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The Bottomless Pit

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Did you ever suffer along with one of life's minor annoyances and then suddenly, for no particular reason, realize you've had just about enough? This is what seems to be going on with many owners who have installed glass cockpits or state-of-the-art avionics and the annoyance is the recurring and escalating costs of the databases necessary to keep these gadgets fed. In today's news columns, we're reporting on just one facet of this problem which I think may get worse before it gets better. If it does get better.

What drew it to our attention is reader mail. When we reported on Garmin's new GTN-series navigators earlier this year, I got a couple of notes from readers genuinely irritated because I had failed to report database costs in the article. I won't make that mistake again. (In a moment, I'll explain why I overlooked it.)

What's going on is that the modern cockpit has become a data-sucking black hole. You need nav databases, terrain databases and chart databases and the boxes in the cockpit don't always share much, although both Garmin and Jeppesen have drifted toward offering package deals, which help some. It's not unusual for data costs to amount to a couple of grand a year or more. Add any portables you might have, plus paper charts and you're spending more on data than on engine reserves.

A new unhappy development, as we're reporting today, is that the FAA next year will stop offering its digital chart data for free. We're not certain what this means yet, but the ominous signal is that it will chill the lively competition among iPad app writers who depend on this data to offer inexpensive or free apps with similarly affordable data.

This is, in effect, a user fee of sorts. Philosophically, I'm not opposed to it, because it costs money to collect, process and disseminate this data. By law, the FAA has to do it on cost-only basis, but still, someone has to pay. And that will those who need the data, either for navigation or charting or both.

I think the revolt I'm sensing through reader e-mail and phone calls is that as there's more and more data that costs more money, owners just don't see the value, especially in a world where the reality is less flying. To a degree, we've created the monster ourselves. GPS instrument procedures are proliferating, each requiring a packet of data, FAA maintenance and correction by revision if something changes. And things are always changing. I'm all for aviation infrastructure, but I think we've gone around the bend with too many GPS approaches far in excess of actual need.

One reader wrote me and said he noticed that a couple of GPS approaches for Ft. Myers, Florida were dropped from his current navigation database. Jeppesen confirmed this. Why? Too much data to process for that cycle; those procedures were dropped to be picked up for the next revision cycle. This begs the question: Why have all this infrastructure if the system to process the data chokes in getting it to users? And with the FAA planning thousands more GPS approaches, this isn't going to get any easier. What we're doing is building a Cadillac — at Cadillac prices — when what we really need for the moment, given FAA budget duress, is a Corolla.

Which leads me to why I often overlook reporting on database costs. It's because I don't believe in them. There, I've said it. It may be like arguing against Boy Scouts and apple pie, but I've always felt the value of regular database updates to be overrated for most Part 91 operations. When we got our first IFR GPS in the airplane, I carried current charts and updated the navigation database once a year; more often if a trip demanded it. I just couldn't see the value of frequent updates and, legally, the AFM allowed checking against current paper. So that's what I did.

And I'd still do that if I had a bunch of database requirements for the airplane, although I'd probably use something like Jeppesen's Mobile FD, which I covered in today's video. Somehow, I think, the industry and owners are going to have to figure out a better path. Now that owners are wising up to the fact that data costs are rivaling what they pay for insurance, some of them won't be owners anymore.

Comments (136)

This is bad. It is unbelievable how much innovation free chart access has created for the U.S. market. Take a look at Europe how life would be like, where the government charts are downloadable but too unwieldy to use (letter-sized, all different layouts and some come in funny colors). Thus, Jeppesen has a quasi-monopoly on approach plates. Not only is Jeppesen expensive, but there is no real competition to Jeppesen's product here. Even MobileFD likely would never have happened without competition from Foreflight and others in the U.S. market.

Sometimes, the government has to break down barriers of entry so the market can drive innovation. Free charts are such a case.

Posted by: Arno Schoedl | November 14, 2011 5:36 AM    Report this comment

I never had such brilliant situational awareness and pre flight planning until the iPad came along. I fly safer and am better informed, the iPad gives me current charts and weather. This is a back door user fee and won't help promote GA safety.

Posted by: simon holland | November 14, 2011 6:35 AM    Report this comment

For Europe, EVEN FOR AFRICA and many other areas you can find free downloadable charts (at least approach charts) on the internet. Sure, they don't always look nice, which is mainly because they are nowadays drawn with a computer, and no longer by a draftsman with taste. Now, the Obamanation decides to do the same as Switzerland, make all charts a product you have to pay for. My question is, how many people are just going to fly with synvis.... Active traffic suddenly makes a LOT of sense. It is always funny when the Gubament wants us to "pay for services". Great, stop extorting taxes, and I pay for services I NEED.

Posted by: ROBERT ZIEGLER | November 14, 2011 6:38 AM    Report this comment

I had just engineered a solution for using the as-distributed TIFF images in my free Android application Pilotage Assistant.

The kicker is that only corporations are allowed at the meeting and to enter into contract. I can meet standards and requirements, but I won't incorporate just to secure the right to invent.

As an individual developer and citizen, I am severely depressed. This is a much deeper issue for the FAA than safety of flight. If individuals are barred from obtaining these data, it is a clear case of securing corporate interests over citizen, eliminating competition and innovation.

I don't suppose Garmin or Jeppesen are unhappy, and I'm sure they've got their lobbyists primed. Time to write my congressmen.

Posted by: THOMAS STROHL | November 14, 2011 6:44 AM    Report this comment

The FAA's costs to put these charts online should be minimal, even if you multiply them by ten because of government inefficiency.

The charts are already in machine-readable format. It's some effort to convert them to PDF and TIFF formats, but any programmer with half a brain could automate the whole process, with minimal human intervention. The costs of hosting the charts is not free, but bandwidth and disk space are very cheap nowadays.

It will be very interesting to see what the accountants come up with for costs. I just hope that they don't try to include the cost of producing the raw data, since that has to be done for paper charts and plates anyway.

Posted by: MICHAEL MURDOCK | November 14, 2011 7:06 AM    Report this comment

What I don't understand is why we won't be able to buy the chart downloads individually but will have to buy them from a third party provider, adding yet another layer of cost. The provider companies must have lobbied hard to insure that they get yet another revenue stream.

Posted by: Catherine Chagnot | November 14, 2011 7:07 AM    Report this comment

Remember when the FAA was about SAFTEY? Now they seem to be actively against it. Or, are taking a dog-in-the-manger attitude toward anything they don't control. There was a moment when the FAA tried to ban the use of hand held GPS devices. Maybe we can wear them down on this one too. i-Phone and i-Pad owners unite! (AvWeb let's get a petition going.)

Posted by: Robert Murray | November 14, 2011 7:08 AM    Report this comment

If the Feds are going to charge for data, there ought to be some other changes, too. Since the vendor's monopoly on data is being reinforced (the consumer won't be able to get the data directly from the government), all future elecronic units should be required to function on a basic set of data availabe at a non-profit cost from the vendor. This would help protect the consumer. If the consumer wanted all the "bells and whistles", then they could buy "advanced" packages of data and software from the vendors and let them gouge all they want!

Posted by: JOHN AUSTIN | November 14, 2011 7:08 AM    Report this comment

Very bad news that the US will start charging for its aviation publication. Especially since they are the same entity that requires that pilots have those products. That becomes a conflict of interest when they start selling the data.

One way to control costs would be to totally eliminate paper charts and approach plates. I am not privy to any inside info but I would expect printing and distribution would account for up to half of the costs. Eliminating paper would require stepping up "certification" of electronic data for all pilots in all aircraft. That won't be easy.

It is especially disconcerting that individual pilots will not be able to download data for themselves. I do not understand the logic in that, unless it is to contract out all distribution so they can wash their hands of it. But with no competition to speak of they will be able to charge pretty hefty fees for the data.

I was looking forward to buying an iPad or similar and finally being able to maintain current charts and plates for the entire country for my flights. Now it looks like I will be back to using 3 year-old sectionals and expired GPS data to try to get buy on a budget. It's a step back for safety and I doubt it will solve the national debt crisis.

Posted by: JIM DUNN | November 14, 2011 7:51 AM    Report this comment

Does it occur to anyone that we have already paid for the data by funding the government? Garmin jeppesen etal simply provide a conduit? I don't see why fees should let FAA turn a profit!!!

Posted by: Kenneth Nolde | November 14, 2011 7:52 AM    Report this comment

The use of charts on an iPad / iPhone has lead to having charts when needed. Before that the ugly truth was many aircraft aloft without current (or any) charts. The cost convenience, and lack of availability of paper charts lead to this. Will I agree that aviation should pay its own way it needs to happen in a format which will not lead to no charts again.5000 Seminary Rd As for the Mike who said eCharts should not include cost of data is wrong if paper goes away a real possibility eCharts will have to pay development cost. John is right on there should be a standardized format for all vendors to provide cost effective charts.

Posted by: Pat McKinzie | November 14, 2011 8:01 AM    Report this comment

Which is why I file /A and put "VFR GPS" in the notes. Center treats me no differently than anyone else.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | November 14, 2011 8:09 AM    Report this comment

I agree with keneth nolde... We the tax payers fund the FAA. They are not there to make money...they are there to improve aviation...online charts were a brilliant idea..we need to keep our federal data free for all pilots in the USA....safety first not profit.

Posted by: simon holland | November 14, 2011 8:11 AM    Report this comment

Sorry my stupid smart iPad lead to several typos in my post. The meaning was there. Should have proof read before sending. IPads are great for charts but why must I do something to keep the thing from changing my typing? Seems to me I should have to act to accept a edits.

Posted by: Pat McKinzie | November 14, 2011 8:11 AM    Report this comment

I you are looking for an example of how having to pay for government data hinders the marketplace, you need look no further than here in Canada. Chart data has always been sold by our government, or in its lieu, NAV CANADA, the supplier of ANS in Canada.

Because this source data must be purchased, few include it in their offerings of nav data. That, or it is at a very high premium. This lack of competition to supply electronic data to the Canadian market means that their is virtually none available. NAV CANADA has been saying for over a dozen years that they will offer electronic data but without any pressure from private enterprise, this has yet to come about. The end result of which is that I still purchase hard copy approach plates as that is the only option available.

