AOPA has improved its online instrument approach chart service available free to all members.
"Our online instrument charts have been hugely popular with our members since first introduced in 2001," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "Now they're even better - crisper and faster to download."
For more than three years, AOPA members have enjoyed electronic access to instrument approach procedures (IAPs) through AOPA's Airport Directory Online. Now the association is able to offer higher resolution charts while decreasing the file size - and that decreases the download time.
These instrument approaches and terminal procedures charts - published by FAA's National Aeronautical Charting Office (NACO) - are legal for navigation and free to AOPA members. They can be viewed, downloaded, and printed.
NACO now offers the charts in a digital format with much greater resolution than the scanned charts previously on AOPA Online. But with greater resolution comes much greater file size. However, in order to decrease download times for members, AOPA is dramatically reducing file sizes using a process that only minimally affects resolution.
"These enhancements mean that members will have even more powerful flight planning tools at their fingertips using a new generation of approach charts - sharp in detail, yet very small in file size - accessible directly from AOPA's Airport Directory Online and AOPA's Real-Time Flight Planner," said Boyer.
In a simple flight planning session, AOPA members can plot a route, check for temporary flight restrictions, obtain weather, and file a flight plan. With just a few additional clicks, they can also download kneeboard-sized airport directory data and the new instrument approach charts.
The digital processing reduces file size by as much as 80 percent from the original NACO digital files - for a fast download, even with slower dial-up Internet connections.
For example, the original NACO approach charts for Salinas, California, are well over 1 MB, yet the reduced versions of the same charts are less than 200 KB. One major image improvement members will notice immediately is the crisp sharp detail of the new digitally produced charts - some with color depiction of high terrain contours thanks to NACO's initiative to provide essential safety features for approaches situated near rising or high terrain.
A full chart set of more than 13,000 procedures will be posted every 28 days, with AOPA's Airport Directory Online following the government aeronautical charting schedule.
"To help AOPA members identify charts that have changed since the previous 28-day period, there will be an indication next to the chart's download link that shows whether it was added, deleted, or changed during that time frame," said Machteld Smith, director of AOPA's Airport Directory. "This same information will also be available in each member's personal 'My Procedures' area, where AOPA members can store links to all of the procedures for their favorite airports and from where they can access these procedures to batch-download multiple charts to their personal computer."
Other planned enhancements include a history lookup in "My Procedures" so users can determine when a procedure has changed.
"Unlike the printed charts, NACO currently does not provide the effective date on the digital charts," said Smith. "But by checking the chart's history of changes, one can determine if a chart previously printed was changed during subsequent update cycles. While it is always incumbent upon the user to find out if the chart is current or has changed, AOPA felt it would be beneficial to provide chart history in 'My Procedures' to help with this process. AOPA will also assist members in understanding how to interpret the official amendment date printed on each chart."
With the launch of the new charts on June 10, AOPA will for the first time include military airports and their associated instrument procedures in AOPA's Airport Directory Online. This information can be invaluable in emergency situations. And pilots may make practice instrument approaches (without landing) at military fields with proper permission from air traffic control.
AOPA reminds pilots that it is the pilot's responsibility to use current charts and to make sure that all charts necessary for a flight are available during that flight; AOPA does not advocate flying on instruments without the approach procedures for the entire route on board. The online charts are also a perfect complement to a full chart service for student training, instrument proficiency flights, and trips slightly outside a region of chart subscription coverage.
The 400,000-member Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is the world's largest civil aviation organization. More than two thirds of the nations' pilots are AOPA members.
June 10, 2004