than paper,” he said. “The tablet provides everything I need to plan, brief and debrief my mission in one place, and I can share my products with my flight crew easily.”
Among electronic publications’ other advantages are that they are better for the planet and cost less per device per user compared to the yearly cost of paper publications, Moseley said.
The EFB program is evolving from its beginnings with the Pathfinder project a few years ago when AETC turned to the 12th OG to pursue the use of tablet computers by 12th Flying Training Wing instructors and students. The 12th TRS EFB Hardware Office, formerly called “The Bookstore,” is now at the forefront of the initiative.
“The 12th TRS EFB Office provides oversight and execution of the EFB program in conjunction with the 12th OG,” Carducci said. “Currently, the EFB program is rapidly expanding with an increased number of devices, increased capabilities of the devices and an increasing number of personnel to operate the day-to-day functions of the office and respond to the increased demand for its capabilities.”
The increased capabilities of the devices include a variety of applications, said Carlos Smith, 12th TRS EFB program manager.
“For academics, there are courseware apps,” he said. “When pilots fly, they use the ‘Good Reader’ app, and there’s an app called ‘Foreflight’ that’s like Google maps when they’re in the air.
With Foreflight, Moseley said he can obtain in-flight weather, update data, see airborne traffic threats and get real-time flight tracking of where he is with precision accuracy.
The program will also benefit from the centralization of the devices, Smith said.
“They will all be on a cloud server at Offutt Air Force Base,” he said. “That’s the first step of us going to the next level. Pilots will be able to use their EFBs for email and checking common access card-enabled websites.”
Instructors and pilots will be able to download content from an AETC-approved app known as “The Box,” said Charlie Turner, 12th TRS EFB Hardware Office manager.
“We used to download their publications for them,” he said. “Now they’ll be able to do it themselves and choose what they need.”
That app saves literally tens of thousands of hours annually when aircrews need publication updates, Moseley said.
Smith said the EFB hardware office is taking up where the Pathfinder project left off.
“That was the beginning of it,” he said. “Now we’re going to the next step to develop a smoother, tech-based synergy. We’ve put a structure around it.”
The EFB program is making an impact throughout AETC, Carducci said.
“Currently, all key players in operational units from Numbered Air Force units to the MAJCOM are working to standardize AETC enterprise processes, not limited to data transfer and repository, device acquisition, training, networking, physical and digital infrastructure, manpower and budgeting,” he said.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, EFBs have played an important role in enhancing the operational environment, Carducci said.
“EFBs have bolstered and supported remote student pilot training and academics,” he said.
Although EFBs are becoming the predominant form of information management in the cockpit, paper publications will not disappear, Smith said.
“Flyers still receive an EFB, hard copy and a compact disc,” he said. “They can use the hard copy and CD for study.”
The goal of the program is to bring flying training into the 21st century, tech-wise, Smith said.
“We’re not there yet; there’s still a lot of testing going on,” he said. “The main advantage of EFBs is that it’s easier to find what you’re looking for. It’s all at your fingertips.”
Carducci said the EFBs are generally well-received.
“They come with their management challenges such as hardware, software and updates, but the positive mission impact and capabilities of the EFBs are significantly worth it,” he said.