Posted by: Fred Simpsn | November 14, 2011 8:23 AM    Report this comment

Let's go straight to the heart of the matter. We already paid for this data to be produced, in the FAA's budget, through our fuel taxes. Why should we pay for it yet again as a "product" of the FAA?

Posted by: Glenn Juber | November 14, 2011 8:54 AM    Report this comment

I sincerely hope that AOPA will step up on behalf of each member pilot

Posted by: Arnold Offner | November 14, 2011 8:54 AM    Report this comment

I flew for over 3000 hours, from the border of Siberia to the border of Panama with no radio NAV whats so ever so I know I don't need the guvmnt data all that much. But, since, in the Mountain West IMC=ICE I don't really fly IFR.

And for the price of a fancy glass panel I can sure buy a lot of airline tickets or MOGAS.

But the comment about needing a Corrola data base instead of a Cadillac one applies to everything the FAA does.

Posted by: ARTHUR THOMPSON | November 14, 2011 9:05 AM    Report this comment

Forgot to mention, anything the FAA does must be pre-authorized in their budget. So they don't come up with new "products" on a whim, someone has to submit the idea, it has to go to committee, that needs to be crafted into the budget process, and after final approval and funding authorization, it becomes reality. This isn't like a private company that invents a new product, and funds the development from savings until it begins to sell. This data was already paid for before it was ever thought about being produced. There's no need to recover any money because it's already part of the annual expenditure, just like FAA salaries. Oh, wait, there's a great idea... a fee-for-service to talk to an FAA employee! That will bring in some money..... or not.

Posted by: Glenn Juber | November 14, 2011 9:07 AM    Report this comment

Some elements of this discussion have been around for at least 20 years. I recall on-line discusion groups grousing about how the basic data was collected and developed at the public trough, but then vastly over-priced by the Jepps and GPS manufacturers of the world.

As an individual I pay too with my taxes for the data to be developed. Why then should I have to pay another time to support Jepp or Garmin if I choose not to, but want to have access to the data? It's my data too.

This same discusion 20 years ago decried the lack of commonality in operations between the black boxes. Even then people thought there should be a common set of operations that were basic between boxes (sort of like selecting "D" to go forward in a car) This plays into the concept suggested earlier of a basic set of chart data that can get you safely from here to there with bells and whistles at your option.

Bottom line, there absolutely should not be a corporoate toll-gate between taxpayers and the services for which they pay whether they want to or not.

Another way too in which the alphabets have been caught sleeping at the switch.

Posted by: David MacRae | November 14, 2011 9:35 AM    Report this comment

To Robert Murray: In my opinion, the FAA stopped being safety-focused when the government split the FAA's duality of safety and regulation. Yes, it was a bit of a conflict of interest, but when you go to just being about regulation, you focus on enforcement rather than trying to solve the real problem.

To Jim Dunn: I tried using just electronic charting, and while many people love it, I just didn't feel comfortable with it. I find it much easier to just pull out a paper chart (sectional, enroute, AFD, TERP, whatever) and take a quick look at it to get the big picture. I would not want to be forced to go paperless in the cockpit, especially since paper never locks up and doesn't require batteries.

Okay, so the FAA doesn't want to make their electronic versions of the charts free anymore, fine. That's a Bad Thing (tm) from a safety perspective (see my reply to Robert), but why on EARTH would they want to completely PREVENT private individuals from accessing even a paid version? That goes completely in the face of common-sense safety, and only benefits the third-parties selling the disseminated data. I guarantee more pilots will be flying with out-of-date charts, perhaps dangerously out-of-date.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | November 14, 2011 9:53 AM    Report this comment

I suspect they're celebrating wildly at Jeppesen. If this goes through as announced, they will be one of only two (or at most three) providers and this will be a huge step backward in a market where users are already being forced to pay outrageous amounts for the services.

Posted by: Dan Baier | November 14, 2011 10:07 AM    Report this comment

I'm a cheapskate, I admit. The data in my silicon panel is pushing four years old, and the smartest phone I own is a 1990s-vintage answering machine. AOPA's clunky Internet Flight Planner, Runway Finder, and a current sectional are the best I can afford. My computer is old enough to be in Grade 2.

My wife had strongly hinted that this year Santa might have a new iPad loaded with ForeFlight Mobile HD waiting in the wings for me, but news today about the FAA's back-door user fees for data puts the kibosh on that idea.

While I agree that as a GA pilot I must pay for what I use, with every drop of avgas I buy I already contribute to FAA's publication of data. For the FAA to charge for data when it already receives funding for that purpose is at minimum a disingenuous ploy to foist a user fee onto their stakeholders.

If GA lets this one slide by the user-fee precedent will be set, and we won't have anyone to blame but ourselves.

Posted by: Gordon Mano | November 14, 2011 10:11 AM    Report this comment

I'm a cheapskate, I admit. The data in my silicon panel is pushing four years old, and the smartest phone I own is a 1990s-vintage answering machine. AOPA's clunky Internet Flight Planner, Runway Finder, and a current sectional are the best I can afford. My computer is old enough to be in Grade 2.

My wife had strongly hinted that this year Santa might have a new iPad loaded with ForeFlight Mobile HD waiting in the wings for me, but news today about the FAA's back-door user fees for data puts the kibosh on that idea.

While I agree that as a GA pilot I must pay for what I use, with every drop of avgas I buy I already contribute to FAA's publication of data. For the FAA to charge for data when it already receives funding for that purpose is at minimum a disingenuous ploy to foist a user fee onto their stakeholders.

If GA lets this one slide by the user-fee precedent will be set, and we won't have anyone to blame but ourselves.

Posted by: Gordon Mano | November 14, 2011 10:18 AM    Report this comment

Gument fees and regs, "like being nibbled to death by a demented duck. Each bite is just a minor irritation, but after a while you look down and your leg is gone."

Posted by: Barton Robinett | November 14, 2011 10:35 AM    Report this comment

Aeronav services are not currently funded by the FAA through the general fund, they raise their costs (only! no profit) of operation through charging for distributing chart data. When they produced paper, this was easy as each chart had some percentage of the price include the cost of collection, etc. But paper is going away rapidly.

Now I can buy one DVD with EVERYTHING they produce for $5, and I can distribute it to anyone with no restrictions (gov't data cannot be copyrighted). How can that revenue stream that funded the cost of collecting the data be replaced? It will either be through charging for the electronic data somehow or through the general fund. I hope the latter, but you'd better start making the case that this is an essential government function because it currently is not. So the FAA/Aeronav folks don't have much choice other than charge something or fold up shop. I REALLY REALLY REALLY hope it's not the latter.

Posted by: JON CARLSON | November 14, 2011 10:45 AM    Report this comment

We must send a message via email, snail mail, etc. to AOPA, EAA, FAA, Congress, etc. telling each organization that this road to availability of charting data only from certain commercial vendors is unacceptable. Safety and availability of chart data, that is mandated by the FAA regulations must remain readily available to each and every user whether private or commercial without exception. I would, as much as I hate more taxes, would most likely accept a few cents per gallon of additional taxes on fuel that is designated for this critical safety function of charting rather than having it only available from a commercial source that will continually charge more and more for each layer of data. This insanity must stop and the only ones that can stop it is us. Either we move now or the future is very bleak for GA and our safety.

Posted by: Bobby Picker | November 14, 2011 12:33 PM    Report this comment

In the cheapskate camp, if gov't data is not copyrightable, then I foresee legions of user groups whose members subscribe their pro rata share of Garmin/Jepp cost and file share like crazy. Unless Garmin/Jepp have come up with a workaround for somehow privatizing OUR data, it would seem that charging for gov't digital data is DOA.

Posted by: John Burnaby | November 14, 2011 12:35 PM    Report this comment

Brilliant! Now we will have "someone" to sue when charting difficulty is encountered, especially if it involves a fatality. And a future opportunity for congress to bless the charting corporations with immunity from civil actions. Query - will the businesses be able to file for ASRS protections?

Posted by: Art Sebesta | November 14, 2011 12:44 PM    Report this comment

Before you spin completely of control here, consider this: You need to have a clear understanding of how Aeronav is funded. Traditionally, it supported itself with sales of charts. We think it does get some FAA general funding; we're trying to find out how much.

I'm all for the high-horse argument that we deserve these things because our tax dollars funded it. But the nuance is that the delivery of data in a form you can digest--paper charts--was always an extra cost.

But paper is a sunset business. So one needs to understand the costs associated with processing and packaging the source FAA data from the procedures branch and other sources. It may not be much, but it's not zero, either.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | November 14, 2011 12:50 PM    Report this comment

I'm all for paying my fair share for digital downloads, and in fact I found it amazing that they were providing the digital downloads for free. The problem is if they stop making them available at all for private individuals.

I absolutely prefer the paper charts, but there have been a few times when I've planned a flight outside of my normal area and realize too late that one or more of my charts are out of date, without time for me to order and receive the paper charts. In those cases, I've simply downloaded the digital version of the chart and printed out the appropriate sections. If I'll no longer be able to do this, that presents a flight safety issue, unless one of the third-party vendors also allows a one-time non-subscription-based digital download of only the chart(s) I need.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | November 14, 2011 1:02 PM    Report this comment

I really don't mind paying for access to the online charts - as long as I can still get a year's worth of access to the nation's charts for less than the cost of a Jeppesen approach plates subscription.

What I DO mind is the idea that only companies will have access to the chart data -- If the FAA is truly interested in safety of flight they should be working to INCREASE the availability of this data (keeping it free would be ideal, but barring that it should at least be accessible to anyone who wants it for a nominal fee to cover the cost of production and distribution).

I do everything electronically, and yet still pay for an up-to-date sectional and TAC every cycle just to be safe in the event I lose my electronic data. Why shouldn't I be able to purchase the electronic version as an individual?

Posted by: Michael Graziano | November 14, 2011 4:15 PM    Report this comment

The news regarding crony capitalism and political donations makes be wonder... does Garmin and Jepp show up on donor lists?

Posted by: Greg Goodknight | November 14, 2011 4:19 PM    Report this comment

This is but one more bad omen for G/A. This stinks to high-heaven. It's sorta like paying tolls on a highway that was already paid for by tax dollars–especially when the collected tolls go towards funding non-highway projects. You can expect the collected data fees to fund research on the snail-darter, or funding research on aviation in China, or something. No good thing can come of this. My heart is in pain for the future of the G/A industry in America.

