EFB Schooling: In-Flight Information Guidance

By Scott Spangler on June 24th, 2024

Pursuing my schooling on computer-aided flight plans, usually generated by an electronic flight bag (EFB—see Are You Current with the New Airman Certification Standards? for my ACS motivation), has led me to an FAA advisory circular, Use of Flight Deck Displays of Digital Weather and Aeronautical Information. Dated June 3, 2024, the 52-page AC 00-63B cancels its decade old predecessor.

It focuses on FAA and commercial flight information services (FIS) delivered via ADS-B’s Universal Access Transceiver (UAT) data link connection. As the AC defines it, “FIS is a service that provides meteorological information (METI) and Aeronautical Information (AI) to enhance pilot awareness of weather and/or airspace constraints while providing information for decision support tools and improving safety.”

To a point, this coincides with my ADS-B education when the FAA introduced that system as part of the Next Generation Air Transportation System, aka NextGen. What I remember as weather and traffic services are now METI and AI. This suggests a more robust offering of essential information that is typically displayed through an EFB. Appreciating the immediate benefits of having graphical weather and related aeronautical information in the cockpit quickly recalled 1990-something memories of my first IFR cross-country in actual instrument meteorological conditions.

Strapped to a 180-horse Skyhawk with dual nav/comms, I was on my way back to Kansas City from Chicagoland. The ink on my instrument rating wasn’t dry, and I spent more time talking to Flight Service about the weather around me than I did ATC. Having an EFB would have made my deviations around that weather would have reduced the stress of hand-flying almost the entire route in the rain-battering clagg.

An EFB could have replaced my pre- and in-flight Flight Service conversations. “Flight planning via a data link service and using a portable or installed Electronic Flight Bag (EFB), whether on the ground or airborne, is an acceptable use of AI and METI data link services,” the AC said. It also warned that “METI and AI are highly dynamic and time-sensitive,” and that pilots should be cognizant of the latency involved. What, I wonder, is the latency of a staticky radio conversation with Flight Service?

And then there’s the different comprehension of words and pictures to consider. Thankfully, the AC provides some latency context. “For example, since initial processing and transmission of Next Generation Weather Radar (NEXRAD) data can take several minutes, pilots must assume that data link weather information will always be a minimum of 7 to 8 minutes older than shown on the time stamp. Thus, pilots should only use data link weather radar images for broad strategic avoidance of adverse weather.”

With this guidance, I have a fuller appreciation of employing an EFB in the private pilot ACS task of preflight planning. With my EFB schooling far from complete, it is clear to me now that working with an EFB can produce a flight plan more comprehensive and nuanced than is possible with old school paper and pencil. In my mind’s eye I can see myself explaining my plan and self-briefed weather information to an examiner who’s asking some very pointed questions. These thoughts are starting to make me sweat, so I’d better continue my schooling. –Scott Spangler, Editor


Related Posts:

Leave a Reply

Subscribe without commenting