With the proliferation of electronic flight bag (EFB) software running on tablets in our cockpits, it’s often easy to forget that some of the data we download every 28 days may not be correct. In fact, the charts, approach plates and airport information we use—to name just three categories—can easily be missing important material or simply include errors.
Mistakes that creep into FAA charts often are the subject of Flight Data Center (FDC) Notams and are part of a full pre-flight briefing. Others are more subtle and come about when electronic charting services run by Jeppesen and Garmin, for two examples, screw up. Often, the charting error involves an overseas airport you’ll never reach in your Skyhawk, but sometimes they’re close to home. Unless you diligently seek information on mistakes from your database provider, you may never know of the problem.
MISSING SFRA PROCEDURES
For example, users of the FAA’s Northeast Chart Supplement (CS, formerly the Airport/Facility Directory) effective August 12, 2021, are missing the seven pages that document the Washington, D.C. SFRA Special Terms and Procedures, due to an internal production error. The material was omitted from the printed and electronic versions.
The FAA issued a Safety Alert on August 25, alerting CS users to the omission and reprinting the material. That Safety Alert, in PDF format, can be accessed online at tinyurl.com/SAF-SFRA. The omission presumably will be corrected with the next edition, effective October 7, 2021. The Safety Alert is the only reference we could find on the missing material, even after two separate Notam searches.
Jeppesen publishes a regular change notice series for its electronic flight information products known as NavData Alerts. They “are designed to inform commercial NavData subscribers…and are not designed for individual pilot notification….” They contain “safety-of-flight information including, but not limited to, incorrect turn directions, altitudes, airway changes, and SID/STAR/Approach procedures” and may be accessed online at ww2.jeppesen.com/notices/.
The company also offers its On Demand Notices service, which allows users to search for airspace and ATC changes before they appear in Jeppesen’s bi-weekly revisions.
In addition to its avionics products, Garmin International also publishes the electronic charting data used to update them. It’s good to have competition—Jeppesen used to be the only game in town for some electronic navigation data—but Garmin seems to make mistakes, too, and finding related information can be just as difficult.
Like Jeppesen, Garmin maintains a dedicated page on its web site to “advise owners/operators of important information regarding the fidelity and usability of an aviation product or database; the serviceability of a Garmin product; or to notify owners/operators of an applicable aviation service bulletin.” Garmin’s Aviation Alerts and Advisories page is online at www.garmin.com/en-US/aviationalerts/ and includes database alerts, notification of device software updates and more mundane items like service bulletins. A recent Garmin Navigation Data Alert, for example, notified users of incorrect altitudes finding their way into the database for RNAV (GPS) approach procedures at three different U.S. airports.
While it’s a good thing aeronautical data publishers alert us to their errors, the problem is we have to search out this information, which can be well-hidden. There’s got to be a better way to get this information into pilots’ hands.