Posted by: Phil Derosier | November 14, 2011 5:12 PM    Report this comment

Phil, the charts need to be regularly updated if for no other reason than new cell towers are continually being built that need to be charted. Of course, there are often airspace changes, new roads and highways being built, and magnetic variations. The reason we keep paying for new paper charts is because things do change, and with fewer people buying the paper charts, the FAA does indeed lose much of the income that supports making these changes to the charts.

The real issue is the upcoming lack of public availability of the data, not that we'll be forced to once again pay for a non-free service.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | November 14, 2011 6:06 PM    Report this comment

Then why do citizens pay taxes at all, Gary? Are taxes for the sole purpose of capitalizing salaries and retirements? My point is that government capabilities, assets and resources are already budgeted by Congress, so what's with these surcharges (user fees)?

One more thing: will non-aviation users of this data be likewise compelled to "fess-up"? Will a data "black market" be the result of this budgetary chicanery? Don't think it can happen? Think prohibition.

Posted by: Phil Derosier | November 14, 2011 6:21 PM    Report this comment

Taxes [theoretically] go to services that benefit "everyone". Aviation charts only serve to benefit pilots. (Though admittedly, this often benefits "everyone" through airlines/etc, but the airlines just pass on their costs to the customers anyway). I wouldn't want to be funding the navigation charts boat owners use, or a passport for someone travelling abroad if I have no personal need for these things. The same way I don't expect my next-door neighbor to be funding the aviation charts I use. There are some things that we have to pay for, which is why we also have the tax on aviation fuel. Ordinary taxes can't cover everything.

However, I hear your point about non-aviation users of the data, and the increasing sneak-attack "user fees" that keep popping up. I just disagree that if we're already paying for the paper charts (which include a resource cost-recovery "fee" built-in), that we shouldn't also expect to pay a "fee" for the digital version (which does still require resources to store the data, and convert from the raw data into the format we're used to seeing).

Posted by: Gary Baluha | November 14, 2011 6:41 PM    Report this comment

@Paul - While I agree paper is a dying media, regarding Aeronav funding, let's not forget that is was just a couple of years ago when *they* started putting restrictions on which FBOs could sell their (still preferred by many) *paper* charts.

As I've posted elsewhere, while I'm not averse to paying a bit more for my ForeFlight subscription, this (no matter how anybody wants to spin it) is tantamount to being double-billed. I've already paid for the folks that create these charts... Next up, they'll start adding surcharges to my cell phone bill to cover GPS satellite launch costs.

More worrisome is the restriction on individuals... Trying to see if you can plan a flight somewhere?? Why not order up $100 in sectionals and low en routes first? Your gubmint needs the money! Or, in my particular case: college students! Since they won't be able to use SkyVector or Runway Finder to "surf" for charts, am I expected to require my (FL-based) students to purchase Indianapolis, Denver, and Seattle sectionals, just so I can give them some out-of-the-area flight planning homework?

They're not happy until we're not happy! Is Pravda!

Posted by: Sam Fischer | November 14, 2011 10:18 PM    Report this comment

You people had better wake up out there. I fear NWS/NOAA is next on the hit list. We're drifting uncontrollably into a system of government that taxes all, but services just an elite few. "Taxation, without representation, is tyranny!"

Posted by: Phil Derosier | November 14, 2011 10:52 PM    Report this comment

Dag-nabbit: privatize all the "service agencies" of the government.

Posted by: Phil Derosier | November 14, 2011 10:57 PM    Report this comment

No one seems to have the facts straight re the Goverment (i.e. the FAA, formerly NOS) and charting. Back in the 60s/70s, Jeppesen launched and won a legislative decision thru Congress that required the govt (NOS at the time) to recoup the cost of printing and distributing aviation charts. The result is that NOS formed a Distribution Division. All its employees salaries, pensions and, of course, the cost of printing, postage and distribution had to be covered by its revenues. The FAA was not invovled in any way. It was all NOS, who had acquired the aviation chart duties because the were the only govt. entity already printing charts, i.e.nautical navigation charts. Even our first contracts to sell aviation charts were the same one used for sellers of nautical charts---the word "nautical" was merely whited out and the word "aviation" put in. The restrictions caused real headaches for aviation chart sellers because they had to comply with the FAA's 56-day change cycle vs. no-cycle for nautical charts---our charts went out-of-date and we were prohibited for selling any of those charts. An elaborate "tear off part of the chart" and send it in for credit caused extra clerical work for the FBO that Nautical chart agents did not have to contend with. All they had to do was supply a piece of paper listing the changes (e.g. the flashing light code of a lighthouse) for that chart and the dateless chart could be legally sold.

Posted by: Howie Keefe | November 15, 2011 12:57 AM    Report this comment

No one seems to have the facts straight re the Goverment (i.e. the FAA, formerly NOS) and charting. Back in the 60s/70s, Jeppesen launched and won a legislative decision thru Congress that required the govt (NOS at the time) to recoup the cost of printing and distributing aviation charts. The result is that NOS formed a Distribution Division. All its employees salaries, pensions and, of course, the cost of printing, postage and distribution had to be covered by its revenues. The FAA was not invovled in any way. It was all NOS, who had acquired the aviation chart duties because the were the only govt. entity already printing charts, i.e.nautical navigation charts. Even our first contracts to sell aviation charts were the same one used for sellers of nautical charts---the word "nautical" was merely whited out and the word "aviation" put in. The restrictions caused real headaches for aviation chart sellers because they had to comply with the FAA's 56-day change cycle vs. no-cycle for nautical charts---our charts went out-of-date and we were prohibited for selling any of those charts. An elaborate "tear off part of the chart" and send it in for credit caused extra clerical work for the FBO that Nautical chart agents did not have to contend with. All they had to do was supply a piece of paper listing the changes (e.g. the flashing light code of a lighthouse) for that chart and the dateless chart could be legally sold.

Posted by: Howie Keefe | November 15, 2011 12:57 AM    Report this comment

The Digital Chart saga is quite interesting. The FAA provides charts to more than just the public. They serve their own plus military. To instantly have a new chart electronically is part of this new age-even a carrier at sea can get a fresh digital chart ofr land ops. So now the public. The FAA charged the public $1.65 (cost) for an IFR chart. Of course, it had to be paid by a credit card and credit cards taken over the phone have to be hand written out, etc. They soon discovered that they took in, say $150,000 but the administrative costs were $250,000! To stop this bleeding, it was decided that rather than deny the public the digital charts, they would give them away FREE until it could be sorted out. The the 600 pound Gorilla plus others who had a profitable biz of buying charts from FAA at 50% discount and selling their own subscriptions hit the you-know-what against the FAA freebies. So now a real can of worms exists for the CPA-types to tell the FAA what it costs and what they need to charge, but here's the real hook. The FAA is getting completely out of the biz of selling to the public. It is now the job of their new authorized DIGITAL chart agents(a separate contract from paper)---but the agents need a published price high enough to make a buck selling charts and being confronted with same credit card costs that swamped the FAA. So a DIGITAL CHART could wind-up costing near the price of paper. ONLY THE SHADOW KNOWS!

Posted by: Howie Keefe | November 15, 2011 1:38 AM    Report this comment

OK, folks ... this is the deal: in an era whereby computers can do just about anything, so too can a computer collect, package, and distribute aeronautical data. My point is that this process is not one that should be singularly defined as, or limited to being, a government function. It is the government's monopolistic stranglehold over the data distribution process that's the greatest threat to our freedom to be safe and informed. Isn't free and healthy competition the logical end to this conversation? Am I the only one that thinks private entrepreneurs can do a better job of informing the public than a leviathan government?

Posted by: Phil Derosier | November 15, 2011 2:10 AM    Report this comment

"Am I the only one that thinks private entrepreneurs can do a better job of informing the public than a leviathan government?"

First of all, consider this: To as great a degree as technically possible, Jeppesen collects and processes its own data and has for many years. It does not originate the data, but it gets as close to the source agencies as possible. You have the option of buying Jeppesen charts and data. If you think their products are superior and cheaper, you have that choice. If you want government out of the business, you'll get a monopoly, if that's what you want. The barrier to entry for a new company is likely too high.

Second, there are two examples of privatization to consider. One is NavCanada. There are fees involved. We've never surveyed user satisfaction so I can't comment on that, but I'm sure Canadian pilots can.

The second is Lockheed Martin's contract for FSS which we have surveyed recently. At best, the company gets mixed reviews, at worst, pilots would prefer going back to government-operated FSS. Most of the complaints involve long wait times, dropped called and briefers without local experience or aviation expertise. It's less the cost than the quality of service.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | November 15, 2011 5:03 AM    Report this comment

Like you, I thought private enterprise could and would do a better job with FSS. I editorialized in favor of it. So far, it has not done a better job. Sometimes you have to just look at actual facts and get past the knee-jerk anti-government reaction because the reality is that sometimes private enterprise doesn't do better.

Whether aeronautical infrastructure should be a private enterprise function is debatable. That means a contractor would design approaches, flight check and distribute the data. Who pays for that? If it's users, expect a bill. (NavCanada model.) If it's the government, expect lowest possible, cost-based service level. (Lockheed Martin.)

No easy solution to this.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | November 15, 2011 5:03 AM    Report this comment

But the computer/internet era is causing the paradigm to shift, Paul. New opportunities are presenting themselves on a rapid-fire basis. Most of us tip our hats to Jeppesen (costs notwithstanding). But I strongly suspect Jepp was successful because first and foremost, there was a love for the industry that permeated the company.

I stand by my position that, should the government begin charging, some intrepid entrepreneur will design a system to take the raw data, use computer technology to recompile it, and sell it less than the government offering because the price of technology goes *down* over time. This is also called "the competitive spirit", and I suspect such a person could be reading (or writing!) such a proposal right now.

One last note: Obama inferred Americans as "lazy" just a day ago. Is "laziness" what got most of us in the air? You see, what's happening is the government is bludgeoning citizens over the head that "the only solution is the only solution", taxes the heck out of entrepreneurs, then proclaims its citizens as "inept" ... or worse. So, let's see who's right on that "laziness" point, when it applies to aviation data distribution, as well as the overall future challenges of our beloved avocation.

