User Fees: AeroNav's Missed Opportunity

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The mere mention of aviation user fees sends some of us into apoplectic fits, as well it should. Flying an airplane, much less owning one, has become an increasingly expensive proposition. When the government proposes to charge yet more money for the privilege with no apparent gain, we're rightfully offended.

That was certainly the case last December when the FAA's AeroNav division—the people who make navigation charts and approach plates and who provide the digital source data for those who distribute charts electronically—announced that it intended to begin charging users for the electronic data. Due to declining paper chart sales, it had a budget shortfall and the users would have to make it up with new fees. More cost cutting evidently wasn't on the table.

Unfortunately, the FAA went about this all wrong. First, they assembled about 150 of the smartest people in aviation and whiteboarded for them a proposal that appeared hastily if not ill conceived and whose numbers didn't add up. I've talked to a number of people who attended that meeting and more than one told me AeroNav officials gave the impression of having jotted down their numbers on the back of a envelope on the way to the meeting. They promised more definitive numbers and a proposal by mid-January, but it never appeared. Our queries about its whereabouts have gone unanswered.

The amount of money (an estimated $5 million initially) is much smaller than the underlying principle involved. And this is it: The FAA wants more money from users because market shifts have caused it to lose money on the sales of paper charts and it can't or won't make this up with internal cost cutting. So far, it has been unable to make this case at all, never mind clearly.

Under a FOIA request, we've obtained AeroNav's budget but it's too opaque to make sense of without an understanding of how the agency allocates its expenses in detail. What's needed is a rigorous audit by OMB or GAO, or both, to flesh out AeroNav's cost structure. We've asked both of those organizations for help on this and neither has replied, although AeroNav says its budget and cost information is elucidated here.

Drop me an e-mail if you find any of this convincing. Here's what appears to be happening. Until 2010, the FAA had a flight procedures branch that collected flight data and prepared instrument procedures. It handed that data off to another government division once called NOS and later NACO under the FAA flag. That division interpreted the data, did the drafting and prepared finished charts.

In 2010, the two divisions were consolidated into a single unit called AeroNav. As has every other entity on the planet, the flight procedures branch had been busily digitizing its operations for efficiency and quality control purposes. For some time, it has produced what are essentially finished approach plates. You can view them at this link. Just click around the folders and you'll find the charts.

So before I'll go along with additional fees, AeroNav has to explain why it's duplicating work that appears to be already done by the old flight procedures branch. In other words, isn't the part of the organization that draws the charts for public dissemination now superfluous? Doesn't AeroNav have a huge opportunity to whittle down its size and save taxpayers and us a bundle without resorting to additional charges? I'm from Missouri. Show me.

Government agencies aren't noted for their enthusiasm in downsizing. The reverse is true of all bureaucracies, but even that well-established rule may yield to the overwhelming economics of a disruptive digital technology shift, otherwise known as an iPad. One argument we heard was that AeroNav's charting division—the old NACO—was necessary to assure quality and "safety." But just as I don't buy the GA argument that user fees would diminish safety, I don't buy it from AeroNav, either. It's the same fear and loathing reasoning upon which TSA continues to build its empire.

So the FAA appears to have a real opportunity here. It can apparently realize considerable cost savings by phasing out half of AeroNav. The smart thing to do would be to refine the digital output of the flight procedures branch and place it on a public access server. Then let anyone who wants to download the data disseminate it electronically or print paper charts or both. Get the FAA out of the finished chart business entirely and let the free market sort out prices and details.

Please. Someone tell me why this isn't a better plan than additional fees to the FAA.

Comments (37)

So the same people that have the money to buy a iPad and/or the latest iPad release year-over-year has a problem paying for charts that they need?

We've been paying for paper charts/plates since the dawn of time. Now it's going digital and all of a sudden we're supposed to be mad about paying for the same information in a different format?

"So before I’ll go along with additional fees, AeroNav has to explain why it’s duplicating work that appears to be already done by the old flight procedures branch." -- My guess, you'll continue to buy charts (paper or digital) to support your flying or quit flying before you get an answer.

