If you have been flying as long as I have, you remember the days we said we couldn’t fly until the paperwork outweighed the airplane. The appearance of laptop computers and those old tablet computers started the move away from paper to electrons, thankfully. But nothing has accelerated the move more than the Apple iPad.
We started our progression ten years ago with a Gulfstream G450 which allowed us to ditch forty pounds of Jepps. We got rid of everything except our flight and maintenance logs about two years ago. Now we got rid of those too. I realize it would be pretty hard to go paperless cold turkey. So I would like to show you how to get rid of only the paper you are ready to ditch.
For those of you who are thinking, wait, you wrote about this in 2019. And 2018. And 2017. Yup, but this is a moving target and you don't have to do all or nothing. This is paperless, ala carte.
Before we get to what paper you can ditch, we need to tackle the question that comes before all others: is that iPad actually legal for use in the cockpit during critical phases of flight?
Then we can consider which items of paper we can replace, such as scheduling, dispatch, crew notification.
You might be wondering if it is possible to get rid of paper aircraft and crew records. Generally speaking the answer is yes, unless you belong to an organization that refuses such a radical change from "how we've always done it."
Most operators are already flight planning using an on line service but not everyone carries this to the next step: paperlessly uploading all needed documents to the airplane and crew iPads. This can be the easiest step to going paperless.
The last thing to consider, all your oceanic duties, is where the steepest learning curve is. Going paperless when oceanic can be as easy as turning everything into a PDF file, but this easy option isn’t actually that easy. While there are lots of options out there, I’ll cover the JeppFD / ForeFlight combination as the entry level that can get you most of the way. Then I will cover our chosen solution, the latest from ARINCDirect that has us completely paperless. Of course you can pick and choose to go paperless on your own schedule.
Operating an iPad and a portable GPS receiver that is independent of the aircraft systems would seem to be the ideal crosscheck of your aircraft avionics. But is it legal? The basic regulation seems to indicate that it is, provided you can determine the device in question "will not cause interference with the navigation or communication system" of your aircraft. But how can you make that determination?
These rules were established in 1961 but were relaxed considerably in 2000 and again in 2006 with the release of Advisory Circular 91-21.1B which gave operators the latitude to allow the use of non-transmitting Personal Electronic Devices (PEDs) and gave some guidance on Transmitting PEDs and Medical PEDs. Operators were also given guidance on how to make these determinations. But no guidance was given for PEDs that receive GPS signals.
The latest version of AC 91.21-D cleared a lot of this up. The basic rule is that if your aircraft was certified with an onboard WiFi system, you are considered "PED Tolerant." Otherwise, you either have to get them tested (very hard to do) or restrict your use to ground taxi operations and cruise flight above 10,000 feet (easy to do).
So for the purpose of oceanic operations and plotting, the iPad and even a portable GPS unit are generally okay. (Operating commercially, you will need OpsSpec/MSpec/LOA A061.) If you are using your iPad (or other Electronic Flight Bag hardware) to view your airfield diagram during taxi, that's okay too. But if you want to use these devices for takeoff and landing, you have more work to do. More about all of this: Portable Electronic Devices.
If you are flying something that was certified relatively recently, you may find the aircraft's PED tolerance explicitly stated. This for the Gulfstream GVII-G500:
Photo: GVII-G500 PED Tolerance, from its Type Data Certification Sheet.
Click photo for a larger image
So if you are flying a GVII-G500, you are good to go. Most aircraft certified more than 5 years ago, such as my trusty Gulfstream G450, will not have this statement. But that doesn't mean you are not PED tolerant, as we shall now see.
[AC 91.21-1D, ¶7.2.1] Aircraft Designed and Certified PED Tolerant. Aircraft manufacturers with access to aircraft electronic system qualifications and aircraft radio receiver antenna installation data can easily demonstrate an aircraft meets the requirements of RTCA DO-307A. Operators may obtain statements of such demonstrations from an aircraft manufacturer to substantiate PED tolerance of the aircraft. Operators can also use the RTCA DO-307A methods in demonstrating PED tolerance of their aircraft. RTCA DO-307A separates demonstration methods for tolerance to intentional transmissions from PEDs versus tolerance to spurious emissions from PEDs.
