The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association has offered the FAA a radical new plan, the creation of an Aeronautical Information Service (AIS), to improve the delivery of safety-critical National Airspace System (NAS) data, including aeronautical charts.
"The responsibility for aeronautical and navigation data is fragmented between some six different federal agencies and offices inside the FAA," said Dennis Roberts, AOPA vice president and executive director of government and technical affairs. "There's a better way to do things that would be cheaper, more efficient, and, most importantly, would get this safety information into the hands of the people who need it more quickly."
Following several years of AOPA lobbying effort, Congress this year ordered that NOAA's Aeronautical Charting and Cartography Division be moved out of the Department of Commerce and into the FAA.
Since the FAA will have to reorganize to accept the charting function, Roberts noted, it only makes sense to look at how else the FAA can streamline the collection, validation, and dissemination of navigational and operational airspace information.
After a careful study of the FAA's information functions, AOPA created the plan for an Aeronautical Information Service, which would consolidate the Aeronautical Charting and Cartography Division along with the FAA's Aeronautical Information Division, National Flight Data Center, Notam Office, Publications Division, and Aviation System Standards office. The plan would create one director-level office under the associate administrator for air traffic services.
Roberts and AOPA staff presented the proposal on April 25 to the FAA's Ron Morgan, director of air traffic services.
The most visible change to pilots will be that the FAA, not NOAA, would publish aeronautical charts such as sectionals, world aeronautical charts (WAC), and instrument approach plates. AOPA's AIS proposal offered concrete recommendations on how the FAA could cut costs and publish these aeronautical charts more efficiently.
(The FAA has always collected and verified the data for aeronautical charting, then turned it over to NOAA to create and publish the actual charts. But NOAA does not consider aeronautical charting to be among its primary responsibilities. In the past, NOAA has tried to discontinue publishing WACs and to increase the price of other aeronautical products.)
The Office of Aeronautical Information Services would have benefits in less visible ways as well. The FAA has promised pilots a low-cost GPS database for several years now. Development of that database has been complicated because different agencies and different FAA divisions, answering to different managers, are all involved. AIS would pull all of these divisions together, answering to one boss.
AIS could facilitate the conversion to digital data, leading to electronic chart distribution.
The new information office could also streamline the development and publication of new GPS instrument approaches. AIS would be better suited to develop new products for future Free Flight and area navigation operations.
Notam information would have a higher priority within AIS.
"It just makes sense for one FAA office to take responsibility from start to finish," said Roberts. "AIS would enhance efficiency, eliminate duplication of services, and reduce administrative costs."
A copy of AOPA's Aeronautical Information Service proposal is available on AOPA Online.
The 360,000-member Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is the world's largest civil aviation organization. More than one half of the nation's pilots are AOPA members.
April 28, 2000