Q&A with Joseph Mann, Developer of the Electronic Flight Bag
XOJET Blog: Joseph, tell us a little bit about you and your role at XOJET.
Joseph: I’m the Manager of Flight Technology at XOJET. I’m based in Sacramento at our Flight Ops center at McClellan Airfield. I’m one of the many behind-the-scenes team members who make our flights safer and our crews more efficient with some cool technology.
XOJET Blog: How did the Electronic Flight Bags come about?
Joseph: I started my career with XOJET four years ago in a traditional information technology (IT) role. After working with Dave Cox (our COO) for a while, I found his leadership exciting and asked to make a move working for him in Flight Operations as a technology liaison. Shortly after taking this role, Dave directed me to develop and deploy a new technology called Electronic Flight Bags—or EFBs, as we call them.
I started work on the EFBs about four years ago. I chose a tablet PC—the LE1700 by Motion Computing, running Windows XP. It’s a big, six-pound unit that’s quite expensive and has a battery life of about two hours. The units worked and served our purposes well. In fact, they allowed XOJET to become one of the most technically advanced fleets in the country.
XOJET Blog: Does XOJET still use these EFBs?
Joseph: We still use EFBs, but not six-pound ones! About 18 months ago, when Apple released the first generation of the iPad, we saw what they had to offer. We quickly started developing a second-generation (or Next Gen) EFB using iPads to replace the aging LE1700s.
We worked closely with Jeppesen, Q-Pulse, APG, and a few other vendors to create this remarkable tool. After nine months of extensive research with our FAA representatives, XOJET replaced the aging, costly and big LE1700s with Apple iPads.
XOJET Blog: How did the iPads change how XOJET uses Electronic Flight Bags?
Joseph: The biggest change was that the EFBs were originally deployed and assigned to the aircraft. We changed direction with the Next Gen EFB, and deployed an iPad 2 to every pilot and several members of the operational staff. Pilots go through a very comprehensive training program, and on the very first day, they receive their iPad2 EFB. They use this tool for the rest of the class and throughout all aspects of their training and eventual deployment. Now iPad 2 EFB training is the first topic of the training class.
XOJET Blog: What are the big benefits of the iPad 2 EFBs?
Joseph: We immediately saw a significant cost reduction. The iPad is smaller, lighter, and almost one-third the retail cost of XOJET’s previous EFB. The simple, clean and efficient operation of the iPad 2 means our crew spends less time learning and fiddling with the technology and more time with our customers and aircraft. Plus the iPad 2 has almost 10 hours of battery life.
We also found that the iPad 2 EFBs allowed us to improve operations in other areas. We’ve reduced the time it takes to maintain our EFBs from multiple hours to just minutes. Crew efficiency has increased due to the many applications available on the iPad, and we’ve even seen overall employee job satisfaction go up with the deployment of the Next Gen EFBs. It has also allowed our Operations Department to achieve a near-perfect paperless cockpit.
XOJET Blog: What do the Electronic Flight Bags replace in the cockpit?
Joseph: Next time you walk through an airport, look for a pilot. More than likely he is carrying a big brown bag. In that bag is about forty pounds of paper charts used to fly the aircraft—thousands and thousands of little charts. Those charts are required to be updated every 14 days, otherwise the pilot or the aircraft are not legal to fly. I found a way to take Jeppesen’s electronic product, computerize it along with all of our company regulatory documentation and replace that big brown bag. As you can imagine, this saves the company some very significant dollars! The iPad 2 is the next generation of our EFBs, and they have been an incredible hit with the pilots.
XOJET Blog: What has this meant to you personally?
Joseph: I’m extremely proud that XOJET is one of the very first private aviation providers to have received operational approval for iPads. I constantly get feedback from crew members who say that their EFB is the only computer they take on the road. They’ve replaced the standard laptop as their road-warrior weapon of choice.
I’m also extremely excited about the future of XOJET’s EFB program. We’re constantly learning and innovating as we develop new ways to use technology to make our flights safer, more efficient, and most of all, more satisfying to our customers.
XOJET Blog: What do you do in your spare time?
Joseph: About four years ago, I picked up a banjo at Burning Man. It has been with me ever since. I play banjo to throw off the stress of the day and sometimes with friend at the local wineries (in exchange for free drinks). I don’t know if you can see it in the picture, but my banjo is signed by Jimmy Vaughn of the Fabulous Thunderbirds after he lost a bet with me one night.
My fiancé and I are also very avid outdoor people. I teach snow caving in the winter (when we have snow). We also own 14 kayaks—my fiancé is known as the Kayak Lady in our small town. Often on Fridays we head straight from work and into the Sierra wilderness. We’re big on minimalist backpacking—no tents, no flashlights, and no extra gear.