NOAA (Mostly) Ends Paper Nautical Chart Production

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The office that creates over a thousand nautical charts turned some heads in aviation when it announced on Oct. 22 that the end will come for paper nautical charts on April 13 and thereafter nautical charts will only be available through various methods of electronic distribution and print on demand. In response to the announcement, Tyson Weihs, co-founder and CEO of ForeFlight, LLC, tweeted, “The future is electronic. NOAA to discontinue paper charts.” And if what is happening to nautical charts is a glimpse into the future of aeronautical charts, that may be true. As recently as September the FAA said there are no plans to stop printing paper charts. That doesn’t mean changes won’t come. Some already have.

The FAA announced the end of direct sales of paper charts on Oct. 1, after which paper charts could only be obtained from authorized sellers. According to AOPA, pilots could obtain paper charts from other sources at lower prices than was offered by the FAA. If nautical charts are the example, then at some date in the future, the government might follow the same path they have outlined for nautical charts — they will simply stop printing traditional paper aeronautical charts. According to the director of NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey, “We know that changing chart formats and availability will be a difficult change for some mariners,” but, he said, the office will continue to offer print on demand charts for users who prefer paper products. The office will also provide other versions for electronic charting systems.