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Airport diagrams may get a facelift

Update on charting standardization moves forward

At the FAA’s Aeronautical Charting Meeting (ACM) this spring, AOPA laid out a proposal to standardize the labeling for parking features on airport diagrams. Held twice a year, the ACM provides various government officials, industry stakeholders, and individuals a forum to collaborate on advancing aeronautical charting.

The airport diagram for Waukegan National Airport has been updated to show the transient parking area.

Although the proposal received support from ACM participants, the terms and definitions will not become official until formally documented by the FAA. However, AOPA encourages airport managers to start labeling their ramp areas in accordance with the newly proposed nomenclature.

For decades, FAA airport diagrams have been used as navigational tools to help pilots identify landmarks within an airport such as parking areas, or facilities like restaurants, maintenance shops, flight schools, and fixed-base operations. However, the lack of standardization in developing these charts has led airports to have frequently contradictory definitions—resulting in confusion.

And while the charts may be inconsistent, don’t blame the cartographers. Obligated to chart what they are given by the source, likely the airport sponsor, cartographers are required to accept the information without any vetting. This process has resulted in vague definitions of parking that can vary from airport to airport, and many airports have not charted transient ramp locations at all.

“AOPA is focused on ensuring that pilots know their options and that airports understand how to communicate them,” said AOPA Senior Director of Airspace, Air Traffic, and Aviation Security Rune Duke. “Transparency, whether in airport fees or prices or the availability of public airport parking ramps, is vital to effective flight planning, and this step forward helps move us in the right direction."

Pilots navigating in the Midwest may notice an update to Illinois's Waukegan National Airport’s chart, which now includes a “transient parking” area for GA parking. In December, the airport took steps to become more pilot friendly by offering free tiedowns for transient aircraft and a pedestrian gate to access the ramp. While “transient parking” is not exactly the language AOPA proposed, the association is committed to working with the FAA to ensure airports like Waukegan are charted with the appropriate standards.

FAA proposes to enhance airport diagrams and eliminate sketch

The FAA is also taking steps to increase the number of airports eligible to have an airport diagram thanks to new automation capabilities. The FAA announced at the spring charting meeting its proposal to eliminate airport sketches provided in the Chart Supplement and on each instrument approach procedure chart in the Terminal Procedures Publication, and instead provide a full-page airport diagram for every public-use airport that has an instrument approach and a hard-surfaced runway. Separate criteria are being considered for Alaska airports where gravel runways also have instrument approaches.  

As part of this change, the new airport diagrams would no longer have cultural features such as trees, creeks, water, and power lines that were previously available in the sketch, but they would have enhancements like depictions of runway lighting.

Removing the airport sketch from approach charts would eliminate the depiction of the final approach course’s relation to the airport that is sometimes provided. The FAA claims that removing the sketch from approach charts will free up space for more relevant procedural information and the full-page airport diagram would be available for the airport.

AOPA and the FAA are seeking feedback on the replacement of airport sketches with airport diagrams. Pilots can comment by sending a message to AOPA with the subject “Airport Diagram Comments.”

AOPA Communications staff

AOPA Communications Staff are communicators who specialize in making aerospace, aviation and advocacy information relatable for all.
Topics: Advocacy, Airport Advocacy, Aviation Industry

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