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Pilots Oppose Plan to Charge for Digital Charts

November 16, 2011 – A recent announcement that effective April 5, 2012, the FAA would begin forcing individuals to purchase digital chart products from contracted vendors and cease free direct downloads  through its AeroNav Products website has pilots everywhere up in arms. There’s even an online petition against the move.

For the time being, individuals can continue downloading digital chart products at no charge from the FAA’s AeroNav website, but any decisions on what the future holds regarding personal/private use will be made at an AeroNav meeting scheduled for December 13, 2011.

The agency has long charged for its paper products. In 2009 it created a chart agent program requiring companies/individuals that sell a minimum of $5,000 worth of charts annually to sign a sales agreement, and today there are approximately 350 FAA-approved chart agents.

When digital aviation products were introduced, the FAA gave them away for free. Now the agency is under pressure to provide a means to cover its development and distribution costs. AOPA reports that Congress has empowered the FAA to recoup investment costs associated with producing and distributing the materials by charging for its products. The agency plans to apply the 2009 chart agent program model to its digital offerings.

The intent of the FAA/industry discussion on December 13 is to determine the best way to recoup the digital chart investment costs and to start initial discussions on what those charges to the public will be for the digital FAA chart products.

So there is no change to the current FAA policy that allows the public to download digital charts for free. Whatever decisions are made at the December 13 meeting, to be held at AeroNav Products Logistics in Glenn Dale, Maryland, they will not take effect until April 5, 2012.

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