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Notes From The AeroNav Digital Chart Vendor Meeting

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My notes from the meeting at AeroNav today regarding fees for the redistribution of digital charts.

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mduell
Mark Duell 0
Charts from the US Government, aeronautical and before that marine, have had requirements for cost recoupment for a long time, dating back to the 19th centry in US law.

AeroNav needs to recover the costs of compiling the charts by law. Paper chart sales are down as pilots move to various digital formats. $5MM needs to be recovered from digital chart sales.

Vendors are free to use the (generally zero cost) source data and design/compile their own charts, like Jeppesen and a few other companies do.

The goal of today was to meet with vendors who redistribute digital charts to find out viable ways to recover those costs. A public proposal will be coming, via a distribution mechanism not yet determined, for the public to review and comment on.

The FAA had a "pre-proposal" as a starting point, which centered around the idea of the vendors reporting their number of end users to the FAA and paying the appropriate fee.

The FAA had an estimated per user dollar figure ($5MM / estimate users) but industry widely disagreed with the number of users the FAA had estimated. I won't reproduce the FAA's estimate since I don't think it's accurate.

The vendors brainstormed for a couple hours and presented their ideas and concerns. AeroNav will consider everything presented and create a proposal for the administration and release it to the public, possibly as soon as January.
chiphermes
Chip Hermes 0
So the FAA's plan to double-tax aviation was revealed, then they lied about it to try and cover it up, now they're admitting it? What are NBAA and AOPA going to do to stop this?
mduell
Mark Duell 0
There's no (new) double taxation. The law (49 USC 44721) says they have to charge end users to defer their costs. The cost of the paper charts was compilation plus printing plus mailing. The cost of the digital charts will be compilation plus DVDs/mailing if you choose that.
chiphermes
Chip Hermes 0
So will FA continue to offer charts for free??
dbaker
Daniel Baker 0
A month ago, I squawked "FAA To cart Charging For Online Charts, No Access For Individuals":

http://flightaware.com/squawks/view/1/recently/popular/22980/FAA_To_Charge_Companies_For_Online_Charts_No_Access_For_Individuals

A few days later, the FAA responded that nothing was changing in the article, "FAA: Digital Charting Issue Much Ado about Nothing":

http://flightaware.com/squawks/view/1/7_days/popular/23123/FAA_Digital_Charting_Issue_Much_Ado_about_Nothing

And now the plan is revealed that WILL mean that end-users have to pay to access the digital products.
mduell
Mark Duell 0
The FAA may continue to offer access to single charts on their website, they're undecided.

Even if they don't, end-users don't necessarily have to pay. If someone wants to redistribute the charts and eat the cost (or have ads/etc) they're welcome to. The FAA is happy as long as they get their cost recovery.
chiphermes
Chip Hermes 0
So they've changed their position from "end-users have access as usual."

And if they start charging for it, the reasonable assumption is that end-users will have to pay.
mduell
Mark Duell 0
Also AeroNav will be posting a note about the meeting on their website today or soon.
mduell
Mark Duell 0
To answer some of AVweb's questions:

"If AeroNav has to recover its costs—and the code clearly says it does—what's in that cost recovery? ... Are they just supporting the large cartography staff necessary to turn raw data into finished charts or are they covering other expenses?"

AeroNav stated today, per opinion of FAA General Counsel, they need to recovery the costs of compilation/production/distribution and not the cost labor for management or general overhead (covered by appropriated funds).

"The FAA said all along that it would maintain a web site where charts could be viewed, but we don't know if they'll be printable or downloadable en mass, free or pay-per-view or what. AeroNav may not know, either."

AeroNav was undecided on this topic.

"There's nothing stopping AeroNav from offering its own app and competing directly with the private sector, charging its break-even prices."

AeroNav has no desire to offer their own apps.

"To me, the best outcome would be an in-the-open tiered pricing structure (no NDAs) that makes it possible for the likes of ForeFlight, Seattle Avionics, WingX or any of dozens of other vendors to compete, because that's where the innovation will come from."

The contract and pricing for standard products (the existing d-TPP, dVFR, etc) will be the same for everyone. Pricing for any "enhanced products" (vendor requested special formats, etc) will be on a cost recovery basis and otherwise have the same contract as standard products. NDAs may be involved to prevent redistribution of sample data and/or avoid disclosure of products in development/negotiation.
flyCLE
Roger McHugh 0
Writing is on the wall here, this is pure BS.....wonder how much Jepp paid Obama's administration for this.
pika1000
pika1000 0
Just upload the charts to iTunes or iBooks or iWhatever and charge a few bucks less to get it from there than what the print version would cost. Same thing for owners of a Kindle, Nook, or other e-readers. You go to Best Buy to buy a CD and the CD is $14.99. Get it from iTunes, it is $9.99-11.99. Same concept here.

Why do people (not the posters on here) make things so difficult???
dbaker
Daniel Baker 0
Even that would be fraught with complexity. How would you get the charts from the iTunes purchase into the format that you want to use them (printed bundle, iPad, etc)? Makes it not so seamless.
cm5299
Chuck Me 0
So the FAA used to get money to pay for this. Now they don't. So they want to figure out how to once again get money for producing this. Is this really the US government? I mean they're actually trying to pay for things they do? Shocking.