"The smart thing to do would be to refine the digital output of the flight procedures branch and place it on a public access server. Then let anyone who wants to download the data disseminate it electronically or print paper charts or both." -- Sounds great on paper. Who's going to pay for the server infrastructure, maintenance of the server, data center, and bandwidth? You? If so, I'm all for it.

The problem with digital is that it's all too easy to share it. Ask Hollywood how many of their movies have been pirated and how much revenue they've lost because of it. Your idea is a dud.

Posted by: Amy Zucco | February 29, 2012 10:08 AM    Report this comment

An interesting, related thought I've been having in our digital world is how Jepp has managed to survive as the sole provider of data to virtually every IFR approved GPS unit out there. Last data I heard, the GNS 400/500 series navigators are installed in 1/2 of the GA fleet or around 100k units. At $500 a pop for a subscription, you're looking at a revenue of 50 million. I can't believe that we don't have any competition to this yet, except for the liability issues (which would be huge) and possibly some patent issues.

It would seem to me that given some tort reform, we would find some enterprising entrepreneurs who would love to get more involved in the charting business for a somewhat more reasonable price than aeronav is wanting.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | February 29, 2012 10:11 AM    Report this comment

If the FAA wanted to serve up the media and cut down on costs, publish it using BitTorrent (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BitTorrent_%28protocol%29). Then users can help with the distribution of the software. But I suppose that's way too advanced for both the FAA and the pilot community.

Posted by: Brad Koehn | February 29, 2012 12:23 PM    Report this comment

"Sounds great on paper. Who's going to pay for the server infrastructure, maintenance of the server, data center, and bandwidth? You? If so, I'm all for it."

Thanks for volunteering my credit card. Very generous of you. What you should be asking is are you already paying for this? That site I gave you is the flight procedures site already baked into the FAA budget. One can reasonably ask, why can't that site be modified to deliver the data rather than having an entire second division devoted to doing that?

It sounds like you would happily pay any fee the FAA proposes without question. And that you're okay with paying for something twice. I'm not quite there yet, I'm afraid. I think it's fair--really necessary--to question these economics.

Here's a direct analogy: When I began my career as a newspaper reporter, I wrote the story, handed it to a copyeditor, who handed to a layout editor, who handed it to a compositer, who handed it to a plateman, who handed it to a pressman. From thus, the daily magic of a newspaper.

Thirty-five years later, I write the story and go direct to plate with it. Technology has eliminated those additional steps. Is it fair to ask: Why can't the FAA do the equivalent of direct to plate? Call me crazy, but I say it is.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | February 29, 2012 1:14 PM    Report this comment

You're missed my point of digital being too easy to share. Let's say I buy my charts/plates and spend $100 for it (for argument's sake). Then I distribute this to the 100 flight students in my flight school. They then distribute it to their friends. And their friends distribute it to their friends and so forth. You know what the FAA got out of all these users? $100.

You clearly have no understanding of what it takes to run an enterprise level IT infrastructure. There's a lot more behind the scenes of a simple mouse click on a website. And all of it costs money.

Your problem with the way the FAA spends its money goes far beyond just the FAA. Yet, I don't see you screaming about budgetary changes in all agencies of our government. So it's unfair to just scream at the FAA when your principle applies to the entire government spending philosophy. How come we get taxed twice when we buy something? We get taxed when we make the money, then again when we spend it. Do you have a problem with this? Yet I don't hear any screaming about that from you.

I'm a realist. Services and products cost money. Infrastructure costs money. If you feel like it's too expensive for your bank account, then stop using these services and products. No one is holding a gun to your head to force you to buy these things. So if aviation is getting to expensive, may I suggest bowling? Compared to other things one can do with their money, aviation is by far one of the top money pits available in this country.

Posted by: Amy Zucco | February 29, 2012 1:28 PM    Report this comment

No Amy, we're STEAMING MAD that the FAA tried to charge a fee for public information! The database is public information, it's tiny in size, and accessed only by a small segment of the population. The more it's shared by others, the less hits on the home server. The whole point is that people who need it will have this data. It's that simple.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | February 29, 2012 1:38 PM    Report this comment

Amy... Do you want to pay an extra processing fee when you mail in your 1040 IRS form? Do you want to pay a processing fee each time you vote? Public services are just that, at PUBLIC expense. The FAA data is public data. Charging a fee for access is as wrong as a poll tax.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | February 29, 2012 1:50 PM    Report this comment

Amy, you clearly have no understanding of existing government infrastructure. The federal government already hosts one of the largest Content Delivery Networks in the world. The incremental cost of the distributing digital charts is infinitesimal.

