Mike Schulter is a career aviation professional, having flown aircraft such as the F-16 and B-737 for more than 10,000 total flight hours. Schulter leads a talent-filled pool of professionals committed to customer service and innovation in aviation. His company, PIVOT, produces portable, protective EFB cases and mounting solutions. Designed from a pilot’s perspective, PIVOT products enhance EFB function and user experience, while increasing device protection and flexibility when selecting devices. The PIVOT universal mounting system provides EFB operators with the only futureproof solution on the market, providing protection from the ever-changing selection of EFB devices. He is devoted to the needs of pilots and EFB programs and oversees the expansion to marine, rail, and other mass transit solutions in need of PIVOT functionality. Schulter is a dedicated family man and enjoys golf and offshore fishing when the opportunity presents.
Aerospace Tech Review: Give our readers some background about PIVOT and all of the products you offer. You’re a commercial airline pilot — why is that an important factor in the development of your products?
Mike Schulter: PIVOT equips airlines and military operations with a unique EFB mount and case system, making EFB integration simple while providing unequaled cockpit utility. Flight deck integration includes a large selection of both temporary and permanently installed mount systems. This range allows flight groups to deploy EFB programs instantly and at low cost using temporary mounts such as suction cups or our aircraft specific Long-Term Removable Mounts™ (LTRM™), while planning for installed options from our growing list of STC partners. PIVOT protects EFB devices with robust cases for the most popular EFB tablets, each providing secure and reliable connection to flight deck mounts using our patented and standardized mounting system. PIVOT products provide better connection between EFB and aircraft, and between pilot and data, while protecting valuable EFB assets both in and out of the aircraft. In fact, our mantra is: Better Connection. Better Protection.
As a commercial airline pilot, I witnessed the aviation industry’s initial transition from paper to electronic EFB solutions. From my seat on the flight deck, I was able to see the shortcomings of the EFB integration solutions of the time, which were very limited. I also received more than my fair share of anecdotal observations, none too positive, vocalized openly by the community of early EFB adopters. Pilots are never short on suggestions for how things can be done better. And my peers weren’t wrong. There was a better way to integrate EFB into our daily routine. As an EFB user, I was able to identify some key areas of opportunity for improvement. After some brainstorming with the R&D team and a handful of prototypes, we developed the PIVOT case and mount concept, meant to overcome the obstacles I had observed out in the field. We were prepared to address the problems in the industry with some unique perspective and new ideas that became the PIVOT product family. Designed from a pilot’s perspective, PIVOT products enhance EFB function and user experience, while increasing device protection and flexibility.
ATR: You work with clients from all sectors of aviation — including the military. Is that correct?
Schulter: We help solve EFB integration challenges around the world for commercial, private, and military flight groups. No context of use is ever the same and each has different variables in the equation to be solved. Our work with military flight groups is typically set to some very specific conditions of use and EFB application, including all types of aircraft from fighters to cargo and refueling tankers. Commercial and private carriers offer their own list of exacting standards to be met whether in the flight deck, cabin, or underwing environments.
ATR: Talk about your work with the military and with commercial aviation. How do those two groups differ?
Schulter: Deployment schedules and mission parameters make for some unique deliverables with our military collaborations. For example, we might need to consider ejection conditions, night vision applications, or even tactile feedback solutions for those operating touch screens in low-visibility conditions or where the user may be wearing a thick glove. In commercial contexts, PIVOT EFB cases and mounts still meet and exceed demanding physical performance requirements, but also need to be customer-facing and aesthetically considered as such. We do our best to marry form and function in all PIVOT products and are proud to offer exceptional options for customization and customer-branded cases.
ATR: Talk about what makes PIVOT’s products stand out from others on the market.
Schulter: PIVOT equips airline and military operations with the only truly standardized EFB mount and case system, providing unequaled cockpit utility for EFB, but also offering complete flexibility with EFB devices. Changing device type, manufacture or form factors is not a concern for PIVOT users. Every device protected in a PIVOT case featuring the patented PIVOT mounting system will connect safely and securely to every PIVOT mounting system, regardless of age or aircraft. PIVOT customers can futureproof their EFB program, making device transitions seamless and deployment of new or mixed EFB device types quick and easy. Our products stand out from all other solutions because PIVOT is EFB made simple.