Aircraft with an FAA-approved system—such as an Onboard Mobile Telecommunications System (OMTS), Wireless Fidelity (WiFi), airborne access systems (AASs), or Network Control Units (NCUs)—are considered PED-tolerant for PEDs used with the installed system. If an aircraft model has demonstrated tolerance for both transmitting and non-transmitting PEDs, the operator may allow PED use during all phases of flight on this aircraft model.
If your aircraft is certified with one of the listed systems (OMTS, WiFi, or AAS), then you are "PED Tolerant" and can use PEDs during all phases of flight. Of course you will have a few precautions to take, like turning the cellular system off by using "Airplane" mode and making sure it is properly stowed for takeoff and landing, but you can use it in the cockpit for all phases of flight.
[AC 91.21-1D, ¶7.2.2] Aircraft Not Designed and Certified PED Tolerant. An operator may choose to conduct a safety risk assessment following the process in RTCA DO-363 if it 1) does not have a designed and certified PED-tolerant aircraft, and 2) chooses not to test its aircraft fleet types according to RTCA DO-307A or obtain supporting documentation from an aircraft manufacturer. The operator’s assessment must evaluate the avionics configuration of its fleet and failure modes of communication, navigation, surveillance, and other electronic systems with respect to electromagnetic interference. This assessment ultimately outlines mitigations and controls the operator needs to adopt to expand PED use into various phases of flight.
There are two phases to the risk assessment, as outlined in InFO 13010 Sup: "Back door" and "front door" assessment. "Back door coupling" refers to intentional radio frequency emissions from transmitting PEDs which can interfere with aircraft systems. Appendix B of InFO 13010 Sup provides instructions on how to determine if an analysis must be performed. Many aircraft have the necessary statement in their Type Certificate Data Sheet (TCDS) that allow them to assume the back door assessment is already completed. The front door assessment is much harder to determine and most operators will not be able to obtain such an assessment on their own.
[AC 91.21-1D, ¶7.2.3] Aircraft Not Demonstrated PED Tolerant. If the operator has not demonstrated PED tolerance for their aircraft, they may allow PED operation during cruise flight. If interference to aircraft systems from PEDs is experienced during cruise flight, the devices causing interference should be isolated, and applicable conditions recorded. The device responsible for the interference should be turned off.
Unless your aircraft is PED tolerant or you have done an RTCA DO-363 risk assessment, this is what you are left with: you can only allow PED use during cruise flight.
[AC 91.21-1D, ¶8.1] Operator Procedures. If an operator allows PEDs aboard its aircraft or the aircraft being operated, procedures should be established to control PED use during aircraft operations. RCTA DO-363 section 7.5 and InFO 13010SUP provide further guidance on what to include in the operator’s policies, procedures, and training programs. In general, the procedures should address:
[AC 91.21-1D, ¶8.2] Passenger Communication. This paragraph outlines methods to inform passengers of permissible times, conditions, and limitations of PED usage. These methods may be accomplished through the departure briefing; passenger information cards; flightcrew, flight attendant (F/A), or prerecorded announcements; or other methods deemed appropriate by the operator. Operators should inform passengers of PED use restrictions, such as prior to departure, after takeoff (at 10,000 feet), prior to landing (at 10,000 feet), and after landing. For air carrier operations conducted under part 121 or 135, the limitations, at a minimum, should state the use of all such devices—except medical electronic devices such as heart pacemakers or portable oxygen concentrators (POC)—is prohibited during phases of operation when they could interfere with communication or navigation equipment onboard the aircraft or the ability of the flightcrew to give instructions in the event of an emergency. Methods of passenger communication may include:
[AC 120-76D, ¶12] A part 91K, 121, 125, or 135 operator must have an EFB program authorized by the FAA in order to use EFB applications on either portable or installed equipment in flight operations. EFB program specifics (i.e., operating procedures, maintenance procedures, administrative procedures, and training modules) must be developed, as applicable, and be available to the FAA. FAA authorization for an EFB program will be granted upon successful evaluation of an applicant’s program operation.