Posted by: Brad Koehn | February 29, 2012 2:06 PM    Report this comment

As Amy suggested who is going to carry the cost of the electronic charts. I believe that one of the reasons we are in such a financial upheaval is due to the Governments involvement in its citizen’s affairs. Yes we in all countries pay a whopping 75 to 80% of our disposable income to taxes in one form or another (i.e. VAT/Sales Tax, manufacturing tax, fuel and the list goes on)and further public fund increases to taxes (dress it up as you like it’s still a tax) adds insult to injury.

My concern is what Josh touched on “The litigation issues” If you are able to download free copies of digital maps and because of an error you have an accident, who’s to blame? Of course the Pilot is how silly of me to think differently. If there is no money involved then you can be sure the quality of those maps will be not as good as those where money is involved.

Unfortunately we cannot have our cake and eat it we, have to make compromises so let’s evaluate what are the compromises to this issue. I was once told that aviation is all about compromises seem like that is still correct today as it was years ago.

Posted by: Bruce Savage | March 1, 2012 4:29 AM    Report this comment

Approach plates are so 1900's. FAA and GA seem firmly stuck in a 1950s mindset. We shouldn't be looking at digitizing and solidifying ancient procedures. We have WAAS now and RNP, technology costs peanuts (compared to fuel, midairs and CFIT), so we need to set aim for a quantum leap. A true NextGen that will make all them old procedures outdated. How long ago could I have a 'boxed hwy in the sky' on my pc flightsim ? Surely within 5 years we can get this on the planes (actually, the Android pad that I will use as my panel), and do away with all this remnants from illo tempore. Time is now to envisage an FAA reduced to an absolute minimal agency, supporting a self-managed-routing network. Point-to-point augmented with an upgraded TCAS to replace ATC and make GA (and all of aviation) safer, more efficient and less polluting. Dear Paul, I will try to leave this subject alone for a while now, but I do feel the prevalent lack of vision is dragging GA down a dead-end road. I would like to see more leadership from GA groups in this area. As a benefit, we could very well get the environmentalist on the GA side of government.

Posted by: Peter De Ceulaer | March 1, 2012 5:21 AM    Report this comment

Amy, I removed one of your messages because its language was over the top. You're more than welcome to comment if you keep it civil

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | March 1, 2012 5:41 AM    Report this comment

"If there is no money involved then you can be sure the quality of those maps will be not as good as those where money is involved."

I'm not sure exactly how this works, Bruce. Why does throwing money at a government service you're already paying for make it better? Why does paying twice make it better? Don't forget, it's the providers who package this stuff who add the real value, and you pay for that.

As is the case now, the FAA's general budget pays for the collection of flight data, the design of the approaches, the flight checking of it and now, thanks to technology, the actual drawing of the material in digital form.

Who pays for this? We do. We already have. Now if you're proposing to reduce the FAA general budget and pick up the slack in direct user fees to the individuals that actually use the products, so be it. In other words, fund all of this with user fees and take it out of the general budget. That's certainly an option. But lets just not pay for this material twice. Let's not settle for inefficiency just because we all know "aviation is expensive."

Why is this too much to ask?

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | March 1, 2012 5:53 AM    Report this comment

As for students passing this stuff around, free distribution and the legal issues, well that exists now and the system functions fine. If I have Jepp TC or Foreflight, I don't and can't pass the data around unless I hand my iPad to someone else. You can't just copy the data and pass it around unless you're willing to hack the apps. Not many people doing that.

As for the legal issue, it's a red herring. Jeppesen has for years been on the hook for mistakes it has printed and it has been sued. Whether it pays for the data or not, it's still liable. The same is true for the app providers. They have legal exposure. How the data is paid for has no bearing on it.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | March 1, 2012 5:59 AM    Report this comment

I can see this is a really hot topic (I mean temper wise). So let’s evaluate the situation.