ATR: Explain the complexities of the two main components, the case and the mount, and how they are interconnected.
Schulter: PIVOT cases feature the standardized mounting channel and retention clip assembly, which interfaces with the mounts. Each mount includes the PIVOT mounting plate. Users simply align the case’s mounting channel with the mounting plate and guide them together until hearing an audible “Click!”, signaling the connection is complete and secure. The cases and mounts are manufactured with precision to ensure the experience of connecting the two is consistent and reliable every time. The PIVOT system is designed to be operated with only one hand for installation onto mount, and removal. With only a few minutes of practice, many users can blindly connect and release their cases, both for convenience and for safety.
ATR: Talk about your cases — you say they are ruggedized and durable. What makes them so? Any examples of how rugged they are?
Schulter: We’ve tested our cases in lab environments to exceed the most exacting performance standards for both in-flight and hand-carried, in-transit contexts. This includes vibration testing, 20 g shocks, sustained load applications and drop testing to MIL-STD 810G. Anecdotally, we regularly receive customer testimonials describing how their PIVOT case protected a device from a 12-foot fall off the jet bridge. Or how after leaving an EFB on the roof of a car, one pilot successfully retrieved his device unscathed from the side of the highway after it eventually blew off at speed and they were signaled by a fellow driver as to what had happened. Just for fun one day in the lab, we repeatedly dropped a ball-peen hammer from four feet onto our cases and covers in hopes of breaking an iPad. We were unsuccessful!
ATR: Talk about the ”Click-Connect” device you incorporate with the mount. What makes it unique?
Schulter: Our PIVOT cases and mounts interface unshakably using our “click-connect” system. This describes the audible “Click!” users receive as confirmation their case and device have been securely connected to the mount. This system is unique in that from the very beginning we knew it must be operated with only one hand, and blindly operated if necessary. With one hand and one simple motion, users connect their EFB devices to the mount. Even more easily, users can blindly detach the PIVOT case from the mount by releasing the clip and sliding the case off the mount. The “click-connect” system is there to increase ease of use, utility and safety on the flight deck, or wherever PIVOT is being used.
ATR: Why are your mounts different/better than cradles?
Schulter: Cradles for EFB devices are often bulky, inconvenient to use and do not allow for the deployment of multiple device generations, types, form factors, or devices from different manufacturers. Most cradles fit only the device itself and do not offer any protection for valuable EFB assets. PIVOT mounts and cases are standardized for futureproof compatibility and ultimate device flexibility. They provide superior device protection both inside and outside of the flight deck and keep EFB devices in service for years on end.
ATR: The PIVOT design joins the case and mount together with a patented universal ”Click-Connect” system. Why is this important to understand?
Schulter: The connection between the device and the mount is integrated into the case itself. This results in lower-profile, lighter-weight mounts, that don’t use bulky cradles or other mechanisms to hold devices. As well as form-fitting cases for each device type, which do not compromise device accessibility or protection. Again, it’s all part of the PIVOT mantra: Better Connection. Better Protection.
ATR: Talk about the difference between portable mounts and those installed with an STC. Is there still a need for portable mounts? Haven’t most commercial operators moved to installed?
Schulter: While many commercial carriers now have permanently installed mounts on the flight deck with full PIVOT connectivity, there is still a large demand for the portable mounts we offer. Installed STC mounts take time. The portable mounting solutions are the fastest way to get flying and make EFB deployment as simple as possible. They are the interim solution most EFB operations start with when evaluating the PIVOT product ecosystem, fitting to new or old aircraft, or testing new mount locations for cabin service crew or under-wing ops.
ATR: You all say your solutions are scalable. What do you mean by that and how can that help operators?
Schulter: PIVOT EFB solutions are scalable on several levels. First is the range of mounting solutions we discussed, ranging from low-cost, immediately deployable suction-cup mounts to the mid-tier Long-Term Removable Mounts™ (LTRM™), which is custom fit to each aircraft type, and then the installed STC mount. Carriers can operate with all three tiers of mounting options in their fleet and their EFB devices, protected in PIVOT cases, will connect identically to every mount. Secondly, is the scalable flexibility provided by the PIVOT EFB cases. Because of the standardized mounting connection features, EFB operations can deploy any combination of device type simultaneously. This means new deployment rollouts, upgrades or mixed-device deployments can be scaled to meet the operator’s schedule, budget, and other specific needs.