It is up to the operator to determine if you can use that iPad and portable GPS during cruise flight, taxi before takeoff, and taxi after landing. Under 14 CFR 91K, 121, and 135, the operator is the company that controls the operation and have a program "authorized by the FAA" usually with OpSpec/MSpec/LOA A061. Under 14 CFR 91, it is you, the pilot.
Photo: 1st Lt Garrett Sinclair, 79th Rescue Squadron scheduler, USAF photo
Click photo for a larger image
My first three Air Force squadrons had the same scheduling system: a person with a grease pencil wrote the schedule on a large board. We crewmembers were responsible for checking the board and writing our schedules down or simply remembering them.
Problems: the person with the grease pencil sometimes wrote it wrong, we sometimes read it wrong, or we would lose the scrap of paper with our flight information.
The advent of email and text messaging made some of this better. There was less chance of miscommunication and we had a more permanent record, but there was still a chance the person doing the typing could make a mistake.
If you have an automated scheduling system that removes the typist, you could have a paperless solution. Here is ours: Getting a FOS flight brief.
When our dispatcher is satisfied with the trip, she posts it in an Arinc program called Flight Operations Software, or FOS. FOS emails everyone that a new flight brief is ready. It is up to us as crew to bring up FOS on our iPads or phones. Notice that we always have access to a calendar of the flight department’s schedule as well as the airplane and ourselves. After refreshing the data, we see that we have a flight brief. At this point we can either acknowledge by selecting “OK” or send a note back to the dispatcher.
We have access to all aircraft records, company manuals, LOAs, crew records, and much more. Our iPads have international cellular accounts. The only things you must have in paper form:
FOS automates this process for us. Our dispatcher maintains a library of all these documents in the FOS system. We all have access via our iPads and phones. If your system doesn’t have this functionality you can have a central collection point AirDrop, DropBox, or email the documents. This is not a good solution since it requires each crewmember’s discipline to keep everything up to date and it risks having outdated information in the field.
A minimum requirement for going paperless with your flight planning is having the ability to read PDF files on your iPad. The next level up would be to have a PDF flight plan paired with an App such as JeppFD or ForeFlight. The next level up would be to have an "all in one" App that not only produces the PDF flight plan but uplinks it to your airplane and iPad. The ultimate level would be to have that App also handle plotting chores.
We have been on the hunt for that ultimate App. I think we have it with ARINCDirect
The waypoints in your FMS must agree with the master document, be that a piece of paper or a PDF document. You simply read the latitude and longitude entered into the FMS and compare that with latitude and longitude on the master document for each waypoint from oceanic airspace entry to exit.
You can reduce the chance of making a typographic or content error when entering your route of flight into your App by simply copying it from the master document electronically. You simply tap the route until you get the "copy handles" and drag them to encompass the entire route. Here's an example: Copy route from master document.
To paste the route into JeppFD, pull down the flight plan window, tap the route window, select Paste. Enter the departure, arrival, and alternate airports. You might also considering adding the ETP alternates. Selecting "Save" is not necessary but will save you the trouble of repeating the process if you want to enter any other leg segments or flight plans. With JeppFD you will not be given any tabular presentation of the route to check against your FMS, you will have to use the chart. Here's an example of the paste process: Paste route to JeppFD.
To paste the route into ForeFlight, select the FPL window from the top menu, make sure you are in the edit function. Tap the search window on top until it expands, tap it twice more, this should put your pasted route into a list of routes, select that route for inclusion as the flight plan. Since we didn’t copy the departure and destination points, we will have to add them manually by selecting the first point and then telling the program to insert it. You can simply type in the destination directly at the end, but to get it to take, you need to hit the space bar. With ForeFlight you will get a very nice table of the route to check against your FMS, but more on that later. Here's an example of the paste process: Paste route to ForeFlight.