I can download all sort of apps for my smartphone many are free and a lot you have to pay for. The free apps carry a lot of disclaimers and if for some unforeseen problem happens to you phone the developers of those apps get away with murder (excuse the pun). The purchased apps have comebacks and the developers are liable. This seems to be the general acceptable trend in our modern sophisticate civilization. Don’t get me wrong I don’t see why we need to pay more or twice for the same thing as you have stated and I am in total agreement there. It’s just in my experience that when money is not put on the table for something, that product doesn’t have to carry any guarantees and that’s what could be the down fall of the system.

Yes I would advocate that there be a cost in obtaining the digital maps but that must be offset by reduced user fees. As a matter of interest I also advocate that Governments should be forced out of our lives and the public services reduced to a small office with a handful of people to work there (and for pittance). In countries where this happens (I know of one Switzerland) things are different and the population has the vote on what Government can and how much it can tax items for. Now to put that into practice is impossible as the Government is in US Dollar 17trillion debt and is looking for ways it can make/save/elicit (extract) money from its people.

Posted by: Bruce Savage | March 1, 2012 6:37 AM    Report this comment

I’d like to suggest that what we quaintly refer to as charts and plates really is nothing more than graphically-presented information. I politely suggest that such information should be considered to be in the same class as notams. Who pays for dissemination of notams, and how is that payment made? The FAA has farmed out Flight Service Station functionality to the private sector. I’m sure that Jeppesen et al would be capable of providing electronic chart/plate information to all askers, for a reasonable fee to the federal government. One fee for one service – from one provider to one payer. No need to stay up late at night calculating how much each plate should cost each subscriber, nor for Amy to fret over pirate re-distribution of costly information.

I’ve been in the computer technology arena since 1968. It never ceases to amaze me that so many people try to use technology to replicate the “by-hand” methods that historically have been employed to (fill in the task here). It reminds me of a lumberjack stroking a chainsaw and it back and forth over a log – without ever considering that cutting the wood would be so much easier if he started the chainsaw’s engine!

Charts and plates are just old-world methods of disseminating information. The dissemination is the objective – not the printing. Let’s try to figure out the most effective and efficient method of disseminating the information. In other words, let’s keep our eyes on the objective.

Posted by: Tom Yarsley | March 1, 2012 7:06 AM    Report this comment

Loss of paper means a huge cost savings. There is no justification in charging for what is saving the FAA millions. The Fed is already getting extra money(income/sales taxes) from companies that do redistribute the data as a commercial product.

As far as copyrights, I sure don't remember seeing any on the paper approach plates or sectionals.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | March 1, 2012 7:34 AM    Report this comment

Spot on Paul. The issue extends far beyond aviation charts. Any private entity tightens its budget when things get tough. Bureaucracies never do.

We are already paying for the service, many times over, in taxes. Instead of working within their means like the rest of us, or privatizing, they try to add a fee for the service in addition to the tax we're paying.

Flight Service went through growing pains, but when the dust settled, LockMart figured out how to make it work, by making it FAR smaller than the FAA had been doing it. Electronic distribution by a private entity will solve the chart issue, but I doubt they will lower their budget when their operating costs drop.

Posted by: Tim Busch | March 1, 2012 8:41 AM    Report this comment

1) If the FAA didn't already have existing server infrastructure for storing and distributing electronic data, I could see the argument for charging for this data on top of the funding already going to the FAA general fund.

2) Whether the FAA charges for the data or not, people are still likely going to share the data with others, as they already do with paper charts.

3) "Ask Hollywood how many of their movies have been pirated and how much revenue they've lost because of it." Actually, don't ask Hollywood, because they'd make it seem like every movie is pirated and they don't make any money off of legitimate sales. The problem is when the legitimate purchasing of something becomes more difficult (not "expensive") than ripping it off. Cost isn't a motivating factor in many pirated copies of things.

