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As in many other industries, commercial airlines are moving quickly to embrace a mobile transformation, evolving the way they work, giving their pilots, flight attendants and ground-based crew the mobile technology tools they need to simplify operations without compromising security, and ultimately to better serve their customers. Our work with Delta Air Lines is a great example of a commercial airline realizing the promise of mobility for their employees and customers.
This week, Microsoft is excited to be at the Singapore Airshow, talking with leaders across the commercial airline industry about how we’ve removed the barriers to adopting Electronic Flight Bags (EFB’s) and going paperless in the cockpit.
We’ve gathered a lot of feedback from Delta pilots who tell us they love using their Surface 2 tablets for several reasons: the full HD ClearType display offers the lowest reflectivity and highest contrast– even in the widely varying light conditions of an aircraft cockpit; the 10-hour battery life keeps up with demanding schedules, helping pilots to get things done while they’re on the ground and in transit between flights; and with productivity built-in, it’s easy for pilots to access two apps at the same time, side by side so they can pull up navigation information alongside weather data to help identify safe and comfortable routes of flight.
Airlines are increasingly more nimble and competitive due to technology investments. According to the 2013 Air Transport Industry Insights IT Trends Survey, IT budgets are expected to increase, and tablets will play a big role in this IT investment. By 2016 the global level of EFB deployments will extend to 87% of commercial airlines and 71% of airlines will be deploying tablets to ground crews for aircraft maintenance.
Announcing Qualification For FAA Authorization of Surface 2 Tablets For Commercial Airlines’ Electronic Flight Bag InitiativesGiven the growing interest among airline operators to adopt mobile technology as a means to simplify day-to-day business operations, the Surface team has been working hard to make it easier for these airlines to modernize. Today, we’re happy to share that Surface 2 tablets have qualified for Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) authorization for Class 1 EFB needs for all phases of flight. Through this certification assessment process, Microsoft has completed rigorous environmental and situational testing of the Surface 2 tablet, streamlining the approval process when airline operators want to use Surface 2 tablets as a Class 1 or 2 EFB during flight operations. While airlines are still obligated to define their specific use requirements with the FAA and request specific device approval, Microsoft’s completion of these tests for Surface 2 satisfies a lengthy and important part of that FAA authorization process. So when airlines look to select Surface 2 for their EFB initiatives, their timeline to deployment can be significantly decreased. This qualification makes it more efficient for airlines to seek approval from the FAA to use Surface 2 tablets as the fully equipped and powerful PCs they are, rather than limit their use to serving just as simple document readers.
Jeppesen Showcases Their FliteDeck Pro App For Windows 8.1
At the airshow, Jeppesen, maker of paper and digital flight charts, is showcasing their industry leading FliteDeck Pro application for Windows 8.1. FliteDeck Pro on Windows 8.1 makes it easier and safer for pilots to work with their charts. And in Windows 8.1, pilots can split screen so they can view their charts side-by-side with other data such as gate information or real-time weather.
FliteDeck Pro is a complete electronic flight bag solution designed specifically for the Windows platform. FliteDeck Pro gives airlines a data-driven, interactive navigation solution ready for commercial use. The solution also provides access to Jeppesen’s global library of terminal charts, change notices and text, as well as data distribution and deployment support. FliteDeck Pro increases situational awareness for pilots through faster, real-time access to information like weather and NOTAMs and reduces pilot workload by eliminating manual paper revisions and the need to haul 30-50 pounds of paper materials for each flight.
RAM® Mounts Are Now A Designed For Surface Accessory PartnerToday we’re also happy to announce that RAM Mounts is now a Designed For Surface accessory partner helping commercial airlines more quickly adopt Surface 2 tablets for EFB. In-cockpit securing solutions are a critical component of any EFB solution, but many times they’re overlooked and pushed to the back of the deployment schedule. Having RAM Mounts as an accessory partner is another way Surface is working to speed EFB deployments for our commercial airline customers. In fact, Delta Air Lines selected a RAM Mounts solution for their Surface 2 EFB initiative. We’re excited about the design and durability of these accessories and are confident our customers will value the fact that RAM Mounts for Surface are engineered and manufactured in the United States using marine grade aluminum, high strength composites and stainless steel hardware. With RAM Mounts as a Surface partner, and thanks to their innovative modular mount design, we can quickly help commercial airline customers include the best mounting system for their Surface 2 EFB across virtually any type of commercial aircraft and ensure a smoother transition from traditional, paper-based flight bags.
For more details about aviation and other industries choosing Surface for business, visit surface.com/business.
Cyril BelikoffDirector, Surface
*Correction: When originally published, this blog post misstated the language used regarding the process to seek FAA authorization for Surface 2. We apologize for any confusion caused. While Microsoft has completed the core testing to qualify for FAA authorization, the FAA stipulates that final device approval can only be given to the airline operator following their submission. This blog post has since been amended to reflect that distinction.
Windows-based tablets have a long history in aviation (the Fujitsu Stylistic LT series was very popular in the late 1990s early 2000s), but the low cost of the iPad knocked Windows-based tablets out of the market for the past five years. It will be interesting to see if Surface can knock out the toe-hold the iPad has managed.
Can you clarify what form this "FAA Authoriziation" takes? Is the Surface being approved under a Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) for a particular aircraft, an Electronic Moving Map TSO that can be used for any airplane, or is it just approved under through the airline's Operations Specifications? Is Microsoft making publicly available the Rapid Decompression test data and any EMI/RFI testing data?
While "authorization" of any tablet device isn't that difficult if you're willing to make a modest investment in FAA-required environmental testing (or if a manufacturer releases the test data), mounting devices and power supplies are subject to some very strict (and costly) regulations, even for smaller aircraft. Based on the latest guidance published by the FAA, anyone using a mounting system like the one shown above (I'm actually a big fan of RAM Mounts for aviation use) must have the mount certified under an STC.
PaperlessCockpit.com would love to put a Microsoft Surface Tablet head-to-head against the iPad in our testing labs. Shoot us me an email at email@example.com if you're interested in giving our readers an Electronic Flight Bag show-down.