Finnair Pilots Stay in the Air with Purpose-Built Enterprise Tablets
In aviation, every pound counts. As a result, airlines now use electronic flight bags, or EFBs, to replace all-in-one user manuals for their aircraft. EFBs contain important and confidential information, including airport navigation information, technical manuals, data and reports, which could take up to 10,000 pages and 35 pounds (or more) in physical form.
Finnair, one of the safest airlines in the world, recently decided to update their in-cockpit computers and replace them with tablets. Their initial deployment plan targeted placing 150 tablets across their global fleet.
Finnair started with a review field of 20 different Windows 8 tablets. Using a test group of pilots and cabin crew providing real-world feedback, they began to narrow the field based on a number of criteria including:
- Display: “Lighting conditions in the cockpit vary a lot,” said Timo Seppala, Finnair technical pilot. There could be direct sunlight from the window, so a sufficiently bright display is required. On the other hand, during dark hours the displays and instruments are dimmed to very low levels to allow maximum outside visibility.”
- Durability: “Cockpit use requires higher levels of usability and durability,” said Seppala. A durable aircraft computer is one worth investing in, and pays dividends when it comes to replacement costs and downtime.
Support: Aviation requirements can differ significantly from other mobility applications, and mobile solutions must satisfy industry tests and undergo customization in order to fit specific airlines’ needs. Ideally, a mobile solution would be one already used in airlines, and/or with a partner who could customize the deployment to fit Finnair’s needs.
After comprehensive review, Finnair selected the Toughpad FZ-G1 as its tablet of choice, satisfying their needs in all key areas.
“The Toughpad has a very wide brightness range, and Panasonic also created a custom firmware for us, giving greater range in lower brightness displays,” said Seppala. This allowed us to match the brightness of the displays of the Toughpad devices with our other cockpit displays.”
As for durability, the Toughpad FZ-G1 far outperformed the other tablets that Finnair considered, which are more intended for consumer or light office use.
The increased reliability of their Panasonic Toughpad EFB solution provides Finnair staff with access to their critical applications and information for a greater period of time, boosting productivity and enabling Finnair to improve operational performance. Finnair uses their devices for performance calculation apps, to view and update aircraft technical logs, and for manuals and service instructions for the entire crew.
Finally, Finnair’s Toughpad deployment was supported by Kaukomarkkinat, a Finnish reseller, who helped to make the transition seamless.
“Kaukomarkkinat was an excellent representative for Panasonic, and helped us a great deal with the customization we required,” said Seppala. “In addition to the display, the charging current of the devices was adjusted for our needs. From the outset, Kaukomarkkinat and Panasonic understood the special characteristics of our operation. They were well-informed on aviation requirements, since other airlines are also using Toughpad tablets and Toughbook laptops. For example, Panasonic had already carried out many of the tests required by aviation authorities, which saved time.”
Finnair plans to use the Toughpad FZ-G1’s data connection to expand its uses in the future, and will examine leveraging it for updating passenger data, weather radar images and other flight-related information to keep its cockpit and cabin crews informed.