You can get there from here, and you can get there all the better with an IFR-certified GPS in your aircraft. The question is, how much will it cost?
After laying out roughly $9,000 to $14,000 for a panel-mount IFR-certified GPS unit, general aviation pilots are succumbing to sticker shock upon discovering the cost of database updates — $700 or more annually for some units. These updates are currently available only from manufacturers, with no government alternative, says Tim Lower, AOPA Aviation Services' lead technical specialist for advanced technology.
Technological advancements put visions of a more efficient and less congested National Airspace System within reach, but the lack of low-cost nav database updates is bogging down the efforts, Lower says.
"In order to get a system really rolling, we need to get a bunch of boxes out there, and updates have to be affordable," he says.
When members call AOPA's Pilot Information Center about this issue, he says, the conversation usually begins like so: "I've had this GPS for two years and I love it — but where is the support? When is the FAA going to step up to the plate and provide inexpensive database updates, like they do for charts?"
The answer: It's in the works. For several years, at AOPA's behest, the FAA has been working to adapt its data so navigation updates will be available at nominal cost. Manufacturers could build on the basic navigation database and provide users with add-on features.
While members await government-issue updates, AOPA remains vigilant to head off any measures that could further add to the cost of using GPS. See AOPA Online for further information.
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"Inexpensive GPS Databases," an air traffic services brief, explains the issue in a nutshell.
Watch this page for updates as they become available.