ICIS: Integrated Crew Information System
Marcia Shamo, Avionitek
Advanced Aviation Technology Ltd.
(First published April 2000)
Complete, accurate, and timely information is critical
for effective and efficient task performance in the high-risk cockpit
environment. In civil aviation, the list of incidents and accidents in which
incomplete, inaccurate, or delayed information plays a role is too long.
Critical information can be buried in ambiguously organized text. In one
accident, for example, the crew's inability to locate the correct emergency
procedure was determined to be a significant contributing factor to the fatal
outcome. The accident report stated that "the crew apparently believed that the
procedure was in the abnormal section, when it was actually in the emergency
section". Crews need immediate access to the right information; access only
possible with digital, integrated information. Providing integrated information
support in the cockpit is now possible with ICIS - an Integrated Crew
Information System. Essential information can be rapidly and efficiently
provided without burying flight crew in masses of inaccessible paper and
Pilots, airlines, and the aviation industry recognize
that digital, integrated supplementary flight information is a growing
necessity, and the definition of requirements for these integrated information
systems is progressing. These systems, sometimes termed Electronic Flight Bags
(EFB), will offer immediate retrieval of supplemental flight information such
as manuals and checklists. In addition, the EFB will provide functions not
possible with paper such as moving maps, normal and abnormal performance
calculations, near real-time weather, terrain, and other situation displays. In
this role, the EFB becomes the crew's interface for all flight deck tasks
outside those provided by the primary flight displays. As a repository of
information supporting flight crew performance, the EFB has enormous potential
to play a central role in the cockpit, including decision support for effective
Ideally this integrated system will also communicate
with other aircraft systems and servers, and with the ground for updated
information at all times. The final goal is a fully integrated 'paperless'
cockpit - fully digitized and immediately updateable by wireless communications
link. The quality of information in the paperless cockpit can be significantly
enhanced: information can be integrated, immediately accessible, and filtered
so that only relevant data is presented.
The potential efficiency and cost-benefits of the
paperless cockpit concept are important to all segments of the commercial
aviation industry. Pilots can shed their cumbersome flight bags and no longer
have to spend hours updating manuals, the airline's manual maintenance and
updating process can be considerably streamlined. Each flight can be made safer
and more efficient by accurate, integrated, and complete supplementary flight
information that is immediately available to each pilot via their own personal
display unit, to support the performance of individual and team tasks.
2. The Way Ahead
The continuing challenge for avionics manufacturers is
to develop systems that have both usability and flexibility - on an open
platform of commercial software and hardware - coupled with the high integrity
and robustness of cockpit avionics necessary for information accuracy.
Developing a complete and integrated information system having ground support,
data transfer, and on-board components will lead to a quantum leap in
efficiency and safety, both in the air and on the ground. The flight crew will
then have the complete, accurate, and timely information they need to carry out
3. Integrated Crew Information System - ICIS
This article describes a system that meets the
requirements for a digital supplemental flight information system. This system
is ICIS - Integrated Crew Information System. The ICIS includes an on-board
segment, an air-ground link, and a ground segment for a complete system.
The ICIS on-board is a powerful PC-based platform with
the flexibility to simultaneously support multiple cockpit applications. The
on-board ICIS Crew Units (ICUs) provide a single source for all the
supplementary and situation information the crew needs for safe and efficient
flight, such as checklists and manuals, moving maps and charts, take-off and
landing speeds calculations, EGPWS, and more. This soon-to-be FAA-certified
system ensures software and hardware integrity and information accuracy
wherever necessary, while built-in protection allows the simultaneous display
of other non-safety critical applications.
The air-ground link segment will use various
communication channels (ACARS, VHF datalink, SATCOM, Gate-link) to enable the
efficient transfer of digital information between the aircraft and the
The ground segment of the ICIS provides a safe and
efficient means for maintaining and updating the information, and for
distribution to the aircraft.
4. ICIS On-board
The ICIS on-board consists of integrated personal
display devices, one for each crew member, that communicates via a dedicated
Ethernet LAN (ELAN). The on-board units are powerful hardware devices that use
PC technologies and comply with stringent avionics standards. These units
include a Pentium processor, large disk and memory capacities, and a large,
high-resolution, sunlight-readable color display. The on-board ICIS units
comply with the environmental requirements of RTCA/DO-160D, as defined for
For cockpit safety applications the units run
Avionitek's proprietary ICIS Operating System (IOS). The on-board ICIS units
can also run standard PC software using the Windows 95, 98, or NT operating
systems, enabling commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) software to be used for rapid
development of non-essential cockpit applications.
The capability to run two different operating systems
simultaneously is a unique and powerful capability of the on-board unit that
will enable the implementation of COTS applications for non-critical tasks and
IOS for safety-critical tasks.
The ICIS was designed for the pilots' ease of use.
Interacting with the unit requires no more than pushing buttons, and no need
for dexterity with mouse or stylus. Display screens are customized to ensure
similarity with the airline's information formats, so training time is
There are many functions that may be supported by
ICIS, ranging in complexity from a simple 'page viewer' to flight planning and
communication as well as checklist, performance and take-off calculations.
