New electronic flight bag brings the paperless cockpit to GA

How would you like to have the exact same Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) in your Mooney or Cessna that’s installed in the heavy iron? You can, with NavAero’s t-BagC22.

The new EFB gives GA pilots a paperless cockpit, bringing today’s sophisticated technology to the masses. Besides flight planning and weight and balance, the EFB can be configured to bring real-time weather, altitude awareness, moving map and more to the GA cockpit.

“There’s a lot of interest today in going to glass cockpits,” notes Ken Crowhurst, executive vice president. “People want to bring leading edge technology to the cockpit. That’s all well and good if you have a lot of money. If you spend money on a higher-end system, you’re looking at $8,000 to $10,000. We can provide an FAA-approved piece of hardware at half that price.”

The EFB, which sells for around $5,500, features a specially designed display that can be seen in all flight conditions, from bright sunlight to a moonless night. That display was NavAero’s first product. “In early 2003, our company founder, Stefan Ridderheim, had a crazy idea to use a laptop computer to run a wide range of applications for GA pilots,” Crowhurst said. “The problem was that the display couldn’t be seen in the cockpit, so he thought ‘why not build an external display that is sunlight readable that can be plugged into a laptop?'”

It was a novel idea that many of Ridderheim’s pilot friends liked. That year, the fledgling company built 60 systems and took them to Oshkosh, the “world’s largest focus group,” according to Crowhurst. “The market reaction was beyond belief,” he said. “We sold out in the first four days of the show.”

Beyond that, many visitors to NavAero’s booth said what was really needed was a computer specifically made for airplanes. “We thought that the hard part was behind us – the display,” he said. “Building a computer is not rocket science, but we realized it would take ingenuity to meet all the regulations.”

The EFB is designed for all sectors of aviation, from commercial airlines to the C172. While the key focus is GA, sales to airlines gives the product credibility, according to Crowhurst.

“We thought people might be apprehensive about buying a product from a company they never heard of,” he said. “You can’t buy a reputation, but you can earn one. What better way to promote yourself than as a supplier to companies that have an outstanding reputation?”

A key factor in the company’s promotion, as well, is affordability. “Keeping it affordable is our business philosophy,” he said. “We’d rather sell 10,000 systems at $5,500 than 5,000 systems at $10,000.”

NavAero also leaves the bells and whistles to pilots, who can add weather, choose which company to get charts from and even add engine performance monitoring software. Weather is the driving force behind sales, noted Crowhurst. “Lots of pilots are enamored with real time weather,” he said. “It helps them miss thunderstorms and have a safer flight.”

Installation of the EFB takes between 11 and 15 hours. If you’re flying an experimental, you can install it yourself. If you’re flying a certificated aircraft, you need to go to your local avionics shop. The unit has extra ports to plug your GPS into it, as well as a built-in battery power pack. If your airplane loses power, the EFB will run for at least 45 minutes on battery power.

The FAA also wants to ensure that pilots have a back up. There are several options, according to Crowhurst. One, used by commercial operators, is to install two EFB systems. The other is to carry your laptop as a backup or you can print out the charts you’ll need and bring them along on the plane.

NavAero’s development team is working on new products for aviation.

“Our focus from Day 1 has been aviation,” Crowhurst said. “That’s our love. We want to do one thing and do it extremely well.”

For more information: 866-628-2376.

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