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Electronic flight planning and the electronic flight bag
Rev. 15 — page content was last changed 24 October 2013
|Flight Planning and Navigation|
The Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) technology, combined with a current, accurate and approved aeronautical database, normally provide excellent position-fixing capability — and continuing 'heading-to-steer' capability, when associated with a stored flight plan. GNSS is classified as a supplemental-means VFR navigation system. However, contrary to good sense, some sport and recreational pilots (and others) do rely on GNSS receivers — plus electronic on-screen position tracking (e.g. a moving map display with own aircraft position centred) — as a primary-means navigation system.
Electronic flight planning software has been available for many years but the concept of the sport and recreational aviation 'electronic flight bag' (EFB) is introduced when a tablet computer with inbuilt or external GNSS reception is used for flight planning plus storage of — and inflight reference to — documents such as the following: aircraft flight manual/pilot's operating handbook; ERSA and the AIP book; ARFORs and NOTAMs; and georeferenced Airservices Australia digital aeronautical charts.
The EFB is perceived as an aid to situational awareness and is not a CASA approved navigation system.
So, electronic flight planning and electronic VFR situational awareness aids are becoming the norm for many recreational pilots, not least because of the availability of:
The current situation enables any reasonably computer adept person to put together a system of software, GNSS aviation receivers, general purpose (rather than aviation-oriented) hardware and navigation databases tailored to their particular aviation needs. All accomplished in accordance with the civil aviation advisory publication CAAP 233-1(1) and at rather low cost — if well researched and done carefully. CAAP 233-1(1) 'provides information and guidance in the use of portable Electronic Flight Bags as a replacement* for paper in the flight compartment'.
*Though it is still prudent to carry back-up paper charts.
Integrity refers to the trustworthiness of the device, i.e. user assurance that the data being provided by the device/s meets specified standards and that the system will alert the user when it is not meeting those specified standards. For example, any GNSS system that fails to immediately and adequately inform the pilot when it enters 'dead reckoning' mode certainly does not meet the integrity standard.
If a particular system is demonstrated to satisfy all four parameters for a flight phase then it may be classified as a sole-means navigation system — for that phase and thus require no back-up navigation system. When operating under the day visual flight rules, en route navigation by map reading and visual reference to the ground satisfies all four parameters and is the only sole-means system available to RA-Aus aircraft.
If a system meets the integrity and accuracy requirements all the time, but falls short on availability/vulnerability or continuity of service, it may be approved as a primary-means navigation system for a flight phase, if specified procedures are employed. Day VFR navigation does not use primary-means systems, only the sole-means system plus supplemental-means systems as required.
A supplemental-means navigation system may only be used in conjunction with a sole-means navigation system, but it must meet the integrity and accuracy requirements. Pilots operating under the VFR may use GNSS to supplement map reading and other visual reference en route navigation techniques. Any GNSS receiver may be used but if it is an installed receiver (i.e. not portable) it must be fitted in accordance with CAAP 35-1 or AC21-36; see AIP GEN 1.5 section 8.5.4. GNSS is only officially regarded as a primary-means night VFR navigation if the GPS/Glonass receiver system accords with the FAA's Technical Standard Order [TSO] C129 or TSO C145/6 series, or has other CASA approval. The GPS/GLONASS receiver may supply position data to a portable electronic device as part of a supplemental-means navigation system.
For more information concerning the use of GNSS in VFR navigation see AIP ENR 1.1 paragraphs 19.2 and 19.5. Note the wording of sections 19.2.1e and 19.5.1d together with the latter's link to AIP GEN 1.5 section 8. Also see the CASA document 'Instructions — use of GNSS' that came into effect 1 November 2012.
WAC, VNC, VTC, ERC-L and PCA charts are also available in geoTIFF* digital format redistributed by a few Australian flight planning software producers. These organisations have entered a Standard Data Licence Agreement with Airservices Australia [AsA] enabling the inclusion of AsA map packs as part of their software package; such agreements limit the usable life of each chart within the application. AsA will not sell digital charts direct to the general public and since Maptrax Australia withdrew from that market sector there are no retailers of AsA VFR charts [at March 2013] except for those included in an EFB package for iPad systems.
*Note: geoTIFF = geographic tagged image file format with the necessary georeferencing data embedded as metadata.