4) "So the same people that have the money to buy a iPad and/or the latest iPad release year-over-year has a problem paying for charts that they need?" I don't own an iPad, because the cost is hard to justify compared to the benefits of me owning one. However, I do buy the paper charts because I need them. But I do also use the digital versions from time to time when either I can't get to an FBO to order a paper chart for the one little section I need of it, or I just want to use it for flight-planning purposes. Not everyone is trying to save $2 to spend $200.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | March 1, 2012 8:51 AM    Report this comment

The information was bought and paid for by the US taxpayers and as such should be freely available to all via download. Therefore, pirating is a non-issue.

As for liability, whatever happened to the legal concept of "government immunity" or "the king cannot be sued?" This has long been accepted as a social cost for having a government. (Except, in this industry it is always the Pilot's fault of course.)

Posted by: A Richie | March 1, 2012 8:56 AM    Report this comment

"So before I’ll go along with additional fees, AeroNav has to explain why it’s duplicating work that appears to be already done by the old flight procedures branch." -- My guess, you'll continue to buy charts (paper or digital) to support your flying or quit flying before you get an answer.

Well, considering that some sort of navigational data is *required* while flying, that would be a pretty good guess.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | March 1, 2012 8:57 AM    Report this comment

Yarsley hit the nail on the head. A digital infrastructure changes everything, yet bureaucracies can't handle 'right-sizing.' It's that simple.

I love FAA charts but love them much more on the iPad.

Posted by: Peter Kuhns | March 1, 2012 10:47 AM    Report this comment

Good morning...

Paul, I see your point about the IAP portion of Aeronav's products. If the procedures brance already produces the approach charts, SIDs, STARs etc, then Aeronav could indeed drop them as a product. I do have a small concern about expertise in distribution, but this is based solely on the difficulty I had getting to any charts on the link in your blog.

I have a remaining question about the IFR enroute and VFR charts. Is the data collection (and maybe even cartographic production) also done by the procedures branch? If not, then this would evidently remain with Aeronav under your proposal. If this is the case, do they need to adjust their charges to cover this cost?

One final comment... I like using the digital charts enough to pay for them, but I certainly hope we can avoid being put into the corner of the prices rising all the way to the level of full-US paper chart coverage...or worse yet to the level of Jeppesen IFR-only coverage, while still needing to buy VFR charts.

Thanks for you thoughts.

Posted by: Norman Knox | March 1, 2012 11:49 AM    Report this comment

Norman, the issue is, you're already paying for them. Collecting for it in taxes, which are "less visible", and then asking for money for it, is double-dipping. It's happening far too often these days.

Posted by: Tim Busch | March 1, 2012 1:24 PM    Report this comment

If I've already paid for something then why should I pay for it again. I already paid the Gov't by the fuel I put in my tanks, and I pay ForeFlight/Jepp/etc. to put FREE Gov't charts in a nice format that my Garmin/iPad/etc will read. So I've already paid twice for the same data and really don't want to pay again.

The Gov't is notoriously inefficient...let's try understanding why this process is inefficient and try to put some efficiencies in place so we don't have to pony up again for data that we've already paid for.

Posted by: R. Doe | March 1, 2012 2:31 PM    Report this comment

I, for one, have NO PROBLEM with the FAA charging me to download digital charts (the PDFs). None whatsoever. Substantial effort goes into producing these PDFs (which are also used to print the paper charts), and if the FAA wants to charge me something for them I'm all for it. I also have NO PROBLEM being charged for the NavData package. Sorry folks but I work in IT - Bandwidth is NOT free, and someone has to pay. A nominal fee (say $5-10/month for the whole shebang - PDF charts and NavData) isn't unreasonable. I'd go a step further and say the FAA should mandate that every GPS/RNAV system sold for use in the US must accept the NavData in the format the FAA provides (Make Jeppesen sing for their supper a little bit here - The prices for NavData cards are extortionate!). I agree with Paul that AeroNav/NACO/Whatever they call themselves can probably be downsized with the new tools available, but at the same time I recognize that there is a cost involved in producing the charts and the NavData databases, and there will be an increasing cost to distribute them as more and more pilots step into the 21st century -- The FAA has a right and a responsibility to recoup that distribution cost, and maybe even turn a tiny profit that can be reinvested into making their already excellent digital products even better. Just my $5.93.

Posted by: Michael Graziano | March 1, 2012 5:25 PM    Report this comment

"Sorry folks but I work in IT - Bandwidth is NOT free, and someone has to pay."