Posted by: Phil Derosier | November 15, 2011 6:31 AM    Report this comment

"... the only solution is the government solution" ... sorry about that ...

Posted by: Phil Derosier | November 15, 2011 6:33 AM    Report this comment

To me this overall story has quite a "smell" to it. I can imagine that all those cheap iPad apps based on free source data must be a big nuicance to the Jepps of this world. So if I owned Jepp, I would try to talk the Government into charging for that data, so that I can continue to charge a lot for my data. And I would "talk them into" using me as their distributor as well. In some parts of the world "talking a government into doing something" often involves some non-verbal arguements, like little green pieces of paper with numbers on them... I would look hard to see who is benefiting from such arangements, and to me "political donations" are just a mild form of bribery, nothing else.

Posted by: Joe Wuensche | November 15, 2011 6:56 AM    Report this comment

"because the price of technology goes *down* over time."

Not in aviation, it doesn't. And as I pointed out in the blog, data is one reason for that. Certification costs are another. Volume is another. Manufacturing reality is another.

The typical owner of a glass cockpit airplane probably has about $2000 to $4000 in additional annual costs--adjusted for inflation--that didn't exist 10 years ago. For that, the owner gets better situational awareness, weather and other geegaws. But it's not cheaper. Most owners believe the additional capability is worth it. But it costs more. Consumer electronics economics don't apply.

The best you can argue for is to make digital raw navigational data available at the originating sources, which is probably mostly the procedures branch. Then charge whatever nominal fee it costs to make this digestible to businesses that can turn it into a final product. I can't see a business in there printing paper charts. I think it would be a huge loser given that Airnav does it on a cost-only basis and the prices aren't cheap. Add profit in there and there's just no business. Buyers won't pay.

This would be a huge boon to makers of tablet computers and app writers, for competition in paper would instantly vanish. So if you like paper, you're screwed.

Maybe that's not a bad thing. But not everyone will agree.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | November 15, 2011 7:27 AM    Report this comment

... the government *does* have the propensity to artificially inflate or depress prices. Now, I'm no "economic purist", but the government has the ability and a vested interest in sustaining itself via "regulation manipulation". Every regulation is not borne of some safety concern. Hence, the "cornered market" called "aviation data".

Posted by: Phil Derosier | November 15, 2011 7:37 AM    Report this comment

If the paper form of these charts disappears, that would be a very bad day for aviation. All the extra situational awareness and capabilities these devices provide us are great, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. We already know that glass cockpit aircraft do not have appreciably lower accident rates than those without, and the reason is many people become fixated on the technology and trying to get it to do what they want, and forgetting what the "P" in "PIC" means. If we add in having to deal with an electronic-only version of the charts too, I can't see the outcome being very good.

Additional negatives that I have found in my own [admittedly limited] trials of electronic charting: you can't write on the electronic charts; if your software doesn't support it, or you forget to lock the screen, you can't simply place your hand on the chart as a reminder of where you are without it accidentally panning or zooming; certain sun angles produce glare that makes it difficult to read the glossy screen; the tablet computer can overheat or lock-up or lose battery; you can't pan or zoom with gloves, or if your fingers are wet. In theory, electronic charting is great, but in practice, I have found no suitable replacement for the good old paper charts.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | November 15, 2011 8:36 AM    Report this comment

(Cont) However, all that being said, it's nice to have the option to choose what works best for your situation. Even though I prefer the paper charts, I've still occasionally downloaded the digital version if for no other reason than to print off the part of the chart I may need.

One benefit of a government service is that you know what you're going to get, because they aren't in it for the profit. It may not be the best product possible, or even the cheapest, but it's plain to see what it is. With private companies, they *are* in it for the profit, which means if it's a low-margin product, the cost is either going to be ridiculously high, or maybe it won't be offered at all, or even worse, it could be cost-cut to the point of being ineffectual (this is why I do all my briefings through DUATs rather than FSS: FSS has long since stopped providing me a value-add with the lack of local weather experts).

Posted by: Gary Baluha | November 15, 2011 8:42 AM    Report this comment

"The typical owner of a glass cockpit airplane probably has about $2000 to $4000 in additional annual costs--adjusted for inflation--that didn't exist 10 years ago. For that, the owner gets better situational awareness, weather and other geegaws. But it's not cheaper."

Paul,

That means aviation is going to split into two distinction streams:

1. Ultralights, light-sport, experimental, and purely recreational flyers.

2. The well-heeled who can afford their own jets and helicopters and hire pilots to do their flying, business aviation, and the airlines.

Posted by: Gary Dikkers | November 15, 2011 9:31 AM    Report this comment

You're right, Gary. But there's a third stream you missed: Long-term owners of legacy airplanes, the old 150s, Skyhawks and Warriors, that will live on without need of modern avionics.

The inflection point for them will in nine years, when NexGen kicks in and they have to buy ADS-B out. Many will not. Those airframes will disappear overseas or just get scrapped.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | November 15, 2011 9:41 AM    Report this comment

"The inflection point for them will in nine years..."

Gaah! Now it's a race...will I last beyond 9 years and have to spring for ADS-B or will I kick out on schedule at 82? Life is so complicated.

Posted by: John Wilson | November 15, 2011 10:07 AM    Report this comment

"The inflection point for them will in nine years..."

Heck, for me it was last April when I sold my aircraft to get away from fuel costs, the burden of over regulation, maintenance rip-offs, spiraling insurance costs, anticipated reduced aircraft value from impending mandates for ADS-B, and yes, the costs of data base updates.

It just wasn't fun any more.

To be clear, the aviation community needs to pay its share of the costs, but if you are not comfortable with those costs, it is time to run for the exit.

I would be shorting scrap aluminum starting in about 2018.

Posted by: David MacRae | November 15, 2011 11:58 AM    Report this comment

This is by all accounts a back door user fee and an infringement on our rights as tax payers to free and open acces to government data that we have paid for. It is outrageous to think that the FAA would abandon the individual pilot and all the implied safety issues and force us to only access the information through unregulated and profit hungry corporations. Leave it to the government to get in the way of progress toward a safer, friendlier, and more affordable flying public.

Posted by: Jerry Van Slambrook | November 15, 2011 12:21 PM    Report this comment

I don't so much mind paying for digital charts as I do paying for them over and over again. I need one paid download for my panel mount GPS, another for my handheld, another for my Aspen PFD, another for my iPad, and another for the flight planner on my computer. How many times are we supposed to pay for the same data? It's ridiculous. What is needed is an industry-standard data storage device that will hold a chart subscription and make the data available to all kinds of avionics via Bluetooth or otherwise. The purchase of that data ONCE would serve every data client onboard. Something like this should be required by the government and data should not be sold to those who do not participate.

The current system is an outrage. We are being gouged. Not only is it unfair, but the result is most people are flying with expired databases to the detriment of safety.

Posted by: Marc Rodstein | November 15, 2011 12:37 PM    Report this comment

Marc R, the AOPA jawboned the FAA to provide a digital nav database for low or no cost GPS databases several almost a decade ago. Most agreed that it was unseemly to be decommissioning terrestrial navaids and requiring up to date databases in the gps replacement when there was a defacto monopoly in databases. The AOPA got their wish, the Feds created a database. As far as I can tell, the only one using it is Jeppessen, and their prices remain sky high.

I'm sure it makes updating their database easier, but the public database was supposedly undertaken to ensure more folks would have an up to date GPS, not fluffing Jepp's profit margin.

Posted by: Greg Goodknight | November 15, 2011 1:32 PM    Report this comment

My Foreflight subscription is $75/year. That includes ALL VFR aviation charts and Green Monster updates for the entire year.

If they need to double it to $150/year that still screams bargain! to me. It's the Garmin/Jepp folks who are paying through the nose. There are alternatives thankfully (currently at least).

The big boys can only increase prices so much before alternatives show up in the form of piracy and torrents. Right now the iPad app providers have the advantage. When that is taken away and ALL chart subscriptions surpass a monthly cell phone bill, we'll start seeing illegal alternatives for the little GA guys.

Posted by: Peter Kuhns | November 15, 2011 2:18 PM    Report this comment

This blog is very interesting and very wide ranging. It seems to me that the "no free lunch" idea has to come into play. When I started flying in 1953, beautiful Sectional charts were something like 50 cents. They were never zero. Time has moved on and technology has changed. Duh!! At 74 years old, I have an SR-22 Centennial Edition, iPad and WingX. I canceled my Jepp subscription because of the economics: I could get full US coverage of NACA enroute charts and approach plates plus Sectionals for 1/3rd the price of Jepp instrument charts for just one region. Why would one not make the change - even though I prefer the Jepp charts? But still, the point is that I have always PAYED for the product. I also make economic cost/benefit decisions based on my needs and what is on the market. Do not be misled - Government charts have NEVER been free. I will watch the market place as it evolves and move my money as appropriate.

Posted by: Bill Castlen | November 15, 2011 9:02 PM    Report this comment

Does anyone here remember how Detroit ("Motor-City") used to make money? "Planned obsolesence", is how. That is, design a product that the manufacturer knows will basically fall apart in 3 years. Has it struck anyone that the government may very well be pulling this scam on consumers of aviation data ... i.e., data obsolesence due to no more than a little name change here or there. I mean, if the government is insisting we pay for data, shouldn't we be likewise insisting on longer life from the products we buy? Frankly and to me, sticking with 56-day data cycles is pathetic. Consumer pressure forced Detroit to produce more efficient products. I say we should insist upon the same from the government.

... and don't get me started on "lemon-laws" ...

Posted by: Phil Derosier | November 15, 2011 9:33 PM    Report this comment

Whitehouse petition on issue:

http://wh.gov/jgM

Make noise! It isn't the cost so much as the restrictions on the vendors to DRM the carts. Kills innovations and privatizes the charting industry.

AOPA? NBAA? EAA? Where art thou?

Posted by: MIKE CIHOLAS | November 15, 2011 10:37 PM    Report this comment

OK Paul, here's what we will do : Avweb starts an Avwebcharts business, and hires 2 wizzs to write a program to translate procedures branch data to a user friendly opensource format. All people writing here pay avweb $10 per year for all US data (source and charts). Screw big business. Ofcourse, the user is resposible for verifying charts against source. Et voila !