Considering that most Australian controlled airspace below 8500 feet amsl is within 100 nm or so of the coast-line then, outside that coastal fringe, there is little VNC/VTC coverage and the 1:1 million scale of the WACs is a rather small scale for light aircraft pilotage — the sectional charts that are the standard United States VFR navigation chart are 1:500 000. The NATMAP 250K series are 1:250 000 transverse Mercator projection charts (with an optional latitude/longitude graticule) providing a good, larger-scale navigation solution for much of Australia, even though they contain no aeronautical data. As with a paper map, digitisation and the necessary software allows the user to mark up the chart with any information considered pertinent, even allowing permanent storage of several versions of the one chart, and the NATMAP 250K series are valid for several years. Airservices Australia's Visual Terminal Charts are based on the NATMAP 250K series with a latitude/longitude graticule.
The digitised NATMAP 250K series may be purchased from Geoscience Australia. The 513 maps of the series are available on DVD, in .ecw format, for about $100 which is less than 3% of the cost of the paper series and well worth having as home reference material — even if you don't use them in flight. map projection, coordinate system, datums, pixel cell scale (e.g. metres per pixel) and latitude/longitude of the first pixel (i.e. the top, left hand corner cell). PDF files may be either raster or vector files.
A vector map is a series of mathematically defined points (e.g. airfields, peak elevations), lines (e.g. controlled airspace boundaries, rivers, railways, roads), and polygons (e.g. shapes – towns, lakes, PRD areas) stored as a data file; GPS devices draw their vector maps by plotting the data read from their aeronautical database files. Such maps are usually made up in information layers that allow the display to be de-cluttered by the user as required. Vector graphics are 'rasterised' for display on digital screens.
terms and conditions of the copyright notice. The .pdf format publications of interest to VFR pilots are the aeronautical information publication [AIP] often referred to as the AIP book, ERSA, the AIP supplements [SUPP] and aeronautical information circulars [AIC]. The documents are in pdf format. The Designated Airspace Handbook [DAH] is also included, it contains 272 pages of tables detailing, for example, the precise location of controlled airspace boundaries either straight line point-to-point or point-to-point arcs of a circle with the centre point location and radius stated, VFR and IFR waypoints — the latter where latitude/longitude may be expressed to 100th of a second [about 30 cm], and much other material.
standard datasets that Airservices Australia markets for creation of such databases. There is a world standard — ARINC 424 — for the format of data intended for navigation system databases. Each data record is 128 bytes (128 characters) in length and made up of primary records and continuation records. The position of the data fields within each type of record is fixed, for example in a waypoint primary record latitude occupies byte positions 33-41, longitude 42-51 and local magnetic variation 75-79. There are three 128 byte continuation records for a waypoint. The database records are transferred as text, comma-separated values [.csv] files perhaps. Obviously it is most important that the data originator of the database material — AsA — has a quality assurance system that guarantees the viability of the data.
The data for airfields that are not contained in the standard AsA database might be provided in a supplementary database by the software supplier. The need for absolute assurance that location coordinates and other critical data have been correctly ascertained and entered by the supplier, cannot be over-emphasised.
IPhone app. The Bureau of Meteorology provides all the weather products to the NIS.
You must register with AsA before you can access the NIS. For further information see 'Airservices Australia's online meteorological briefing and NOTAM system'.
In 2007 the United States FAA released the document AC 91-78 'Use of Class 1 or Class 2 EFB'. That advisory circular is still current (November 2012) and applicable to Part 91 VFR preflight, flight, and post flight operations in the USA. In June 2012 the FAA published AC 120-76B 'Guidelines for the Certification, Airworthiness, and Operational Use of Electronic Flight Bags'. AC 120-76B is directed at the airline transport industry but also intended as a guide for US Part 91 aircraft (mostly general aviation).
In November 2012 the CASA released a 'notice of final rule making' including an advisory publication CAAP 233-1(0). (The AWB 00-017 issue 2 of May 2010 was cancelled at that time.) The CAAP defines the EFB as: 'A portable Information System for flight deck crew members which allows storing, updating, delivering, displaying and/or computing digital data to support flight operations or duties.' The CAAP provides general guidance for private pilots and states 'The EFB, with GPS functionality, may be used for situational awareness only. It is not an approved navigation system and cannot be used as the primary means of navigation.'
