General Aviation pilots are about to lose another free flight planning resource: RunwayFinder founder Dave Parsons announced Feb. 9 that the site will shut down at the end of the month.
“It’s time to fold her up,” Parsons wrote, citing the prospect of new fees for digital chart products from the FAA as one reason, along with “other licensing fees.”
Parsons launched the free flight planning website in 2005. A software engineer and flight student at the time, he was frustrated by the format of then-existing digital charts. “You could only look at one piece at a time,” Parsons recalled.
In 2010, Oregon-based FlightPrep filed suit, accusing Parsons of patent infringement. The highly-publicized case settled in 2011 with a non-disclosure agreement in place.
Parsons said he recently had to make a decision about renewing a license agreement with FlightPrep, and opted not to. RunwayFinder was always a hobby, Parsons said, and the revenue generated by advertising barely covered costs.
“I made a little money along the way, all of which was plowed into legal defense,” Parsons wrote in the Feb. 9 blog announcement. Following the 2011 settlement, Parsons volunteered to return donations made to his legal defense fund.
With new digital chart fees on the horizon, the part-time venture was guaranteed to lose money, Parsons said. Keeping up with new data formatting, and the need to update the site to accommodate changing requirements of browsers and mobile devices, were also among the reasons Parsons opted to call it quits.
“It takes a lot of time away from my other activities,” Parsons said.
Parsons, in the blog post, thanked pilots who used the site, particularly those who “helped along the way.”
AOPA continues to work closely with the FAA on the issue of digital charting fees. Congress has directed the agency to recover costs associated with producing digital charts, and AOPA has been meeting with FAA officials in recent weeks to ensure the proposal preserves access to navigation data that is critical to GA safety.
Heidi Williams, AOPA Vice President of air traffic services and modernization, noted that while the loss of RunwayFinder does not stem solely from the prospect of new FAA fees for digital chart products, “we are saddened to lose this valuable online resource.”
Parsons said that while RunwayFinder will remain online through the end of the month, the charts are out of date and he’s not sure he will update them one last time.