On July 20, 2007 the FAA issued Advisory Circular AC 91-78 providing Part 91 operators “with information for removal of paper aeronautical charts and other documentation from the cockpit through the use of either portable or installed cockpit displays (electronic flight bags (EFB)).” The AC applies to Part 91 operations including VFR and IFR flight, as well as preflight and post-flight activities. EFBs can now be used in lieu of paper reference material when the information displayed is the functional equivalent of the paper reference material and is current, up-to-date, and valid. The in-flight use of an EFB in lieu of paper reference material is the decision of the aircraft operator and the pilot in command and requires no formal operational approval as long as the AC’s guidelines are followed.
However, the AC also recommends, but does not require, that Part 91 operators maintain a secondary or back-up source of the information in the cockpit. The back-up can be another EFB or paper copies of the charts. Although a second EFB may be cost prohibitive for many Part 91 operators, having back-up paper copies, even if they stay in the flight bag, is easy to do and good insurance. After all, most, if not all, electronic chart programs allow you to print copies of the charts.
The AC also addresses specific considerations that should be taken into account with respect to Class 1 (portable) and Class 2 (attached to a mounting device) EFB’s, as opposed to Class 3 (installed in the aircraft) EFB’s, and provides recommendations for implementation of EFB’s into the cockpit. If you would like more information regarding the AC or the use of EFB’s in the cockpit during Part 91 operations, you can contact the FAA’s Commercial Operations Branch, AFS-820, at (202)267-8212.