Posted by: Peter De Ceulaer | November 16, 2011 5:58 AM    Report this comment

We must understand privatizing many services increases cost and reduces services as it does in health care. having a government bureaucrat control what we get is bad enough but giving someone the monopoly and the incentive to reduce service so they can make more money is what is causing the weather briefing problems and terrible airline service. in general It is bad enough having someone decide my fate but adding to the problem by giving him an economic incentive to reduce or deny service is even worse.

Posted by: BILL LAWSON | November 16, 2011 6:14 AM    Report this comment

I wrote my congressmen, signed the IMC Club petition, and shared the link on FB. My main concern is the exclusion of timely individual downloads, as unlike most of the commentators here, I rely exclusively on the downloads, printed and in my own software.

These data are the most current available. Safety will not be enhanced by raising hurdles to obtaining them, reformatting to make proprietary (and copyrightable), and potentially delaying release to any users.

The move two months ago to not release data to individuals until 24 hours before it becomes effective was a notch down in safety for users. This latest decision is potentially a killer.

NTSB and FAA enforcement has consistently held that 91.103 and 91.13 require the most current chart information be on board. This decision is a step backward, a clear reduction in safety and runs contrary to the interpretation of FAA regulations.

As for the cost of the safety these data provide, I am reminded of the slogan on a Western Electric poster I saw in the '50s - "Safety benefits EVERYONE." To anyone that says otherwise, I will ask, "If nothing else, it keeps me from straying over your home, your neighborhood, your workplace, and the roads you travel. How is that not safer for you?"

- Sam

Posted by: THOMAS STROHL | November 16, 2011 7:35 AM    Report this comment

Charting is a fundamental government necessity and should be funded by the general fund. If private and commercial flight ceased, government flight would continue. Besides that, a required product must be available for a reasonable fee. Dissemination costs what we should really be paying for as pilots. Those costs go WAY down when you eliminate paper.

Posted by: Eric Warren | November 16, 2011 8:40 AM    Report this comment

I'd go one step further, Eric: what da heck happened to the "stimulus" fund? Why isn't aviation (at the user level) getting a piece of that pie? Why not "roads ... bridges ... and aviation charts and data"?

Posted by: Phil Derosier | November 16, 2011 8:53 AM    Report this comment

In NavCanada's system, users are not the only ones who can receive a bill for use of the Canadian airwaves.

NavCanada captures tail numbers during ATC communications then retrieves users' mailing addresses from government databases, which includes the FAA's N-Number Registry.

Back in 2004 someone used my tail number in a call to a Canadian towered airport while my aircraft was parked in Houston. NavCanada still sends me the bill for a call I did not make.

If user fees come to the US, we'll have another reason to be nice to people.

Posted by: Jack Norman | November 16, 2011 10:13 AM    Report this comment

I'm ok with the government charging to download the data, but that data is the property of the taxpayers of the United States, not Garmin or Jeppensen.

That means that any taxpayer is free to re-distribute the data free of charge.

So AirNav, Foreflight, AOPA, EAA, etc should be able to republish the charts under whatever terms their users will support.

Posted by: Jim Howard | November 16, 2011 11:48 AM    Report this comment

This would seem to be made to order for Aspen's "Connected Panel" application--allowing devices to talk to one another. Cut and paste the link www.connectedpanel.com/home to see the video that appeared on Avweb.

As Aspen says--it not only works with new equipment, but many legacy boxes. They also say that "this is an open-architecture system--able to do things we haven't even thought of yet."

Buying ONE database wouldn't be objectionable. If Aspen can make this work, they will be the market leader.

Posted by: jim hanson | November 16, 2011 12:18 PM    Report this comment

I have no problem with any vendor taking the public database, adapting it for use in their products, and charging for the processed data. Garmin and Jeppensen add a lot of value to the basic FAA databases, and there's nothing wrong with their charging for this added value.

I don't have a problem with the government recovering the costs of providing aviation chart to users. It does cost real money for the government to distribute data DVDs and/or provide internet downloads via a server. Probably something on the order of $250 per update could be justified.

I do have a problem with requiring entities like Jeppensen, Garmin, AirNav or AOPA to pay some kind of royalty just for redistributing data that is already owned by the public.

That's our data in the first place!

Maybe its time to set up a tent city at HQ FAA!

Posted by: Jim Howard | November 16, 2011 2:14 PM    Report this comment

Paul--you were at the Aspen briefing--your thoughts on whether this would work?

Buying ONE database should be all that is required to not only make all of your boxes play--but to meet the letter of the law for the FAA in having the material on board.

On the subject of who has access to the information, I'm surprised that AOPA or any of the other alphabet organizations don't DEMAND to be let in as one of the "commercial suppliers". AOPA could easily distribute the material at cost as a membership benefit--give MORE VALUE to membership in the organization.

Posted by: jim hanson | November 16, 2011 2:42 PM    Report this comment

There seems to be some contradiction here. OTOH, it seems it's supposed to be free to republish the data, but OTOH, it seems that the FAA is some how not allowing that?

Posted by: Eric Warren | November 16, 2011 2:52 PM    Report this comment

"I'm ok with the government charging to download the data, but that data is the property of the taxpayers of the United States, not Garmin or Jeppensen. That means that any taxpayer is free to re-distribute the data free of charge."

Shame on us for having done such a terrible job of educating our readers on what's at stake here. We're trying to generate additional information so we can explain this a little better.

One thing you're probably not getting is that when the FAA designs instrument procedures, it generates a bunch of raw TERPS-type data which both Airnav and Jeppesen turn into finished products by applying a lot of cartography resources. In addition, Jeppesen has its own extensive network of data gathering (worldwide) and has data the FAA doesn't have. That's part of what it sells.

What you have traditionally been paying for with NOS/Airnav products is the cost of turning that raw data into something you can use in print and, lately, a digitally format. Some are making the argument that all of this should now be free. But that's not a realistic argument.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | November 16, 2011 4:06 PM    Report this comment

Well the, Paul, what the process needs is a good old fashioned audit.

Posted by: Phil Derosier | November 16, 2011 4:12 PM    Report this comment

You might next argue that any citizen who wants to write an app should have access to that raw FAA-generated data for free. That's fine as far as it goes, but that's not what we're talking about here. Any business who gets the data then has to do the carto work to certain FAA standards and that will take a pretty hefty investment, if it can be done at all. I don't see how the app industry can do this.

So what the app writers (and Garmin) are doing now is simply getting the Airnav processing and carto work for free, digitizing and massaging it and providing it to customers in a usable format for a realistic fee. Bottom line: Airnav is giving away what it used to sell and which everyone paid for without complaint.

Insisting that it be free under public domain doctrine is not going to fly in the current budget environment.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | November 16, 2011 4:13 PM    Report this comment

OK, maybe more info IS needed then... Aside from what Jepp and Garmin (or Seattle Avionics) *add* to the raw data, who is producing the printed sectional charts? The government and it's cartographers, correct?

Once the map is made, the basic *image* file (essentially a large digital photo of a sectional or en route chart) doesn't need to be tweaked by *anybody*. I could just as well buy a sectional and take a picture with my camera. Skyvector and RunwayFinder are simply showing us those large "photos." The iPad apps do the same, but only after stitching them together into one piece. The original article made it sound as though *that* image data (without geo-references or GPS coords for obstacles, etc.) was part of what was being dropped from individual, public access.

And, are you/they suggesting that without this "user fee," the FAA won't be in the business of creating aeronautical charts?

Posted by: Sam Fischer | November 16, 2011 9:54 PM    Report this comment

"And, are you/they suggesting that without this "user fee," the FAA won't be in the business of creating aeronautical charts?"

That's not out of the question, Sam, although Airnav insists it doesn't want that to happen. Consider the economics: If Airnav supports itself on a cost-only basis by selling paper charts and paper chart sales are in rapid decline due to digital conversion, how do they fund the carto work? With Jepp products, that's rolled into the price.

If the app industry can figure out a way to do this--maybe not impossible, but not cheap or easy--then the digital conversion can proceed. "User fee" is kind of a hot button. But essentially, without some funding in there, you as a buyer are asking the government to now provide for free what it used to charge a nominal fee for. Did you consider the purchase of NOS/Airnav charts a user fee?

This gets wrapped up with the Obama administration's $100-er-flight user fee. But, obviously, they are different. My point is that it's important to understand both the politics and the economics of the situation.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | November 17, 2011 5:24 AM    Report this comment

Guys, I've been through 100's of spatial data contract negotiations at TomTom. What is needed is:

The pricing structure and licensing terms and conditions that are formulated include a provision for licensing the data to non-value added resellers, as pass-through agents for digital chart data. Furthermore, the terms and conditions for these pass-through agents include no modification of the data as received from AeroNav, no restrictions on copying and distributing, no restrictions on use of the data, and at a price free of any downstream AeroNav internal production costs.

- Sam (Strohl)

Posted by: THOMAS STROHL | November 17, 2011 7:33 AM    Report this comment

I'm confused. You 'mericans want your aviation charts to be for free - but you want to pay for health care? Come to Australia - where the healthcare is free, but a subscription to all the charts and publications you need is $95/year ( from a small company called Oz runways).

Posted by: Darren Edwards | November 17, 2011 8:01 AM    Report this comment

Oh, and if you're wondering what happened to that free DAFIF data you used to get, you can thank Airservicesaustralia (FAA equivalent in Australia). They are a quasi government organization, who holds copyright on some of the data contained in DAFIF. They put their foot down to stop free distribution of that data to the public a few years ago. so the FAA is really just a few years behind. Wouldn't surprise me is they reinvent themselves legally somehow, in order to copyright the data.

Posted by: Darren Edwards | November 17, 2011 8:07 AM    Report this comment

Oh, and if you're wondering what happened to that free DAFIF data you used to get, you can thank Airservicesaustralia (FAA equivalent in Australia). They are a quasi government organization, who holds copyright on some of the data contained in DAFIF. They put their foot down to stop free distribution of that data to the public a few years ago. so the FAA is really just a few years behind. Wouldn't surprise me is they reinvent themselves legally somehow, in order to copyright the data.

