After surveying pilots about their use of world aeronautical charts (WACs), AOPA has filed formal comments asking the FAA to continue producing some key charts or offer an acceptable alternative for the pilots who use them.
In comments filed Aug. 12, AOPA cited the results of an association survey to which more than 740 pilots responded. The survey found that 81 percent of pilots use WACs for flight planning and 77 percent use WACs in the cockpit.
The survey also found that eliminating WACs would create coverage gaps for pilots flying in the Caribbean, around the U.S.-Mexico border, and in Alaska. Of the respondents who said they use WACS when flying to the Caribbean, 94 percent said they would not have enough information to navigate safely when flying VFR without the charts. For pilots flying to Mexico using WACs, that figure was 92 percent and it was 87 percent for pilots using WACs in Alaska.
In its comments, AOPA asked the FAA to consider three possible options for getting pilots the information they need, including continuing to produce WACs for these areas, expanding some sectional charts or adding new ones that provide the information, and creating new wall planning charts for the areas. But, AOPA warned, wall planning charts alone would not be sufficient because they do not provide a practical option for in-cockpit use.
“We believe that discontinuing WACs without giving pilots an alternative means of getting the information they contain could compromise safety,” said Rune Duke, AOPA director of airspace and air traffic. “We recognize that it’s no longer financially feasible for the FAA to continue producing all WACs, but the information those charts contain is critical and we want to work with the FAA to find a solution that will keep pilots flying safely.”
In June, the FAA announced that it would no longer produce the charts beginning in September. But following a meeting with AOPA in July, the agency agreed to work with AOPA and consult with stakeholders regarding the future of WACs. The FAA also agreed to publish updates to WACs set to expire in September and October of this year. After that, the next set of charts won’t expire until January 2016, giving the FAA and chart users additional time to gather information and consider options.
The FAA has said publishing the WACs requires six full-time positions and has become cost-prohibitive as sales have plummeted in recent years. So far in 2015, the FAA has sold fewer than 16,000 WACs.