I work in IT as well; bandwidth has never been cheaper and these file sizes are miniscule(hint: that's why digital is SAVING the FAA money over the paper system). Also it's not in the FAA charter to "make a profit" on air safety. The beauty of digital is that the more people use it, the larger the savings over paper.

Reasonable people are outraged that the government would charge more for efficiency...

Posted by: Mark Fraser | March 1, 2012 7:12 PM    Report this comment

Michael - If I could buy digital charts and navdata for my GNS-430 for $5 - $10/month, sign me up! I pay $500 a year just for updates on one GPS unit!

Posted by: Josh Johnson | March 1, 2012 8:13 PM    Report this comment

"I have a remaining question about the IFR enroute and VFR charts. Is the data collection (and maybe even cartographic production) also done by the procedures branch? If not, then this would evidently remain with Aeronav under your proposal. If this is the case, do they need to adjust their charges to cover this cost?"

Can't answer that. Nor do I know how the costs are apportioned. (This is why I'm askin'...) I do know some of the application providers are offering sectionals and VFR charts and that some of it is digitally sourced. Are there opportunities for significant cost savings here due to automation? I think the question should be pursued.

I'm like everyone else--or most of us, in that I don't mind paying for any of this as long as the charges accurately reflect costs and there's no duplication of effort or double charging. If there's an opportunity to save money and effort here, AeroNav should pursue it.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | March 1, 2012 8:22 PM    Report this comment

I write this tongue in cheek.. but are you working for Jepp?!?! Putting Aeronav charting out of business will leave only one chart producer: Jepp. And it will be a while before some other entity steps into the fray.

Your theory that someone could take the procedures database and look at it like one looks at charts is full of holes. The database is used by both Jeff and Aeronav to create the charts.

So.. I would completely agree that the fuel taxes should pay for Aeronav.. but I think it is crazy to eliminate their charting arm unless you like paying Jepp exorbitant fees. I pay those crooks way too much already!

Posted by: NEAL A DILLMAN | March 5, 2012 12:05 PM    Report this comment

"I write this tongue in cheek.. but are you working for Jepp?!?! Putting Aeronav charting out of business will leave only one chart producer:"

The market has already proved you wrong on this. Have you not heard of ForeFlight, WingX and any of a dozen other companies providing digital charts from the AeroNav feed? These companies are, in one way or another, taking the database and turning it into finished product that people will buy. We're just talking about doing that from a different point in the data development process.

If you think it's too difficult for vendors to take even rawer data to the finished product, you don't have a good understanding of how digital conversion can--and is--working.

That's the nature of the opportunity here. To suggest that it takes a staff of 100 to filter this data in 2012 defies logic. Or at very best, it should have a rigorous review by someone familiar with government accounting and costing procedures.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | March 5, 2012 12:50 PM    Report this comment

Paul: They (SeattleAvionics, etc) are NOT providing digital charts from the AeroNav database feed. They are doing that from the FINISHED CHARTS!!!!

The database contains only points.. not pictures. The FAA takes those points and uses MicroStation v8 (a high end CAD program) to set them into the charts many of us use. That is what they want money for, not the database that the provide for free (to Jepp and anyone else who wants it).

And it is not to say vendors cannot do it. Just that it will not be possible for the ForeFlights of the world to do it. You would need artists (for the sectionals), cartographers, CAD experts, etc.

I cannot say how efficient AeroNav is, but I am very familiar with their process, and I can assure you that it will be very difficult for anyone to catch up with Jepp (who has a complete duplication of that process) any time in the near term -- with or without market forces. If that were not the case, there would be more [electronic] chart producers than just AeroNav and Jepp.. but that is simply not the case.

As to a rigorous review of costs: I agree 100%. I do not see why AeroNav is any different than any other portion of the FAA -- they should be able to be funded sufficiently by fuel taxes.

Posted by: NEAL A DILLMAN | March 5, 2012 1:39 PM    Report this comment

"The database contains only points.. not pictures. "

That's correct. But the site I pointed you at does contain pictures from automation developed by the flight procedures end of the business for QC purposes. Those are the guys who develop the points you're talking about. So this over burdened taxpayer is asking; Why aren't we tweaking that software to deliver near finished product instead of saying "we can't do this" and then paying twice to have it done?