Posted by: Darren Edwards | November 17, 2011 8:07 AM    Report this comment

It seems like the FAA (who is supposed to work with us in aviation) is in colusion with the socialists in the White House that want to eleminate general aviation by making it too expensive to fly. Maybe there are others that need to be added to the 536 people in Washington that need to be replaced.

Posted by: RICK BAILEY | November 17, 2011 10:04 AM    Report this comment

I have been complaining to AOPA for years about the cost of electronic data bases to no avail. Foreflight and the like have help solve the high cost of charts but the cost of electronic data bases is outrageous because Jeppesen (Boeing) has a monopoly is in bed with Garmin. When Jeppesen first came out with E-charts they were more expensive than paper charts. Technology has driven the costs of most things lower; Jeppesen raises the cost almost every year. I am a retired major airline pilot and love the new GPS approaches which are much better than the ILS/VOR system I used in the airlines. I teach instruments in light airplanes and I can tell you the cost of flying is hurting general aviation badly. Until some competition is introduced I am afraid things will not improve. Remember fuel prices are always lower at airports with more than one FBO.

Patrick McBurnett

Posted by: Patrick McBurnett | November 17, 2011 10:52 AM    Report this comment

I was going to sign the IMC Club petition until I saw the response threshold.

It's hard to tell from the available numbers but it looks to me that we'll be lucky to have 250,000 active pilots who use charts of any sort, and a MUCH smaller number that need the digital versions. Which means that in order to get 25,000 signatures on the petition, it will have to see a response rate well into the double-digits. And in four weeks that ain't bloody likely...

Posted by: Chip Davis | November 17, 2011 1:51 PM    Report this comment

There is a lot of truth in the post by Mr. Jim Howard. Also in Europe we may also find government charts free of charge on the internet (e.g in France). But the only thing you can do is printing it. For my GNS530 I need to pay Jeppesen for the GPS database (twice as I have two Gps's)and in addition for Jeppview as I need approach and en route charts. All this (for Central Europe only!) costs me about 2000 Euro (2800 $) a year (to Jeppesen). But I suppose governments provide the data free of charge to Jeppesen! So the taxpayer already pays for the databases while Jeppesen collects a lot of money just for running some software in order to put it in the right format (for the GPS or Jeppview). So, who is collecting the money? Jeppesen. And who is paying twice? The 'flying' taxpayer. I would agree to pay the "right" price (to Jeppesen) for the service provided, but 2800$ for some 15 updates a year is a lot (too much) of money. There should be more competition (at least in Europe as we don't have a choice here for digital data). The only nice thing is that I can use my Jeppesen subscription free of charge for my iPad. Also one may wonder if airliners pay for this service proportionally (in comparison to private pilots). I doubt.

Posted by: JAN MELKEBEEK | November 17, 2011 4:05 PM    Report this comment

Anyone that makes a profit from the data should have to pay a fee. GA pilots using it for personal reasons should not have to pay twice, one through taxes and again through fees. If the FAA needs more money then they need to work their budget.

Posted by: Tyler Madia | November 17, 2011 6:07 PM    Report this comment

Paul, you are asking the right question about the proposal to charge for Airnav digital products: "If Airnav supports itself on a cost-only basis by selling paper charts and paper chart sales are in rapid decline due to digital conversion, how do they fund the carto work?"

I hope those of your readers who are politically right-wing, who were pushing Congress and the executive to reduce the US federal budget deficit, and were ruling out tax increases to fund governmental functions which are force multipliers for the economy, will notice the connection: charging for AirNav digital products is the logical conclusion to such priorities. Policies have consequences.

The software and digital content worlds have long grappled with what business models to use for digital products which cost money to prepare but are essentially free to copy. I hope the aviation community can learn from their insights. A great place to start is Kevin Kelly's seminal paper:

"Better than free" www.kk dot org thetechnium/archives/2008/01 /better_than_fre.php

"...When copies are super abundant, they become worthless.

When copies are super abundant, stuff which can't be copied becomes scarce and valuable.

When copies are free, you need to sell things which can not be copied...."

Posted by: James DeLaHunt | November 17, 2011 9:17 PM    Report this comment

The current system of electronic data (TPs, AFD, charts) being available for "free" to pilots is a huge safety win. Having no user fee obstacles means these data are used more often and in date. I can't imagine a better cost/benefit example to significantly improve safety. If the FAA makes this change, their position on safety (vs. "profit") will be laid bare. Costs: agreed they are not zero, but they are low. Processing, storage, and bandwidth are all tending towards $0 cost. A per-use fee would be a huge obstacle as seen in Europe and Canada. FSS: not a great comparision. For most pilots, the Internet-delivered weather briefings, flight plan filings, etc. are all much easier and more capable than the old FSS scope. FSS should have shrunk in scope and costs -- that's not the case with electronic flight data -- we *want* to go in that direction. This FAA proposal is very bad and suggests the worst of corporate-government industrial complex.

Posted by: BRADLEY SPATZ | November 17, 2011 9:40 PM    Report this comment

RE: The LAW on Chart sales. 1. Circa 1965, 600 pound gorilla, thru Senator Hart, tried to get govt. stop printing IFR charts because govt was "competing with private business" 2. Capt. Randall, head NOS Avcharts, asked me to prepare a document defending why the govt should print and distribute IFR charts to GA 3. I listed many ways the gorilla's charts did not meet FAA's specs (e.g. no expiration date, no airport info (but was on each airlines).

4 They were successful. Congress passed legislation making the govt. recoup the cost of selling to GA. 5. This legislation still exists today. Saying "GA has a right", "it is our govt, therefore----" "or $$'s paid for the data", do not understand the LAW! 6. AERONAV offered digital charts based on what they THOUGHT costs were, BUT it turned out costs of credit card orders were greater than revenue, $150,000 vs. $250,000 expenses. To stop the bleeding they were FREE. 8. Gorilla and others selling charts screamed about AERONAV "breaking the law" . AERONAV needed to cover to offer GA digital charts. Soft-ware costs? Salary,pensions of computer people? Etc?. 9. On Dec 13, AERONAV may reveal charges.

So, please, mute the ranting about "we pays for it thru our taxes" et al.Congress, not AERONAV enacted the LAW under which AERONAV must operate. Write your reps to have it changed. Howie Keefe

Posted by: Howie Keefe | November 17, 2011 9:41 PM    Report this comment

Here is a plan. Stop requiring GA to have the charts. Now what? Another "right wing" solution would be to either privatize the whole process soup to nuts (with competition) or declare it a necessary function and spread the cost fairly. What the left, the socialists, the mercantilists, and the moderate republicans seem to love are these crony capitalist solutions where monopolies and oligopolies are doled out in DC. No Thanks. Can we leave politics out now?

Posted by: Eric Warren | November 17, 2011 10:16 PM    Report this comment

Go to the Aeronav site: http://www.faa.gov/air_traffic/flight_info/aeronav/

Look at ALL of the products they produce. That's funded by charging $8.50 per sectional??? No way! SOME amount of FAA funding MUST be devoted to paying for the cartos and other staff that make and support the charts and those other products...

Once they are made, they are IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN. I quote from the Aeronav website: "All digital products published by the FAA are in the public domain and not copyright protected." (Notice it doesn't say "published by Aeronav" btw!)

Electronic delivery via website costs NOTHING! (Don't try to argue about the "cost" of servers and IT staff, FAA.gov isn't going to get shut down if folks stop buying sectionals...)

Recoup the hard cost of PRINTING paper charts? Sure. Charging for, or not permitting, the public to DOWNLOAD electronic data? Doesn't pass the sniff test.

Posted by: Sam Fischer | November 17, 2011 10:28 PM    Report this comment

I agree with you, I don't believe in database costs being escalated and sent along. This is how our costs got out of control with our medical system. When I buy a burger I don't pay separately for the cheese, ketchup and pickle suppliers. That type of accounting drives up costs fast!

Posted by: Thomas Wiley | November 18, 2011 7:40 AM    Report this comment

In considering the possible pricing structure, AeroNav digital data products can be classified into four tiers: VFR raster, VFR vector, IFR raster, and IFR vector. Each group is progressively more expensive to maintain, but not necessarily at higher price because number of end-users will also be a factor. The pricing structure may have these scheduled as individual items or packaged. For example, the IFR vector pricing may include a package of all VFR and IFR products.

Usually, within each tier there will be breakout pricing based on number of end users of the data. Since AreoNav has already ruled out sourcing to individuals, the usual one-to-five user breakout won’t be part of the schedule. Presumably, AeroNav has been keeping track of paper chart sales in these four tiers and correlating that with the rise in hits on their data servers for the same data, and perhaps they now have enough data to fairly balance production costs across both digital and paper product lines.

- Sam

Posted by: THOMAS STROHL | November 18, 2011 12:15 PM    Report this comment

I should add that this is what I think is meant by controlling use; it is a price control based on the use the data supports, rather than controlling permissible use. It would be an added incentive not to include, say, approach charts in a VFR-only device.

- Sam

Posted by: THOMAS STROHL | November 18, 2011 12:27 PM    Report this comment

I get it...... My tax dollar pays for the charts one time and now I get to buy them again for my ipad.

Posted by: Johnny Carter | November 18, 2011 1:55 PM    Report this comment

Johnny, in this particular case, Congress has mandated that AeroNav recover the costs of production through sales. The issue is the decision to switch from "contract + direct sales," where direct revenues were zero, to "contract sales only."

Posted by: THOMAS STROHL | November 18, 2011 4:44 PM    Report this comment

The only reason the public would not be able to download the data would be because no vendor stepped forward to provide the terms of service AeroNav now provides. That's were the pricing is very very important.

The pricing structure, to be announced December 13, will determine for whom it is financially feasible to provide a substitute service to the AeroNav downloads.

It may only be feasible for those that have no interest doing so, or believe they could benefit by not doing so, or do so in a restrictive way to protect their interests.

- Sam

Posted by: THOMAS STROHL | November 19, 2011 7:25 AM    Report this comment

@Sam Strohl - do you a reference for the legislation? I can't find anything so far...

I understand that they would (should?) recoup the costs of printing paper charts. But, as I mentioned above they do far more than just supporting Part 91 operations - supporting the military and ATC, to mention a few. Your posts keep making it sound like the ENTIRE department must be funded by selling products. This seems questionable given that the FAA and DoD wouldn't likely contract with "themselves" to get their charts...

