The FAA’s decision to begin charging for digital chart products and only distribute them to individuals and companies that have an agreement with the agency’s AeroNav Products branch beginning April 5, 2012, has sparked concern throughout the general aviation industry.
AOPA has been closely following the FAA’s plans and working with data providers to assess the potential impacts on the GA community. AOPA has organized several meetings to discuss the possible implications on safety and the cost of flying. The association and other aviation representatives will meet with the FAA on Dec. 13 to discuss the new policy.
“We are anxious to see the FAA’s proposal and will work to mitigate any impact on our members,” said Heidi Williams, AOPA senior director of airspace and modernization.
Congress has given the FAA authority to charge for its products in order to recoup investment costs associated with producing and distributing the materials. The agency has long charged for its paper products. When digital aviation products were introduced to the industry, the agency gave them away for free. However, with the explosive growth of the products’ use, the agency plans to apply its model for charging for paper products to its digital ones.
Pilots are concerned about how much they would have to pay to use digital products from commercial providers who currently get the aeronautical information for free from the FAA. But Congress also has set some boundaries for the agency: The FAA isn’t allowed to turn a profit on its products.