AVmail: December 19, 2011
Letter of the Week: Digital Chart Fees
This week's question is a great one. I'm pretty sure that I'm in the vast minority of Americans on this issue, but we see it time and again.
Using our tax dollars, the Government takes over a segment of our nation and then argues that the users of that segment need to pay to enjoy it. To my mind, this is akin to Disney Corp. buying, building and operating a theme park on my buck and then charging me for admission.
The FAA, an agency of the U.S. Government that is wholly dependent on the tax dollars coming out of the pockets of all U.S. citizens, mandates that pilots carry and use its charts whenever flying in American airspace. Then, citing budgetary constraints (e.g. they're not going to get the number of tax dollars they wish), they charge taxpayers, again, for the privilege of using their product.
These sorties into our pockets are always steeped in terms of the "fairness" involved in having those who use the services pay for them. This argument fails the sniff test when we remind [people] that the government is 100 percent funded by all of us already and that the expenses incurred by the government are mandated by the government. So no, I don't think we should have to pay extra for FAA e-charts.
I was actually surprised when I first was able to print approach charts for free. I do appreciate being able to just print off the ones I need when I need them, since I don't fly enough IFR to justify a subscription.
If the price is reasonable, not more than the cost of paper charts, then they should be able to charge. If they are going way above the cost of paper charts, they are way out of line. In fact, digital charts should be less expensive than paper, because there are no paper, ink, or shipping costs involved.
I believe the $150 a year would be a fair price if it included all of my digital subscriptions. In reality, each of my GPS recievers already require over $300 each year, and paper charts are another $400-plus per year. I am paying for the same data over and over again, just to have it repackaged. If the price goes up another $150 a year for each, I believe this would be a total rip-off.
There's no way the feds understand their costs well enough to price this service. At $150, it'll drive people to use products that are more customer-centered and customizable. Jepp comes to mind, but they're not the only vendor for charts.
They say they need to raise the price of digital charts to cover theirs costs. However, I would like to know if they have included in the calculation of their overall costs how much they are now saving on printing and shipping fewer paper charts since digital charts are being used by more pilots every day.
We received more mail on this topic than any in the past year, and we thank all of those who took the time to write. We tried to represent the range of opinions with the letters we selected.
I was at Malmstrom AFB when the Cornfield Bomber incident occurred. The pilot got into a high-pitch moment deep stall and followed procedures: autopilot on, trim nose down, extending the speed brake, pustting stopcock throttle to idle power, and departing from the unrecoverable aircraft. He did well.
The airframe went to storage at Davis Monthan in the desert until the late 1970s and was shipped to Sacramento Air Material Area at McClellan AFB where I ran into it while the belly was being repaired and extensive updates were done. Real pros there. Sweet ride. The 80787 tail number indicates that it was written off after the off-field landing, and the Dynalectron crew did amazing work bringing it back into the fold. Vacuum technology never dies.
I enjoyed your story about the "Corn Field Bomber." As an epilogue, her fame apparently saved her from death as a target drone as she now resides at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton. The F-106 is one of my favorite fighter jets and one of the first planes of which I built a model. Although they were always on static display at numerous air shows, the only time I got to see them fly was at their retirement ceremony flight during the Griffis AFB air show at Rome, NY, June 26, 1987. Unforgettable!