That's my arguement... If the chart *developement* is funded via the FAA or department funding, then their *electronic* distro should be essentially free.

I'll also reiterate that I'm more than willing to pay for charts on my iPad. It's the free access for individual users - via SkyVector, RunwayFinder and the likes - that are used by high school and college students that I'm concerned about.

Posted by: Sam Fischer | November 19, 2011 3:10 PM    Report this comment

The future of US aviation is being allowed to be eroded by our self-centered pilot population. The data access monopoly is facilitated by OEM lobbyists and reinforced by congress and will continue to expand unless there is a greater general awareness and participation and a sense of urgency against the law enactment. The petition by IMC Club International will not reach its 25,000 signature goal by December 14, 2011 as the pilot community is fragmented and some just won’t get involved. This reminds me of the AB48 Flight School tax fiasco we just overcame in California. Out of 9700 CFIs only a handful participated in the process to overturn the tsunami against flight education in California, I was one of them. If the FAA is responsible for the safety of civil aviation then access to navigational data should be unburdened.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | November 20, 2011 9:22 AM    Report this comment

I believe that the Dec 13 meeting will only be open to selected vendors. If true, many of the valid concerns noted above will not be heard by AeroNav products.

Posted by: Bill Hammett | November 20, 2011 12:02 PM    Report this comment

I think AOPA will not be of much help here, as it has been the case in several important issues I have been involved in, but here is info from one of AOPA's ePublishing staff columns. "AeroNav Products plans to host a meeting Dec. 13 (2011)to discuss the details of this shift in distribution policies. AOPA will attend the session with a goal of ensuring the continued availability of aeronautical charts, both digital and paper, to general aviation pilots.

The meeting will take place at AeroNav Products Logistics, 10201 Good Luck Road, Glenn Dale, Md., from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information about this event and to RSVP, please contact: Abigail “Abby” Smith, Business Development Manager, 301/427-5068."

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | November 20, 2011 11:02 PM    Report this comment

We have asked to attend that meeting, by the way, as press representatives. The request was denied. To me, this is far more alarming and irritating than getting the data for free.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | November 21, 2011 5:30 AM    Report this comment

Can it be denied, then, that "cronyism" permeates our government in general ... and this Administration in particular?

Posted by: Phil Derosier | November 21, 2011 6:48 AM    Report this comment

Call the director of AeroNav products, Fred Anderson, at 405 954 3027. ... AeroNav Products' Logistics 10201 Good Luck Road Glenn Dale MD 20769

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | November 21, 2011 8:31 AM    Report this comment

"we petition the obama administration to: Ask FAA for reversal to charge for government approach data downloads and not allowing individuals to access them. It will affect small aviation safety material distribution companies. Only large aviation corporations will be able to offset those expenses. It will have serious and wide ranging implications for the general aviation economy and restrict access to basic safety and proficiency materials."

Goto:https://wwws.whitehouse.gov/petitions/%21/petition/ask-faa-reversal-charge-government-approach-data-downloads-and-not-allowing-individuals-access-them/Hg1nqTJy#thank-you=p

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | November 21, 2011 11:59 AM    Report this comment

whitehouse.gov/petitions/%21/petition/ask-faa-reversal-charge-government-approach-data-downloads-and-not-allowing-individuals-access-them/Hg1nqTJy#thank-you=p

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | November 21, 2011 12:00 PM    Report this comment

I spoke with Abby Smith at AeroNav this afternoon. I have a clear understanding of what the decision actually is, what they are trying to achieve, and a fair understanding of the constraints.

I can summarize the goals of the decision as 1) recover the costs of digital product production, and 2) ensure the integrity of the products at their point of use.

The meeting is to discuss things like whether cost recovery is better managed using per-use versus per-copy pricing, volume versus level pricing structure, and appropriate technologies to assure data integrity.

The hope is that we (the User Community) can agree on an equitable way to manage the costs, and define what is equitable. Her team will have a proposal, but other than preserving integrity and recovering costs within Congressional constraints, nothing is cast in stone.

The cost accounting methods and integrity assurance will, for the most part, determine whether a company providing data at a point of use, or distribution to an end user, would be compelled to use technology like DRM to meet the auditing requirements. This is an area that requires knowledgeable participation to minimize impact on cost.

If you can't make the meeting, write it down and send it to her. She is desperate for participation, now that the issue is so clouded.

Oh yes, any business or individual can become a digital products agent, regardless of size. And you don't necessarily have to be an agent to obtain the products.

- Sam

Posted by: THOMAS STROHL | November 21, 2011 6:36 PM    Report this comment

If she (Abby) is desperate for participation how is it that Paul Bertorelli was denied participation? Not that desperate I'll answer that.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | November 21, 2011 8:53 PM    Report this comment

"If she (Abby) is desperate for participation how is it that Paul Bertorelli was denied participation? Not that desperate I'll answer that."

It was actually Jeff Van West who made the request. We have reiterated this with the FAA as of today. We want to cover it as accredited media for the benefit of readers and airspace users. This is in the public interest.

Sam, there is no lack of clarity on what AeroNav is trying to do. We have plainly reported this. What's unclear and what we cannot seem to get is an inside glimpse at their budgeting and business model. Without this, it's not possible to form a reasonably informed opinion on whether the concept of charging for the data is correct or not. And if it is correct, what's the right number? Or will the pricing favor large companies at the expense of small startups, thus stifling competition?

Without this information, no judgements can be made, although deals can be. This is a taxpayer-funded government agency. All of this should be in the public interest and wide open to press scrutiny.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | November 22, 2011 6:50 AM    Report this comment

Very few pilots and others knew of what was started and ended in what we have at Aeronav at this time. This has been a typical scenario in legislation affecting aviation. The never ending surcharges upset the cost of doing business which in turn will affect the new student starts and "user" pilots. The flight instruction industry and total number of active pilots will continue to shrink, we don't need this. The process did not start with the majority of pilot's approval. We are putting out fires, we are pilots not firemen. It is not good to accept additional costs from "well-intended" legislation promoted by "self-serving" vendors and suppliers.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | November 22, 2011 9:18 AM    Report this comment

Paul: http://www.foia.gov/index.html

Posted by: Phil Derosier | November 22, 2011 11:03 AM    Report this comment

Paul, please encourage others and sign the petition to; "Ask FAA for reversal to charge for government approach data downloads and not allowing individuals to access them." Should you be allowed to attend, thousands of pilot validations will help your stand.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | November 22, 2011 11:53 AM    Report this comment

My view of this, Rafael, is that we have to first understand the economics. We have to have some sense of what AeroNav is working with, what they are expected to produce and how they can recover costs.

The would-be buyer of these products can then form an informed opinion on whether these products should be free, whether we are being double charged or just what's going on.

Without that, we are in the dark. With that in mind, I'm not ready to endorse signing anything.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | November 22, 2011 12:48 PM    Report this comment

My question about fees for the data is :

What about the Military and other Gov't agencies. Will they also pay the same price ?

Doesn't the govt already have to provide the same information to the military and other govt agencies ?

Doesnt 99% of the data gathered come from the govt ?

This is a very ill conceived idea. The data comes from the govt because of the military and other govt agencies must have it. Period. It has funded by the tax payers already. This means our tax payer dollars are being used wisley and usefully by all the citizens of our great country. Unlike other programs that are questionable.

Posted by: JEFF ARYAN | November 22, 2011 3:41 PM    Report this comment

This is a very ill conceived idea. The data comes from the govt because of the military and other govt agencies must have it. Period. It has funded by the tax payers already.

And your source for this is what?

I don't see a lot of military traffic into Arcadia, Venice and several thousand other small civil airports, so the "military needs it" only goes so far. I would argue for restraining assumptions until we get more reliable information.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | November 22, 2011 3:59 PM    Report this comment

Sounds like level heads are starting to get AERONAV's dilemma on charging for the Digital Chart data. YES, it has to be prepared for the mlitary, for the FAA's flight system checkers and a ost of other govt. depts like NARCO. But Jepp was successful in getting a bill through Congress circa 1960-70(via their Sen. Gary Hart) that mandated the govt. (then NOS, now FAA) to at least recoup their costs of printing and disrtibuting all aviation charts to the public (though Jepp was, at the time, concerned with just IFR charts). I was in the av chart biz at the time. It wrenched us then and it's wrenching us now. Complain to Jepp and your congressional reps, NOT the FAA!

Posted by: Howie Keefe | November 22, 2011 5:42 PM    Report this comment

Amen! Howie!

The problem is not the FAA or the Government who go to great effort to make this data available. The problem is Garmin and Jepp who likely cut golf course deals off the record to limit competition. What you are witnessing, in my opinion, is an effort by Jepp and Garmin to kill the data apps which ARE THE FREE MARKET!! It easier and less stressful to payoff congress and the aviation magazines. Garmin and Jepp will have their lobbyist write the bill for which their congressman will take straight to the hill without delay. Buried deep inside many page jumps dictated by subscripts will be very official and extremely wordy text that could put the Tasmanian Devil to Sleep and confuse the best aviation reporters. But of course, the end result will be the small app guys we be told by the FAA that it is now illegal for them to allow their app to use this data because they did not file the proper plan on the proper form by the deadline that was clearly stated deep inside the belly of the "Aviation data Safety and Security act"! Of course Garmin and Jepp created their plans well in advance of the deadline because their lawyers wrote the bill. Now just lavish the press with a double down on ad buys so they will tell us how lucky we are that these great corporations are still getting the data out to us despite the laws coming out of Washington.

Of course this is only opinion and my only qualification on this material is that I have spent a lot of time on the golf course.

Posted by: robert lee | November 22, 2011 11:16 PM    Report this comment

This is an obvious attempt by the big GPS companies to squash competition from Foreflight et al. SOME pilots need certified data, most just WANT a little extra situational awareness. For this to be passed off as supposedly necessary to ensure data integrity is BS - for what most of us are using it for, if there was an occasional error it wouldn't make a difference. This is an attempt to force pilots who don't really need certified data to purchase expensive products they don't need just so they can have minimal functions they want. To charge a reasonable fee for data downloads is OK, to restrict who can get that data and what they can do with it is not. It will be interesting to see if pilot organizations such as AOPA have been bought off or will work to protect the interests of the majority of private pilots. If I needed to do GPS approaches in IFR conditions I'd be happy to buy a $4000 device to do it, and pay $2000/yr. to keep it current. But if all I want is to confirm that I'm where I think I am, get an approximate distance to my destination airport, or see if there are nearby airports with fuel, (which the big GPS's don't even tell me, as far as I know), I'm not spending that kind of money even if they manage to kill the affordable solutions I will buy.