Some Apps will allow you to build the flight plan, download that to your iPad and upload it to your airplane automatically. You still must compare the master document's oceanic waypoints to the FMS. We use ARINCDirect but there are other all in one Apps out there. I call it an “all in one” App because we do our flight planning with it, it has a PDF display of the flight plan we can annotate, and it also directly uploads to our airplane’s FMS. Since it all comes from the same source, there is less chance of a translation error from one system to another, but we are still required to cross check the waypoints in the App against those in the FMS.
Once you’ve confirmed the waypoints loaded in the FMS agree with master document, your SOP should have you log that fact. If you have an oceanic procedures checklist and load that in PDF form, you can check off items electronically. We have ours within our master document. There should be a text tool to allow a free hand check mark or circles, or you can type. In ARINCDirect you access these with the edit icon, and then the text tool. You can drag the tool bar out of the way. If you don’t have a physical keyboard, the iPad will provide a synthetic one. If you have a physical keyboard, activating it will clear the on screen version. Drawing a circle can be done with the shapes tool or by freehand. Here is an example of our process: ARINCDirect oceanic checklist and circle waypoint example.
The requirement was removed from AC 91-70B back in 2017 but the requirement still exists in an FAA Order. Most international rules do not explicitly state the requirement but assume it is being done.
Since the days of cockpit GPS and on screen displays of navigation charts, it seems many pilots are convinced the need to plot has gone away. Rather than argue the pros and cons, I’ll just point to what the regulations say and move on. Note it tells you that you must plot, but not how. I’ll assume everyone knows how to plot on paper, so let’s look at how to plot with electrons. For a primer on plotting: Plotting.
You can, very simply, plot right onto the PDF document just as you did with paper. Let me say up front, I hope to talk you out of this option. It is the cheapest method, but the time it takes and the frustration it will cause makes it a poor second choice to just using paper.
The first step is to download a chart in PDF form. I highly recommend the one from Ops.Group. Some providers will publish daily with applicable tracks added. Then you need to draw the route. Finally you need to measure courses and distances between oceanic waypoints. Here is a demonstration of how to add a route segment using the App GoodReader: Adding a route segment in GoodReader.
If you are using an App like JeppFD or ForeFlight, the hard work is done for you automatically after you cut and paste the route from your flight plan. Most of us in the Gulfstream world are tied to Jeppesen by virtue of our cockpit avionics, so using JeppFD is more or less assumed. You can do everything needed for oceanic plotting with JeppFD, but it isn’t as easy as it could be. With ForeFlight, the task is easier. In fact, until recently, we used JeppFD and ForeFlight together.
The process of measuring course and distance in JeppFD is almost identical to paper, perhaps a little easier. Because JeppFD does not offer a tabular representation of the courses and distances, you are left with an electronic plotter. The process is prone to the same errors of getting the wrong points and misreading the plotter. You have to do this with each oceanic route segment.
Alternatively, you can load each route segment as its own flight plan to determine exact courses and distances, but this is time consuming. We like JeppFD because of the approach charts and robust reference material but we prefer ForeFlight for plotting.
ForeFlight automatically builds a table of your flight plan that is nearly perfect. The only problem is that if you have an Internet connection, it automatically downloads the en route winds. That means it presents headings between waypoints, not courses. There is a workaround.
The table is under the NavLog button. To turn your headings back into courses, you need to take away the winds. You can do this by selecting the ETD button and telling ForeFlight your departure is at least seven days into the future. When you do this, it will throw out the winds and you will have an accurate course and distance to compare to your FMS. Here's a demonstration of this technique: ForeFlight ETD "Hack" to turn headings to courses.