ATR: What are some of the biggest challenges when installing mounts with STCs? How can you help clients with those challenges?
Schulter: Every aircraft installation is unique. We partner with both aircraft manufacturers and top-tier STC mount providers to supply our global customers with solutions, which are designed to perform optimally in each unique context. Space on the flight deck is often a chief concern, along with ergonomic and safety considerations. Our development teams use the latest engineering software and field technologies such as 3D-scanning to virtually design optimized EFB solutions in collaboration with customers and STC suppliers.
ATR: Talk about how PIVOT cases and mounts help ease pilot workload.
Schulter: The complexity of today’s flight operations makes it imperative every member of the team is “in the huddle”, engaged and ready to operate craft and crew safely, effectively, and correctly from start to finish. PIVOT is designed to connect pilot and crew to critical data, to be effective in briefings and sharing information face to face. PIVOT EFB systems are easily tilted, adjusted, or simply removed the from the mount to visually exchange critical information clearly and efficiently. Studies demonstrate that retention of information is six times greater when it is presented by visual and oral means compared to when the presentation is done by the spoken word alone — PIVOT makes this effective collaboration possible.
ATR: What if something does break? Talk about PIVOT’s customer service and support.
Schulter: EFB devices protected in PIVOT cases boast a reported break-rate of less than 1% over the last decade. Many end their service life in grade-A condition at the end of the lease term or transition to resale market. In the event a PIVOT component fails or is damaged, we have full-time staff available for support. They can help to troubleshoot challenges, replace broken parts from our large, in-stock inventory, and offer other assistance as needed. We do recommend most EFB operations keep a small reserve of spares to deploy to pilots in the event of a break or misplaced EFB.
ATR: You also have products for general aviation operators and recently introduced the PIVOT T21A for the iPad Mini (6th gen.). What makes that product stand out?
Schulter: The iPad Mini (6th gen.) is truly an amazing device in a small form-factor that is the perfect fit for general aviation and smaller spaces. The PIVOT T21A, our latest generation case for the iPad Mini (6th gen.), incorporates the robust protection and flexible utility our cases are known for. What’s truly unique about the T21A model case is the new dual-shell design. The case is comprised of an inner and outer shell, which are reversible for configuring the case for use, or maximum protection when in transit. It also allows the user to shield the device from direct sunlight when needed to prevent excess heat buildup.
ATR: For any interested operators, how should they go about learning more and contact PIVOT for information about your products and services?
Schulter: General information is available on our PIVOT and FlyBoys branded websites: pivotcase.com and flyboys.com. For specific inquiries, we recommend contacting us directly by using any of the contact means listed on the websites.
ATR: What is the most unique aircraft your product flies in?
Schulter: It is difficult to choose a winner for “most unique aircraft” as PIVOT products are deployed across the globe in all manner of interesting flight scenarios. As a former F-16 pilot, I’ll always have a bias leaning towards some of our fighter craft deployments. But we have projects in the works now for all sectors that are vying for the top slot as “most unique.” Check back with me on that one.
ATR: Can you share any anecdotes of ways PIVOT’s cases and mounts have helped pilots or saved the day in an unusual situation?
Schulter: When one of our largest commercial airline customers made the switch from Windows-OS to iOS, the flexibility of their PIVOT EFB systems saved more than just the day — it saved time and money. With their standardized PIVOT mounts already in place from the previous Windows-OS EFB deployment, the customer was free to roll out the new iOS devices to their pilot groups in phases, on their timeline, and with no cost or downtime to switch aircraft mounts. They were able to make the transition seamless and efficiently, on their terms.
ATR: Please share any other key info our readers should know about.
Schulter: PIVOT will be at the upcoming Aerospace Tech Week Americas event in Atlanta, USA, November 14-15, in booth E2. Please come visit us at ATW to learn more. There are many choices to make related to developing and managing an effective EFB program. We’re honored to have become the standard in EFB for many flight operations worldwide and jump at opportunities to help EFB administrators solve unique challenges. Please get in touch to learn more about how PIVOT can get your EFB program flying today. PIVOT truly is EFB made simple.