The reporter expressed a safety concern regarding the provision of only one electronic flight bag (EFB) per aircraft to the Being 737 fleet.
The reporter stated that when the EFB becomes unserviceable, the procedure requires the flight crew to contact the Duty Dispatch Manager and the dispatcher would calculate and provide the take-off data. The captain is required to verbally inform the dispatcher of the relevant environmental conditions, runway, aircraft weight and configuration from the provisional loadsheet and the dispatcher would input this data into the EFB and then they would verbally inform the captain what the EFB had calculated.
The reporter has stated that there is no way for the crew to verify the accuracy of the data inputted to the EFB by the dispatch officer or to verify the take-off data given to them, as the take-off data tables have been removed from the Performance and Limitations Manual in the aircraft.
The reporter also stated that, within the operator's system, there is no clearly defined area which is responsible for the serviceability and maintenance of EFBs. There is no means for tech crews or engineers to record faults and maintenance actions taken in response to these faults. The present system utilising an ACARS message is not transparent as crews cannot confirm the receipt of the message and the actions taken to rectify the problem.
There is no clearly defined area responsible for ensuring that the EFBs on board the aircraft are charged and serviceable for daily operation (CAO 82.0 Par. 4 - EFB administrator). This is demonstrated by the number of EFBs which won't charge, won't synchronise or upload the latest performance data package and EFBs which have error messages for problems that don't exist.
The reporter stated that they consider that the procedure represents both a critical safety failure and also fails to meet the regulatory requirements as prescribed in CAO 82.0. Specifically: CAO 82.0 Appendix 9 par 11 (e) - EFB data cross check; CAO 82.0 Appendix 9 par 3.6 - back up EFB or paper data.
Operator's response (Operator 1)
The report is incorrect in regard to whether there is a defined person responsible for the serviceability of EFBs. The EFB Coordinator, who reports to the Technical Pilot Technology Development, is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the EFBs. The Flight Crew are responsible for charging the device, as described in the operations manual. This is not an installed component of the aircraft and is therefore not an engineering function.
We recommend that the writer review the EFB Failure procedure in the operations manual as it defines what needs to occur in the transaction between the dispatcher and the pilot. While verbal delivery is the least preferred method, a readback is required and Flight Crew must verify input parameters, software revision status and the Vref check. This is clearly stated in the documentation. No crosscheck was ever required using paper, since performance data from the EFB is quite different to the conventional presentation found in the manuals which have since been retired. The synchronisation problems have never resulted in incorrect data being presented to Flight Crew and we continue to work with our IT group to improve the reliability, though we are about to transition to performance on the iPad and the laptops will be retired.
Finally, the EFBs were approved under a separate approval before CAO 82.0 was updated. The crosscheck required is detailed in the operation manual and revolves around (as stated) the readback and Vref comparison. The backup provisions described in the revised CAO refers to CAR 233 1 (h) requirements in relation to aeronautical charting.
Regulator's response (Regulator 1)
CASA has reviewed the REPCON and suggests that the reporter may not have been aware that the operator was trialling electronic flight bags (EFB) under very controlled conditions and has only recently submitted a request for approval to carry EFB's within their fleet.
CASA has reviewed the operator's submission together with the applicable procedures and is satisfied with the operator's response.