If your flight planning App also produces your flight plan master document and your plotting chart, you can save one step in the course and distance verification process. We simply ensure the course and distance shown in the FMS is confirmed by the App’s flight plan. Within the ARINCDirect plotting application, the latitude, longitude, magnetic course, and distance are presented for cross checking the FMS. As each point is verified, the dashed circle is pressed. Once each oceanic waypoint is verified, a yellow caution sign is removed and the waypoints on the plotting chart are circled. For a demonstration, see: ARINCDirect plotting chart application, confirm waypoints.
Plotting relevant tracks on a PDF chart is fairly time consuming but is done just like when using paper, segment by segment. That means it is subject to the same errors.
With JeppFD pressing the “route” icon gets you the current tracks.
With ForeFlight pressing the ”settings” gear icon and then turning the Airways slider to on gives you a selection of the applicable tracks in your current view.
With ARINCDirect you select the layers icon and the applicable tracks.
Plotting any ETPs on a PDF chart is fairly time consuming but is done just like when using paper. (That means it is subject to the same errors.)
For more about this: Equal Time Points.
Using JeppFD it is still up to you to find the applicable ETPs on the chart but you need to be more precise in naming the point. Most (if not all) FMS use degrees, minutes, and decimal minutes to identify a waypoint. So does JeppFD, but the way you type it in requires a strict nomenclature:
For example, "N37 41.23" is acceptable.
You tap the screen in the general area of the ETP, give is a name, and correct the latitude and longitude. Here is a demonstration: JeppFD ETP Example.
With ForeFlight you also tap the screen in the general area and the program will give you a chance to name the point and correct the longitude and latitude.
Unlike JeppFD or your FMS, ForeFlight uses degrees and decimal degrees. You can change this default by selecting the "More" tab on the bottom, the "Settings" gear icon, scroll down to "Preferences" and then the "Units/Time" arrow. The "Coordinates" selection allows you to change from "dd.dd°" to "DD°MM.mm" which is what the FMS uses. If you do this, simply type in the latitudes in the format "00 00.00" where positive numbers are North and negative are South. With longitudes, positive numbers are East and negative numbers are West. Alternatively you can have ForeFlight convert your inputs if you use a strict entry format:
You cannot use any spaces, decimal points, or any other punctuation. Note that if you examine the latitude and longitude later, they will have been converted to degrees and decimal degrees unless you made the change to Settings.
Here is a demonstration of the ETP entry process: ForeFlight ETP example. Note that I use the conversion format as I find it easier to remember because for some reason the negative West always seems to trip me up.
It looks like the ETP is pointing above the course line, which would be wrong. That thing that looks like an arrow is actually a triangle and the ETP is in the center of the triangle.
All of the ETPs computed in the flight plan are automatically plotted in ARINCDirect’s plotting function, you need only press the ”Plotting Chart” selection on top, the “ETPs” button, and then choose between “Live” and ”Plan” options. Using Plan you see each ETP computed in the original flight plan, using Live you can add airports that were not considered previously.
After you receive your oceanic clearance, you should confirm the waypoints agree with your master document. If they don’t, accomplish your re-route procedures and either adjust your master document or have an amended one sent if you have the capability. For all techniques except the “all in one” method, you then record the oceanic clearance onto the master document and follow your SOP requirements for annotation. Our SOP used to call for a diagonal over each confirmed and circled waypoint, as shown here.
This seems pretty easy, but there is an even easier way. . .
With ARINCDirect’s plotting application, you select OCN CLR and verify the expected clearance has been received.
The easiest way to accomplish a navigation accuracy check is if you have a cross points function on your FMS and a raw data display.
Make note of your aircraft's position by recording the latitude and longitude from the FMS while simultaneously making note of the VOR radial/DME. Create a user waypoint using these coordinates. Press the electronic plotter icon in JeppFD and move the plotter so it is precisely above the VOR. The user waypoint should be on the recorded radial and DME.