In CAAP 233-1(0) the recommended minimum display screen size was A5 (210 × 148 mm and 257 mm diagonally). The A5 paper-based dimension ratios of 1.41:1 don't equate with the common display screen dimension ratios, e.g, 1024 × 768 pixels is 1.33:1 so, at 197 × 148 mm, the iPad screen is as close as a 1024 × 768 pixel display can get to CASA's A5 recommendation. The iPad Mini dimensions are about 162 × 122 mm and 201 mm diagonally; its display area is about 64% of A5 area. However CASA reviewed their recommendation and issued CAAP 233-1(1) dated 24 August 2013 now recommending a minimum display screen size of 200 mm diagonally across the active viewing area, i.e. the iPad Mini. The iPhone display is probably too small for satisfactory map reading.
CASA recommends that a tablet computer should be dedicated to the EFB/flight planning/flight monitoring functions, however it is up to the pilot-in-command of a light aircraft to ensure that a tablet has sufficient/ample capacity for other functions without any chance of affecting the inflight EFB function.
CAR 233 requires pilots to carry the latest editions of the aeronautical maps, charts and other aeronautical information and instructions published in AIP or by holders of an 'instrument of approval' . The CASA has the responsibility to regulate the provision of aeronautical information services thus CASA, not AsA, is the approval authority under CAR 233 (1) (h) and 1A; of course AsA is a CASA approved document supplier and their documents do not need additional approval if they have been stored in an EFB in essentially the same form as the original AsA document.
At September 2013, CASA has issued written acceptance of quality assurance capabilities for appropriate redistribution of AsA digital VFR/IFR charts and other database material, as part of an EFB package, to only two Australian companies – OzRunways and AvSoft. Jeppesen and Lufthansa System's Lido have an instrument of approval for IFR charts.
A notice of proposed rule making — NPRM 0901AS — for CASR Part 175 'Aeronautical information services' was published in 2009 (associated with AsA's intention to change from AIS to aeronautical information management [AIM]) but no notice of final rule making has yet been issued. The proposed 'certificates of authorisation' for persons to act as data service providers will specify requirements to demonstrate that the aeronautical data and information they publish (that pilots are permitted to use as an alternative to the AIP) is equivalent to the aeronautical data published in the AIP and on aeronautical charts, and the service provider's systems and procedures do not introduce errors.
In November 2012 an amendment to CAO 82.0 was published adding the requirements to be met for the use of an EFB, by the pilot in command of an aircraft operated under an Air Operator's Certificate, as a means of complying, or partially complying, with CAR 233 (1) (h). (Private pilots may use their own pilot in command authority to approve use of an EFB, bearing in mind the guidance material in CAAP 233-1(0).)
The following are extracts from CAO 82.0 Appendix 9 summarising definitions which are likely to also appear in future rules applicable to sport and recreational aircraft:
Note: it is the pilots legal requirement to carry the current maps and charts for the sector to be flown, that have been approved by CASA. At September 2013 two EFB products have been approved by CASA for VFR pilot use [see above] as an alternative to the AIP paper publications, so other EFB products cannot be used as an inflight substitute for the paper charts sourced from Airservices' AIS. Thus until an instrument of approval has been received by the relevant data service provider, AsA's paper charts must be available in flight; another electronic device cannot be nominated as a back-up system. With two data service providers holding a CASA instrument of approval for the digital WACs and VNCs private VFR pilots are able to use an acceptable tablet computer, rather than paper charts, as the primary means of in-flight documentation. Even so, although an EFB is a paper replacement system, it is prudent to carry back-up paper charts. During 2012-2013 the CASA flight operations inspectors were surveying iPad and flight planning software usage when conducting ramp checks.
EFB suppliers sell their VFR software product on a remarkably low cost annual subscription basis — at November 2012 around $75 p.a. The subscription includes the complete AsA VFR digital chart pack for Australia and the updates of charts and other aeronautical data in accordance with AsA's standard update cycle; it also includes software updates/expansions. Those data service suppliers might alter the AsA product; for example the 43 WAC charts have overlapping seams and the EFB supplier might 'stitch' all the individual charts together to produce one very large seamless mosaic. Locality names, or parts of names, may disappear from the seamless mosaic. Such activity, being an alteration of the AsA material, may be prohibited within a CASA approval instrument.