Posted by: Mark Consigny | November 23, 2011 8:54 AM    Report this comment

"My view of this, Rafael, is that we have to first understand the economics." Paul, I think that we first have to understand safety and what the FAA's approach is to their funding request as per their presentation on page 3 of the FAA’s Budget Summary Tables. The FAA's FY 2012 President's Budget Submission includes over $9.8 BILLION for SAFETY about $1.8 BILLION is directed to support the AERONAV extensive programs. SAFETY is what the FAA emphasizes in order to be funded. It is not good to restrict data flows, it is not SAFE. Jeppessen lost half of their printed product sales due to digitized data distribution by others and they are now working hard to increase revenues, I understand that, but I will not pay for this data from them as I believe I have contributed already.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | November 23, 2011 10:12 AM    Report this comment

It seems to me "safety at any cost" is a red herring here. In order to have a sustainable aviation economy, you always have to make compromises that represent a realistic level of safety against reasonable costs.

But how can you decide for yourself what "reasonable" is if you don't what things cost to produce and deliver. Should the taxpayers in general be on the hook for delivering free instrument charts to 50,000 pilots just to enhance safety?

I think most of us would say no, that's not practical, fair or realistic. So when you say "data," you need to define what you mean. Do you mean raw digital, unprocessed lat/longs or do you mean finished carto work in a digital format like a PDF?

There is a difference. Without better visibility into the budgets, I don't see how you can judge it. That's what we are trying to do.

A happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | November 24, 2011 9:00 AM    Report this comment

FAA Funding Reform and Reauthorization Starting in 2011, the (faa) budget assumes a scenario where most of the air traffic control system would be paid for by direct charges levied on users of the system. The FAA’s current excise tax system, which generated $12.4 billion in 2008, is largely based on taxes that depend upon the price of customers’ airline tickets, not FAA’s cost for moving flights through the system. The Administration believes that the FAA should move towards a model where FAA funding is related to its costs, the financing burden is distributed more equitably, and funds are used to directly pay for services the users need. The Administration recognizes that there are multiple ways to achieve these objectives. Accordingly, the Administration will work with stakeholders and Congress to enact legislation that moves toward such a system. The potential scenario displayed in the Budget estimates FAA would collect $9.6 billion for air traffic services in the first year and credits those collections as discretionary user charges.

Happy Thangsgiving Paul Bertorelli.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | November 24, 2011 9:44 AM    Report this comment

The above post is not a fallacy, it is more like a grease job.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | November 24, 2011 9:46 AM    Report this comment

Let's not go down the rat hole about the administration's motives. No matter your stand in general, I think most GA people understand that there are folks at the FAA and in the admin that start slobbering and cussing at the thought of anyone using a private aircraft. What we can fight though is the issue Paul brings up. They won't be transparent. They won't because either they don't want to be and think they can get away with it, or the won't be because they aren't competent to really know the numbers. Neither is excusable. Free market transactions are non transparent, but government monopolies are not supposed to be. Imagine a government vendor sending them a bill on a cost plus contract without evidence of the costs! They wouldn't pay. We shouldn't either. We can't trust them. Dishonesty and incompetence are both properly recieved with distrust.

PS. If they say it would cost too much or take too long to figure out the cost, call BS!

Posted by: Eric Warren | November 24, 2011 10:06 AM    Report this comment

Implementing DOT’s Strategic Goals Safety is FAA’s primary mission and our 2012 budget request reflects this most important of strategic objectives. We have identified and eliminated many of the major risks in the system and we will continue to act on the remaining safety challenges and keep air travelers safe. Approximately 49 percent of our FY 2012 budget will be required to maintain and improve the agency’s safety programs. Our day-to-day operations in the four key programs of Air Traffic, Aviation Safety, Airports, and Commercial Space Transportation contribute toward a reduction in air transportation related injuries and fatalities.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | November 25, 2011 6:34 PM    Report this comment

49% ($18.7 Billion) of the FAA's budget is about SAFETY programs?

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | November 25, 2011 6:45 PM    Report this comment

49% of $18.7 Billion is $9.8 Billion, $1.8 Billion go to Aeronav.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | November 25, 2011 7:23 PM    Report this comment

FAA Funding Reform and Reauthorization. It isn’t just about Data Downloads. The 2011 FAA's budget received Congressional approval and we are now subject to user fees for the use of flight services, data downloads and products. In a matter of months the FAA Administration will implement fee structures as in Europe. I am amazed that the pilot population is not reacting to this more than just by petitioning the "Obama administration to ask the FAA for reversal to charge for government approach data downloads and not allowing individuals to access them." This situation is worse as the FAA is now authorized by Congress to charge for any and all products and services. All efforts to eliminate User Fees have been defeated and converted into a travesty. The Next-Gen program is meant to have positive control of aircraft therefore facilitating identification of flights and the use of services in the NAS. Expect a bill charging your aircraft for aeronautical services in the very near future.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | November 27, 2011 10:00 PM    Report this comment

Thousands sign petition against new FAA policy

Janice Wood | News | November 22, 2011

As of Nov. 22, more than 2,400 (UPDATE: As of Nov 30 more than 2,900)people have signed an online petition created at “We the People” to gather support against a new FAA policy to begin charging for downloads for charts and navigational products. To get a White House review, the petition must garner 25,000 signatures by Dec. 14.

The Aeronautical Navigational Products Directorate (Aeronav), which currently makes the latest charts and other navigational products available online for free, says it has to recover the costs associated with developing and hosting the products, so it will begin charging for them April 5, 2012.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | November 30, 2011 2:09 PM    Report this comment

I'd pay for data. I paid for paper. I pay for a subscription on Foreflight and to Jeppesen et al. What I object to paying is the total cost of producing chart data, and for two reasons. First, the grand deal. GA pays gas taxes, passengers pay ticket fees, the government pays a share. Each have an interest, and each contributes to the cost because we all have an interest. Now suddenly the full cost of one and only one capability is projected onto users only? I don't recall a conversation about abandoning the grand deal. Second, fixed costs. Those full costs include an unspecified amount of fixed costs. I heard FAA did not want to discuss its fixed costs the other day. Makes sense from their point of view. However, as an effective monopoly there are no naturally occurring reasons to reduce fixed costs in the government and that is not a deal anyone would sign up to. To get the conversation on the right track and provide some perspective, we should collectively be talking only about the variable costs, and the amount of net income lost due to reduced paper chart sales.. Fixed costs could easily be the government's share.

Posted by: DANIEL DEDONA | December 15, 2011 9:18 AM    Report this comment

Totally agree with Dan. Let's make very sure we are paying for only the cost of production. Not all the fixed cost that the FAA would also incur. We need to understand and also agree to the actual pool of users for the product. That way we can talk about cost properly.

Posted by: Bobby Picker | December 15, 2011 3:43 PM    Report this comment

Reading the now published news articles on AeroNav's plan, it strikes my just exactly how horrible the FAA (and probably the entire federal government) is at conducting business...

The arguement here is that AeroNav can't sell enough $8 sectionals to cover their costs; we all want digital. So, they plan to charge $150 for digital access, on top of the $150 my app developer charges... While I'm happy to pay *some* fee for digital convenience, at $300 per year, I think I'll just scrap the iPad and go back to buying $60 worth or paper charts each year... Think that will cover their costs?

If AeroNav isn't careful, they're going to price themselves right out of this "new" market they claim is the salvation to their funding shortage!

Posted by: Sam Fischer | December 15, 2011 7:14 PM    Report this comment

Dear Fellow Pilots,

In today's Avweb Flash a letter was published that represented one side of the question relating to the FAA's new $150 fee for electronic charts. The writer said the new fee was "akin" to Disney charging us to build a theme park and then charging us to use it. He cited that as being unfair. I agree. That would be unfair. However, his example and his logic were nonsensical and unfair to say the least. A fair minded person would point out that the FAA is facing an ever growing, ongoing budgetary crisis and they're looking for our help to support a program that contributes significantly to our safety. I say paying to play is fair provided the fees are reasonable. So, that leaves only one question to ask. Is $.41 cents a day a reasonable fee? We've become quite spoiled by decades of free services.

To my mind, I see the new fee as being "akin" not to Disney, but to a National Park. Every American taxpayer pays to run the National Park system and then we pay a gate fee to gain access. The parks are still run at a deficit. My neighbor doesn't fly airplanes and I guarantee he would tell you it is fair that I support the FAA program to a greater extent because I actually use the chart service. Fair is fair, right?

I'm also really tired of reading the opinions of those selected by Avweb who are either too cheap to pay or are standing on principle at the expense of the programs we really do need.

Posted by: John Dent | December 19, 2011 10:42 PM    Report this comment

Dear Fellow Pilots,

In today's Avweb Flash a letter was published that represented one side of the question relating to the FAA's new $150 fee for electronic charts. The writer said the new fee was "akin" to Disney charging us to build a theme park and then charging us again to use it. I agree that would be unfair. However, his example and his logic were nonsense to say the least. A fair minded person would point out that the FAA is facing an ongoing and ever growing budgetary crisis and they're looking for our help to support a program that contributes significantly to our safety. I say paying to play is fair provided the fees are reasonable. So, that leaves only one question to ask. Is $.41 cents a day a reasonable fee? The whiners are simply spoiled by decades of free services. To my mind, I see the new fee as being "akin" not to Disney, but to a National Park. Every American taxpayer pays to run the National Park system and then we pay a gate fee to gain access. The parks are still run at a deficit, btw. My neighbor doesn't fly airplanes and I guarantee he would tell you it is fair that I support the FAA program to a greater extent because I actually use the chart service. Fair is fair, right?

I'm also really tired of reading the opinions of those selected by Avweb who are either too cheap to pay or would stand on principle at the expense of programs we really do need. Think about it.

Posted by: John Dent | December 19, 2011 10:47 PM    Report this comment

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