Rarely does the Department of Defense do an about-face, but AOPA efforts have led to just that. The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) announced Tuesday that it will continue for an additional two years to provide U.S. pilots with DOD aviation navigation charts and products for the United States, Caribbean, South America, the Pacific, Australia, and Antarctica that are considered part of the U.S. flight information region. Then it's in the hands of the FAA.
"We know that many of our members depend upon these charts for their flights outside of the United States," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "This is a huge turn-around. When we first met with NGA officials in their St. Louis headquarters, they were absolutely adamant that they were going to withdraw all of their navigation products from public sale this year."
The NGA announced last year that it was going to stop public distribution of its popular flight information publications (FLIP), including operational navigation charts (ONC) and international instrument approach procedures. Many AOPA members used these products for their flights to Latin America and the Caribbean. Also included was the digital aeronautical flight information file (DAFIF), which many flight-plan vendors use as their navigation data source.
AOPA vehemently objected. The NGA acknowledged that AOPA had legitimate concerns about civilian use of the products and agreed to work with the association to meet the needs of the general aviation community.
The NGA said Tuesday that its products for the rest of the world will be phased out of public distribution over the next 22 months. The DAFIF will be removed from the Internet by October 2006. However, NGA will provide the DAFIF and all other navigation data to the FAA indefinitely.
The Department of Defense mapping agency will continue to sell its Caribbean, Latin America, and Pacific area charts to the U.S. public for the next two years. (But overseas sales will stop in October 2006.)
"After that, it's up to the FAA to continue publication," said Boyer. "We expect the agency to start transition planning now, and we'll stay on top of them to make sure they do.
"We're very pleased that the Department of Defense has recognized the importance of general aviation, and the value of these navigation products to the GA pilots," Boyer said.
NGA had originally proposed withdrawing all of the products because of complaints from copyright holders in other countries, many of whom also sell navigation charts. Some of these navigation chart publishers were threatening to cut off the DOD's access to their information. Withdrawing products covering Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa "will assure the continued availability [to the Department of Defense] of information vital to national security," said NGA Director Lt. Gen. James R. Clapper, Jr., USAF (Ret).
November 29, 2005