Typical functions include:
- Electronic libraries of flight manuals
- Procedures (Normal, abnormal, emergency)
- Flight Information (Flight planning, Performance,
Minimum Equipment List, Weight & Balance calculations)
- Situation displays (weather, terrain and obstacles,
moving maps, traffic, aircraft system status)
Details for some of the major functions include:
5.1 Integrated Electronic Library System
The Electronic Library System contains all the cockpit
manuals, checklists and procedures available today in paper format. The
information in the ICIS is highly integrated and inter-linked to various
subject-related data items. Information available in the ICIS can be easily
accessed by means of three retrieval mechanisms: table of contents, index, and
The Normal Checklist application includes all normal
checklist procedures in electronic format. User features such as checkmarks,
shortcut keys, expanded information, skip, etc., are implemented to improve the
safety and efficiency of the normal checklist. In addition to the normal
checklist features, the Non-normal Checklist application includes automatic
logic as an aid in the efficient and safe execution of complicated
5.3 EGPWS Display
The EGPWS application provides visual display
capabilities for the aircraft's EGPWS system, and supports the top priority of
the EGPWS's 'pop-up' warning display. Manual range selection is an additional
feature of this application.
The Weather Application provides the crew with all
weather information required during flight. Real-time weather will be updated
at regular intervals and filtered to present only weather information relevant
to a specific aircraft along its flight route. The weather viewer enables the
crew to zoom in and retrieve almost any information offered by the weather
information provider. Agreements are currently in progress with leading weather
Performance information (V speeds, Weight limitations,
Engine power) is based on the manufacturer's graphs. ICIS performance
calculations are comprehensive and include all limitations and restrictions
according to individual airline policy.
5.6 Moving Map Display
The ICU can present maps and charts provided by third
parties. Maps and charts will be synchronized with the aircraft position and
flight phase. The Maps & Charts application is much more than a regular
viewer. Once the maps and charts are available on-board in electronic format
they are integrated with all navigation-related applications.
This application enables access to several
communication channel available on-board: ACARS, other VHF Datalink, SATCOM,
gate-link etc. In-flight information, such as weather parameters, NOTAMS etc.
are directed automatically to the relevant built-in application. Messages to
the crew are stored in the "Mail Box" and are displayed upon request. The
Communication application can easily emulate the ACARS CDU available in the
cockpit. The ICU, as a replacement of the CDU, has a larger and better display,
more computation capabilities and in addition the ICUs are more optimally
located for each crewmember. The CDU emulation by ICIS can provide improved
dialog forms and additional enhanced functions.
6. Proof of Concept
ICIS has been subject to several evaluations to
demonstrate the operational benefits that can be gained. In particular, ICIS
was successfully examined by more than 250 line pilots at a major US airline in
a broad-scale evaluation that included the use of ICIS in the simulator during
normal and abnormal flight scenarios. The evaluation results showed that the
ICIS significantly reduces crew workload, increases situation awareness, and
improves flight safety. In addition to crew and flight safety benefits, ICIS
improves efficiency and reduces the operational expenses of the airline by:
- Reducing documentation update and distribution
- Reducing printing costs
- Optimizing take-off power settings
- Enabling retrofit of classic aircraft
- Reducing aircraft down time
- Reducing required training time etc.
8. Aircraft to Ground Link
Digital information can be transferred between the
aircraft and the ground via different communication channels:
- ACARS - as exists on many aircraft but is strictly
limited in its throughput.
- High Speed VHF Datalink.
- SATCOM - that will be more common in the future and
will enter the World Wide Web communication network to the aircraft.
- Gate Communication - for high throughput, low cost
communication limited to the gate or airport area but suitable for large
amounts of data updates.
As a result of the on-board high-speed Ethernet
interconnections, all information, regardless of its received channel, can be
shared and integrated into various on-board applications.
9. Ground Segment Overview
Information in the ICIS can be divided into two
a) Fleet Information consisting of all flight deck
information applicable to the fleet, such as operation manuals, checklists
(normal, abnormal and emergency procedures), area, approach and enroute charts,
airport charts, maps etc.
b) Flight Information applicable to a specific flight
such as weather information, NOTAMS, cabin information, and reports generated
during the flight.
The ICIS ground segment provides the means required to
prepare, manage, control and distribute the operator-modifiable on-board
digital Fleet Information. The ICIS ground segment consists of the following
- IMTS - Information Management Tool Suite, providing
the tools required for updating all on-board fleet information.
- IDS - Information Distribution System that
distributes in-flight data received from the aircraft (via SITA, ARINC or other
service providers) to the different airline users throughout the airline
network system and visa versa.
10. Managing Flight Deck Information: IMTS
Avionitek's IMTS is a set of integrated tools that
enable the airline to create, update and manage the information used by the
on-board ICUs. All the Fleet Information (text, diagrams, charts, checklists,
maps etc.) and data dedicated to a specific tail number are organized in the
Fleet Database, which resides in the IMTS.
Similar to current manual updating processes, Subject
Experts are responsible for the verification of the content and for the
implementation of the subject-related hyperlinks. The information update
process follows the existing process used for paper manual updates, with tools
for the implementation of hyperlinks, revision change, and configuration
management. The IMTS generates Revision Change Reports, which lists all changes
since the previously released database.
The IMTS provides a structured environment for the
controlled modification of operator-modifiable information. IMTS processes
ensure that all modifications are carried out in accordance with regulatory
requirements and guidelines for operator-modifiable fleet information and the
modification of electronic checklists.
Avionitek's IMTS will enable the airline to treat the
fleet's information as a single database. This database can be loaded to the
on-board units, be published in different formats such as CD-ROM, Internet, or
be published in paper format like the existing manuals. The ICIS ground segment
will merge with the airline's existing infrastructure to aid in the seamless
change from a paper-based to a digital-based information system.
ICIS is a fully integrated digital information and
decision support system that can significantly improve the safety and
efficiency of cockpit operations. New functionality brings improvements simply
not achievable with burdensome paper systems. The modular construction of ICIS
also means that its benefits are not just limited to the cockpit but can extend
through out the airline's entire operation if desired. ICIS can bring
widespread direct and secondary benefits to all aspects of airline and aircraft