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.
As an AOPA member, you have access to the best resources anywhere for information and answers for pilots. You can reach experts in all fields of avaition via AOPA Online ( www.aopa.org/members/), the AOPA Pilot Information Center (800/872-2672), and e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org).
Answers to frequently asked questions about your AOPA membership
Q: How do I update the beneficiary information on the AOPA Aviation Accidental Death & Dismemberment policy that is provided free with my membership?
A: Your change of beneficiary for your free insurance — and any additional coverage you may have purchased — must be signed by you. So contact Member Services by phone or e-mail using the contact information at the end of this section and they will mail, e-mail, or fax the form to you.
Q: Can I renew my membership online at aopa.org?
A: Yes! And we'll even discount your membership by $2 for using our self-service renewal application on the Web. Your renewal will go directly to our database, which reduces processing costs. So we are passing some of those savings on to you. And if you enroll in our Automatic Annual Renewal program when you renew online, we'll bump that up to $4 off your membership instead of just $2! That's a savings of 10 percent. So go to our home page and click on "My AOPA" in the left column. From there, select "Renew My Membership" and follow the instructions.
Q: Why does AOPA offer renters liability insurance? When I rent an aircraft from an FBO, don't I already have coverage under their insurance policy?
A: Some FBO policies have provisions that will cover students and renters for liability and provide a waiver of subrogation, but without seeing a copy of the policy, you will never know what rights you have (if any) under the FBO's policy. Renters liability insurance through AOPA Insurance Agency is affordable and comprehensive. On January 1, rates for renter's insurance through AOPAIA were reduced 22 to 28 percent from 2003 rates. And that's in addition to the 10-percent discount at renewal if you maintain a clean flying record during the policy year. Visit AOPAIA online ( www.aopaia.com/renters/) to apply and purchase online.
Telephone: 800/USA-AOPA (872-2672), 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday
After hours: Renew your membership, reset your Web password, or enroll in Automatic Annual Renewal using our self-service touch-tone phone option.
Web: Update your personal information, renew your membership, and much more by clicking on "My AOPA" in the left column of our home page (www.aopa.org).
"Inexpensive GPS Databases," an air traffic services brief, explains the issue in a nutshell.
Watch this page for updates as they become available.