Using two fingers (using two hands makes this easier), simultaneously press the applicable VOR and the approximate aircraft position, fine tune the VOR position so it is exact, adjust the other until the radial and DME agree with your raw data, release both fingers. The resulting point should be right on the course line. This will not work, however, if you have been cleared direct off the projected course line. If you have a portable GPS linked to the iPad, you can work around this:
The blue orb is the aircraft position derived from a portable GPS unit. A portable GPS is allowed as a PED. It will display the aircraft's current position on JeppFD, ForeFlight, ARINCDirect, and other plotting Apps. In my opinion it is better than the conventional method of record aircraft position because that means checking aircraft navigation accuracy against itself. A portable GPS gives you another opinion independent of aircraft systems. Recommended systems:
Passing each oceanic waypoint, after you or the data link system makes a position report, you should record the time, fuel, altimeters, and other information required by your SOPs. This can be done using your PDF editor's typing tool or by freehand:
The ARINCDirect keys you to remember these in its plotting App and records everything on the plotting chart and in a archival master document. Here is an example of the information being filled in, the video is at 1,000% speed: ARINCDirect 30W position plot.
We check our position ”about ten minutes” after waypoint passage to ensure we are headed to the correct next waypoint before a possible loss of separation. This checks for the classic “one degree error.” You can use the same procedure as when entering an ETP:
ARINCDirect offers an easier way: ARINCDirect Course Validation Check. (Video at 500% speed.) ARINCDirect calls this the course validation check. In this example, we are about two degrees west of 30° West, heading west. Since we have a portable GPS, we simply wait for approximately 28° West and select “Now” and the plotting App does the rest. Alternatively, without a portable GPS, we can enter the latitude and longitude from the FMS about two degrees or ten minutes after passing the waypoint.
Once the oceanic flight is done, we used to have a ritual of stuffing everything into the largest envelope or folder we got from our last handler, labeling it, and throwing it in the back of a file cabinet.
Your Apps may offer quick ways to archive everything. ARINCDirect, for example, archives everything if you press the disk icon. FOS requires you to "submit all" when you are done. All PDF documents can be copied to a central location. What about any photos and screen grabs you've taken using the iPad?
You can collect all of those photos and screen grabs by selecting the Photos icon, pressing "Select," and selecting everything that you want. Then hit the upload icon (the rectangle with the up arrow) and choose "Books." Your iPad will convert everything selected to a single PDF file you can email to your dispatcher or yourself.
You can convert all your aircraft, trip, crew, and other records to PDF format and simply AirDrop or email everything to everyone who needs it and call it done. The problem with this method is that keeping everyone up-to-date can be a nightmare. You could end up with people operating off different documents. There is an easier way.
The ARINCDirect Flight Operations Software application can keep everything you need in a central location:
Updates made by one person are automatically reflected for all users. Everyone has access to the same information from the computers, iPads, and smart phones. An Internet connection is only needed to make the update.
Trip records can be updated almost immediately. Here is an example from our flight to Paris: FOS Post Flight Log Example, this sped up 500%.
I entered our out, off, on, and in times, I logged our fuel out and in, I logged any expenses we had, I logged the VOR check, and the RVSM altimeter check, I logged all the pertinent pilot hours, approaches, and landings. We didn’t have any maintenance write ups, but if we did, I could have logged those too. In short, it takes the place of the paper logs. In fact, it is better. If we had a maintenance write up in France, for example, our mechanic in Massachusetts would have known just as soon as we hit the “submit” button.
So are we really paperless? We are down to one exception: a note pad. When listening to a clearance from a fast talking controller most of us prefer a pen and paper to scribble as quickly as we can. One of our guys is getting pretty good doing this on ARINCDirect note pad, but we aren't quite there yet. But the only official paper left in our cockpit is the aircraft registration and the airworthiness certificate. We pilots still carry our licenses and medicals. And that ... is that.
Advisory Circular 91.21-1D, Use of Portable Electronic Devices Aboard Aircraft, 10/27/17, Department of Transportation
Advisory Circular 120-76D, Authorization for use of Electronic Flight Bags, 10/27/17, Department of Transportation
Information for Operators (InFO) 13010 Expanding Use of Passenger Portable Electronic Devices (PED), 10/31/13, U.S. Department of Transportation
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