Danger in Having a Paperless Flight Deck


Paperless Flight Deck

Paperless flight decks are becoming increasingly popular with aircraft designers, manufacturers and operators, however change often brings a sense of panic and many professionals are voicing their concerns regarding the elimination of paper on the flight deck.

Is There a Danger?

Nomura & Hutchins (2006) state commercial aviation currently sits at a crossroads on the subject of removing paper from the flight deck. They not that emerging computer-based technologies have the capability to provide crews with additional support. They advise the evolving flight deck should not just rely on systems like the electronic flight bag (EFB), but through the understanding of pilots current relationship with paper, a mixture of electronic support and paper guidance, should be used. Nomura & Hutchins (2006) believe a pilot's social interaction with paper information provides an establishment of identity, safety through cross-referencing, message confirmation, crew co-cordination. and information affordance. Pilots often personalise their paperwork to draw attention to specific information; they make notes when information is presented and manipulate their paperwork to set it out in an order where they can quickly reference precise information.

Flight safety (2005) published an article emphasizing the advantages of a paperless flight deck and promoting the use of the electronic flight bag. Some of the advantages listed included reduced operationg and maintenance costs, reduction in human errors due to error finding software, optimized performance through EFB calculations, increased safety during ground movements through the use of the moving map feature, communication improvements, and of course reduced paper on the flight deck.

Chandra & Kendra (2009) carried out a review of safety reports involving EFB's to show if there was any safety impacts present as the technology becomes more readily available. The most common issues encountered were errors in display information and incorrect calculations (incorrect data entered by experienced crew).

Chandra & Yeh (2003) highlight the negative effects EFB's could present if not implemented correctly in a hope to show designers and evaluators the importance of understanding how the device will function and be used by crews. Educating the creators will hopefully allow a more effiecient and user-friendly system to evolve. Several subject areas that the EFB may enhance, affect or dramatically change were reviewed. They included workload, compatibility with existing systems, flight deck environment, legibility, physical considerations, failure modes and use during emergencies. Evaluation questions were then posed for each topic, these questions were designed to make you question if current standards met with expectations. Problem areas for each topic were highlighted and solutions suggested in how to improve the design.

As flight deck technology continues to evolve it is inevitable that operating a paperless flight deck will become the norm and the goal will be to strengthen the interface between pilot and computer in order to minimize error. However, greater understanding at the design phase will ensure a smoother transition for flight crew and hopefully further enhance the system.


Chandra, D. C. & Kendra, A (2009). Review of Safety Reports Involving Electronic Flight Bags. Submitted to the 15th International Symposium on Aviation Psychology. Retrieved from http://www.volpe.dot.gov/coi/hfrsa/docs/efbisap.pdf on 27 July 2012.

Chandra, D. C. & Yeh, M (2003). Human Factors Considerations in the Design and Evaluation of Electronic Flight Bags (EFBs). Version 2. Document DOT/FAA/AR-03/67. Retrieved from http://ntl.bts.gov/lib/34000/34200/34292/DOT-VNTSC-FAA-03-07.pdf. on 01 August 2012.

Flight Safety Foundation. 'Paperless Flight Deck' promises advances in safety, efficiency. Avionics News. September 2005 30-37. Retrieved from:http://flightsafety.org/fsd/fsd_june05.pdf on 27 July 2012.

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