Thanks to Mark for the notes.
cm5299
Chuck Me 0
So $5M. Say 500,000 pilots. That's $10 per pilot.

What does a paper sectional cost? $7

Why is this a big deal?
cm5299
Chuck Me 0
Sorry for all of the posts.

Mark,
Did they talk about how the NOAA handles this for marine charts? You can still print them for free. Do you know how they pass the costs on to the companies that sell charts using the NOAA data?
mduell
Mark Duell 0
AeroNav did mention the NOAA charts that are free. They said that was the decision of the Dept of Commerce (NOAA's parent organization) and the presenter felt something (I forget what, frequency of updates or something) had suffered as a result.

As a side note, AeroNav actually prints the paper version of the NOAA charts.
NSGDC
Scott Keller 0
Is it just me or does it seem like AOPA is already on board with this? This is a bid deal, yet I don't see the same energy and messaging I would expect to see on a user fee issue.
mpradel
Marcus Pradel 0
Wait, no Press or Individual citizens or Taxpayers allowed? non-disclosure agreements?

It would be illegal to combine NACO and the Flight Procedures Office. The latter is already funded thru appropriations.

This looks and smells of double dipping fueled by a vendor who wouldnt mind a high price to bump the competition.
mduell
Mark Duell 0
Correct, this was a meeting for vendors to generate ideas and concerns. The lack of press allowed vendors to speak freely, and sometimes contrary to their own interest. Individuals will have their opportunity for review and comment in the future. At this point the FAA is calling their... thing... a "pre-proposal".

As I stated above, NDAs may be involved with some "enhanced products" (products they're not distributing today) to prevent redistribution of sample data and/or avoid disclosure of products in development/negotiation. There was no NDA for this meeting nor would there be for vendors signing the agreement for the distribution of standard products (mostly those digital products available today).

AeroNav is funded by a mix of appropriations and user fees and has been for decades.
bayinstructor
Don Imus 0
Many thanks Mark for the information. Dan, again I appreciate, as always, your site and insight.
JoeC1
Joe Corrao 0
If FAA dramatically increases the cost of charts by charging for data that they control, does this open up an entrepreneurship opportunity for someone to start producing chart data and selling it more cheaply? The task of producing chart data might be formidable, but its not superhuman; FAA does it, after all! And its hard to imagine that the private sector couldn't do it more efficiently, which is to say, less expensively, and thereby undercut FAA's price. Its not fair to have to compete against a tax-subsidized entity like FAA, but I think their proposal reveals that they're not competitive even with taxpayer support. And there are liability issues, but frankly, in a contest between the government, which can claim soverign immunity, and a private sector vendor that can insure itself, if prices were equal I'd go with the private sector in a heartbeat. FAA might just be creating a significant competitive opportunity here.
mduell
Mark Duell 0
Most of the data used to produce the charts is free from various agencies. The AeroNav office is charging for the compilation and cartography work.

Jeppesen is an example of a a private enterprise that produces their own charts from the source data. Lido, now owned by Lufthansa, is another.
chalet
chalet 0
Do you know if Lido sells paper charts to indivudual users, not airlines, and if so how do their prices compare to Jeppesen whose prices are exorbitant.
mduell
Mark Duell 0
I do not.
chalet
chalet 0
Mark, I am so confued with what the FAA/NOAA et all are saying aobut this. Would you -and other fellow bloggers- awfully mind telling me where can I buy High Altitude paper charts for Latin America other than Jeppesen which charge an arm and a leg. See I need this only for educational purposes.
pkuhns
Peter Kuhns 0
Without question Foreflight subscriptions are gonna go up. I must say the current annual fee has been worth every friggin' penny..
thomasdilbeck
Tom Dilbeck 0
Numbers I've seen from the meeting were about $130 per pilot.
JohnRobertJohnson
John Johnson 0
I find it interesting that the paper charts are not selling. I have noticed that, since they stopped crediting FBO's for outdated and unsold charts like they used to do, the FBO's have been forced to stop stocking most charts. That makes it very difficult for the average pilot to BUY a paper chart. I have been unable to get anything other than a local chart for years unless I order it through the mail. I solved the problem by subscribing to Howie Keefe's airchart system and the VFR and IFR atlas type charts. Unfortunately, they, like the electronic charts, are not very good for flight planning. Please, just make the paper charts available again!
cathy1976
CATHY STEVENS 0
John, try visiting http://www.vfrcopilot.com. They have eSectionas in three flavors. It gives you secs, tacs, flyways as digital charts and lets you to flight planning right on the chart. You can then print TripKit pages that fit on your kneeboard. Their eSectionals HomeBase edition is only $15 ONE TIME cost and you get your home sectional FREE FOR LIFE and you can purchase additional charts as needed. Their US Edition is $50/year and you get the lower 49 states. eSectionals all editions include the current airports database and the FAA obstacles database.
dbaker
Daniel Baker 0
This service is no different than all the others that will have to dramatically adjust pricing to reflect the new FAA policies. The "FOR LIFE" part might be limited to the lifetime of free charts from the FAA.

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