An FAA plan to cut costs could end up costing pilots. The agency wants to reduce the number of chart vendors to only those selling at least $5,000 worth of charts annually. Currently, businesses need to sell more than $500 worth each year to be a charting agent. The new threshold would take place Oct. 1, 2009.
According to an AOPA survey of 30 randomly selected aviation businesses that sell charts, only six would be qualified to continue.
“AOPA’s primary concern is a potential loss of access to safety materials, and potentially increased costs to end users,” wrote Randy Kenagy, AOPA government affairs chief of staff, in a Dec. 3 letter to the FAA.
He later explained, “Pilots in outlying areas should not be required to purchase charts online as this would necessitate planning chart purchases weeks in advance, or be faced with expedited shipping costs. This represents degradation in service, which would result in pilots not having the tools required for safety of flight.”
AOPA also said that members are not only worried about availability but also pricing—fearing that prices will go up if the FAA does not have direct involvement in chart distribution.
The FAA has said that larger chart distributors could ship charts to smaller businesses, but has so far neglected to provide specific information on how that plan would work.
Two public meetings will be sponsored by the FAA in March, and AOPA has asked the agency to have a plan addressing these concerns in place by that time. The meetings are scheduled to take place in Las Vegas, Nev., March 9 and 10, and Greenbelt, Md., March 24 and 25. For more details and to R.S.V.P., see the FAA’s notice.