September 2009 Issue

Electronic Charting

The paperless cockpit isn’t a myth, but it’s not been perfected either. Various portable solutions are available, but they all have drawbacks.

One of the things the FAA has done right in recent years involves charting. First, instead of standing by while the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration office responsible for aeronautical charts shut down its printing presses, the FAA established a new office to handle the work and took on the responsibility. Second, as electronic distribution became the norm, not the exception, the FAA made many of its products—including the all-important instrument approach procedure charts—available free of charge. The agency still has a long way to go (see the sidebar on page 10), but we’re all familiar with how it could be doing much, much worse. Of course, if you’re flying one of the new-generation glass panels with built-in electronic charting, all this may seem like old news. And, depending on what you’re flying and how, you may not have a requirement for en route charts or terminal procedures in your cockpit. It’s likely you still need some kind of paper references, even if your glass panel is the latest and greatest, and even if all its costly databases are kept current. The rest of us are on the look for a simple, cost-effective solution allowing IAPs and en route charts to be displayed electronically. Sectionals, too, perhaps. The degree to which any or all of this is possible depends on how much money you’re willing to throw at the problem, and with how many downsides you’re willing to deal. Let’s take a look why.

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