Draconian AeroNav Money-Grab Finding Few Takers
The folks behind 'ForeFlight' have posted their thoughts on a
recent meeting in Washington held between the FAA's AeroNav
division (to which media was not only not invited but refused
permission to attend... in possible violation of applicable Federal
guidelines) and invited members of the aero-business community
affected by recent developments in which they have indicated the
potential need for aggressive new prices for services provided by
their government agency and already paid for by the taxpayers.
Herewith, their report:
ForeFlight attended AeroNav’s December 13th informational
session regarding its proposed Digital Chart Agent program.
Approximately 70 professionals were in attendance representing
avionics manufacturers, aviation software companies, aviation
websites, chart makers, chart agents, industry associations, and
aviation services providers.
We are grateful to AeroNav for organizing and hosting the
meeting. It was “spirited”, complete with rants,
emotional pleas, and thoughtful feedback.
Structure of the meeting:
- Fred Anderson, AeroNav’s director, presented a historical
summary of the legislative actions that provide the authority for
the government to produce aeronautical charts and recoup certain
costs. 49 U.S.C. 44721 authorizes the FAA to produce charts and
AeroNav has responsibility for fulfillment. Anderson communicated
the need for the directorate to recover $5 million in costs in
order to meet financial objectives promised as part of the
AeroNav’s conversion to a “High Performing
Organization” in 2008.
- Eric Secretan, AeroNav’s manager of Production Technology
and the ATC Products Group, presented a summary of the products
that AeroNav intends to include as part of its “standard
- Deborah Sullivan, AeroNav’s planning manager, presented
the proposed pricing structure: a tiered pricing structure based on
chart agent subscriber counts, with discounts per subscriber for
quantity, and a hard dollar cap.
- Abigail Smith, AeroNav’s Director of Business
Development, presented a proposed digital chart agent agreement
covering the major terms. Key provisions include no-alteration or
approved alteration of products, encryption, application of
copyright, audit and reporting requirements, and a minimum
- An industry brainstorming and feedback session.
ForeFlight’s Position on AeroNav’s Proposal:
- It is unrealistic – both on price and implementation
timeline – and falls short of meeting a wide range of pilot
needs and use cases.
- It will greatly reduce the public benefit the digital
distribution program has provided for years.
- Price increases are required to meet the “no adverse
safety impact” as provided by 49 U.S.C. (g)(1)(B). AeroNav
cited 1985 congressional testimony that a $2.25 per chart price
increase did not adversely impact safety. It is a leap of logic to
apply a 26 year old data point to the much larger price increases
proposed under this plan.
- It side-steps government no-copyright laws and forces digital
chart agents to erect a copyright shield around AeroNav
- For at least these reasons, ForeFlight does not support the
We are confident AeroNav will substantially modify the proposal
presented at the meeting. It is disconnected from market reality
and based on invalid market assumptions. ForeFlight is committed to
helping AeroNav find a more reasonable solution that the market
Ultimately, ForeFlight may have to raise prices if the proposal
survives the legal challenge it will invite. The proposal does
include quantity discounts and a hard dollar cap, so at this point
we don’t foresee a big increase in prices. We are committed
to keeping ForeFlight Mobile an exceptional value.
Regardless of what happens with future prices, we are committed
to fulfilling subscription obligations for existing customers
subscriptions. If you currently have a subscription to ForeFlight
Mobile, we will continue to deliver the service you expect.
AeroNav is an impressive organization filled with incredibly
talented individuals that have dedicated their careers to producing
products that provide great public benefit to pilots. Many are
passionate about the products they create, and it shows. This
conflict is a bump in the road for both AeroNav and the companies
that have flourished as a result of low cost access to AeroNav
If you believe the proposal is out of line, contact your
representatives, the Congressional General Aviation Caucus, AOPA,
NBAA representatives, GAMA, and FAA management.