The FAA is moving forward with changes to chart printing and is closer to releasing the replacement products for the world aeronautical charts (WACs) that are being discontinued.
In June 2015, the FAA announced that it would no longer produce WACs, but following extensive discussions with AOPA, the FAA announced it will produce an Alaska VFR Wall Planning Chart and produce two new Caribbean VFR Aeronautical Charts. The charts are intended to fill gaps AOPA identified that would exist without the WACs.
The FAA will debut the WAC replacement products for feedback during the Aeronautical Charting Forum this April in Virginia; the finalized versions are expected this fall. Both charts will be updated every two years.
The FAA is also taking steps to move chart printing to the private sector this summer and adopt the available-on-demand printing model. Although the FAA will continue to provide chart data through digital files to FAA-approved providers, the agency will no longer be involved in printing and distributing charts.
AOPA has and will continue to work closely with the FAA and potential printers through meetings and webinars to ensure pilots see a smooth transition.
AOPA Vice President of Government Affairs Melissa Rudinger said the new printing model brings down costs and allows the FAA to focus on other issues that matter to pilots.
“Consumers will eventually see lower prices, and it should also free up resources at the FAA to focus on other improvements,” said Rudinger.
The change, which began in 2013 when the FAA ended direct-to-consumer sales of charts, is part of an evolution where the FAA is removing itself as the middle-man. The transition from the FAA printing charts to the private sector will be on or before Aug. 1.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) took a similar tack 12 years ago when it made the change to on-demand printing. NOAA had two authorized printing agents when the process began, but today it has 17 providers. According to the FAA, the competition brought down the price of nautical charts by about 25 percent, and pilots should expect to see similar savings.
Under the FAA’s new available-on-demand model, private companies will enter into print provider agreements with the FAA, and those new providers will print and distribute charts to their customer base. The agreement was made available March 28, and chart agents will be informed when new agreements are signed to ensure a smooth transition.
Although there will be a cap on retail prices of charts for the first year, the market will then set the price. History shows that prices should drop. Additionally, pilots can always download charts for free and print them on their own.