Or so it would seem. I'm not making this up, by the way. I've been contacted by sources in private industry who say what I've described here should be explored.

The principle pushback may be that it will take fewer people and a smaller organization to do it. We know how government agencies resist this.

I think any of this is perfectly within the capability of vendors willing to invest. Jepp already has, of course. If the government can figure it out, so can private industry.

I agree on the fuel taxes funding. But not on overspending or perhaps paying twice for the same thing.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | March 5, 2012 1:56 PM    Report this comment

I have no doubt private industry could figure it out. I have doubts that it will happen anytime in the reasonably near future. It is a huge investment (which Jepp has made). It will most certainly make Jepp a sole provider for [most likely] years.

As I previously said: If it was easy, someone besides Jepp would already be doing it. Jepp makes plenty of money, and I am sure others would love to be in that business if the cost of entry were reasonable.

The site to which you refer.. I assume: http://avn.faa.gov/acifp/2010110820874501002-ACV/MAPS.pdf is an example. Note the issues with scale, no geo referencing, etc etc. It would take a huge effort (of say, a charting office :) ) in order to make that procedure flyable.

They are talking about a few million dollars out of a multi-billion dollar budget. We need to get them an appropriate amount of money through the budget process. Else we will all be paying $1000/yr to Jepp instead of our already ridiculously high $500/yr.

Posted by: NEAL A DILLMAN | March 5, 2012 3:11 PM    Report this comment

Perhaps the way to look at it is to place procedures and IFR enroutes in the free access data and leave the visual charts to AeroNav...if indeed that work requires as much carto work as you say.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | March 6, 2012 9:07 AM    Report this comment

Paul, I agree that it would be pretty reasonable to give drop enroute Hi & Lo as a test for industry. Those are created electronically anyways. Sectionals (WACs ans TACs as well) are a more interesting issue, as artists create all of that information by hand.

TPP (terminal procedures) are the most complicated issue, and I expect it would take years for the competition to develop (due to entry barriers).. but if the services were taken off line one at a time, it might work.

Posted by: NEAL A DILLMAN | March 6, 2012 9:59 AM    Report this comment

Paul, I agree that it would be pretty reasonable to give drop enroute Hi & Lo as a test for industry. Those are created electronically anyways. Sectionals (WACs ans TACs as well) are a more interesting issue, as artists create all of that information by hand.

TPP (terminal procedures) are the most complicated issue, and I expect it would take years for the competition to develop (due to entry barriers).. but if the services were taken off line one at a time, it might work.

Meanwhile, we need to get them funding through the normal source so that the cost of charts (electronic or otherwise) does not go through the roof.

Posted by: NEAL A DILLMAN | March 6, 2012 10:00 AM    Report this comment

1. Absolutely no formal entity is advocating for small G.A. pilots! (With the exception of Mr. Bertorelli and his colleagues, of course.)

2. Where is AOPA on this important matter? Oh yeah, they are busy promoting ADS-B, and all its associated consumer costs.

3. Many writers here have an impressive depth of knowledge, but most of us are just scared away by the incredible complexity and cost. I, for one, am staying as far away from a “digital cockpit” as I can reasonably accomplish, despite its obvious potential benefits. Oh, I have XMWX, Garmin Area, etc, but I will not get sucked-in to paying thousands a year for electronic data! So I soldier on with paper, and that’s a shame because I know what I am missing.

4. Fundamentally, this whole field is just perfect for digitization. It should be a classic example of fantastic improvement in every aspect of the service, including cost decrease instead of large cost increases, just like Paul’s example of the newspaper/journalist world. Why is this not so?

5. The obvious revolutionary benefits of digitization seem to have been sucked-up by self-serving government and enterprising companies that saw an opportunity to make a few bucks.

The central problem here isn’t technical, it is political. So the solution must be political. It is truly a sucker punch for the consumers! Since we have no power individually, that means we need ACTION from AOPA or some similar entity.

Posted by: JIM HERD | March 29, 2012 1:07 PM    Report this comment

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