Data service providers approved under CAR 233 (1) (h) must also ensure that all database material supplied cannot be modified by the user.
The freely available Aeronautical Information Publication plus updates is also included in the package — the EFB supplier may add a search facility for ERSA and the AIP book. Mobile broadband service provider's charges are, of course, an additional cost to be considered.
Although there may be a GPS engine included in the hardware it is recommended that an external GNSS aviation receiver engine be linked to the hardware. There are packaged GNSS engines available which output the navdata, via a Bluetooth connection, to an iPad, iPhone, Android or other display device. The cost for aviation types is $75 to $150. For example the Garmin GLO for aviation costs about $150 and receives position date from GLONASS and GPS satellites (thus 48 satellite potential) with an update rate of 10× per second. Weight is 60 grams and USB connection also available.
Note: from 2 February 2017 all aircraft operating under the instrument flight rules must carry ADS-B OUT equipment. It is probable that many of those aircraft will also install ADS-B IN. It is then likely that a tablet type computer, linked to the ADS-B receiver, could be used for the cockpit display of traffic information.
The mobile broadband connection allows inflight connection to BoM weather radar, internet lightning trackers, regular checking of the NAIPS Internet Service for changed information relative to the flight plan (SIGMETs and SPECI for example) and to overlay that information graphically on the moving map display.
Note: the use of a cellular mobile voice or data communication device in an aircraft — that is not equipped with a picocell base-station — is not in accordance with the class licence that legalises personal transmissions from a mobile telecommunications device; see further information about the Radiocommunications (Cellular Mobile Telecommunications Devices) Class Licence 2002.
The EFB suppliers' products are:
sections 3.4 to 3.6, in that digitised topographical charts and graphical flight planning software — rather than paper, protractor, E6-B etc — are used to plan, and finally plot, the route. The graphical flight planning software downloads weather and notams from Airservices Australia's NAIPS Internet Service; provides tracks, distances, magnetic headings, times, fuel burn etc and stores the final flight plan in digital format and, if required, uploads a flight notification with sartime to NIS.
When airborne there is only a slight difference in pilotage where the navigator — while still reading from map to ground — is primarily relying on a cursor on a digitised moving AsA topographical chart to display current position and then confirming it with the ground. The significant difference in airborne sport and recreational aviation navigation is in using the flight plan plus GNSS reception to provide in-flight data, warnings and corrections necessary to arrive at the planned destination safely, avoiding PRD areas where necessary and without infringeing controlled airspace. That indicates the vital importance of working with a complete, current and absolutely accurate aeronautical database. Proper use of VHF radiocommunication frequencies is an adjunct to normal VFR navigation procedures.
In flight the software should facilitate any necessary changes to the plan and recalculate all relevant data.
For VFR operations outside controlled airspace, electronic planning and navigation should follow much the same manual procedures described in the preceding modules of the navigation tutorials:
In addition — as a flow-on from the glass primary flight displays and multi-function displays of larger contemporary IFR aircraft — the availability of relatively inexpensive non-certified electronic flight instrument systems [EFIS] is increasing. Such non-certified systems can be installed legally in RA-Aus amateur-built category aircraft — although there will be a regulatory problem if a non-certified EFIS is providing altitude encoding to a transponder. These flight instrument systems are microchip-based (including micro electro-mechanical gyroscope devices and acceleration sensors) and, in the future, are likely to provide increasing data transfer to or from other avionics within electronic communications, navigation and surveillance technology.
Groundschool – Flight Planning & Navigation Guide
| Guide content | 1. Australian airspace regulations | 2. Aeronautical charts and compass | 3. Route planning |
| 4. Effect of wind | 5. Flight plan completion | 6.Pre-flight safety and legality check | 7. Airmanship & flight discipline |
| 8. En route adjustments | 9. Supplementary techniques | 10. En route navigation using the GNSS |
| 11. Using the ADF | 12. Electronic flight planning & the EFB | 13. ADS-B surveillance technology in Australia |
| Operations at non-controlled airfields | Safety during take-off & landing |
| The next (and last) section of this Guide discusses the ADS-B technology for communication, navigation and surveillance.|
There are also two supplementary documents which should be read: "Operations at non-controlled airfields" and "Safety during take-off & landing"
This major revision (#12) to the electronic flight planning module was compiled October-November 2012 — John Brandon [contact information]