Before the advent of the iPad and similar tablets, aviators used paper charts. Most instrument-rated pilots subscribed to charts published by Jeppesen, and updates, in distinctive yellow envelopes, arrived in the mail every two weeks. Updating the approach charts and associated information meant pulling out one or more thick binders and manually tearing out the old sheets and replacing them with new “plates.”
That manual update process was time-consuming and prone to errors–a chore often left to downtime at the airport. Now, most pilots, from airline captains to students, have adopted electronic charts, at least for some operations. Increasing numbers of us have gone paperless, a practice allowed by the FAA under several guidance documents. For non-commercial operators, the most relevant document is AC 91-78 Use of Class 1 or Class 2 Electronic Flight Bag (EFB).
The old manual update method had one virtue, however. You handled the new charts, and you could easily see which procedures had been canceled or updated. New procedures were also obvious.
Downloads of new charts to an iPad update the information quickly and accurately, but you can’t easily determine which charts have changed.
The FAA does offer tools to help you discover what’s new with each data cycle.
For example, the Advanced Search page at the AeroNav Products website is an interactive way to find new or changed terminal procedures (IAPs, SIDs, STARs, etc.) for IFR flying.
You can search for procedures added, changed, or deleted in the current cycle or the next updates to be published. Narrow a search by the volume (Northeast Vol. 1, Southwest Vol. 2, etc.), state, or city in which the airport(s) you’re interested in are listed. You can also search for specific a specific airport by typing its ID or name.
The PDF compare option displays the two latest versions of a chart with highlights that mark what’s changed.
Looking Ahead: Procedures in Development
To learn about instrument procedures that are under development, visit the IFP Information Gateway, where you can search for airports by name, ID, or city. The page displays details about forthcoming changes to existing procedures and information about procedures that are under development, including preliminary charts.
VFR Chart Updates and Bulletins
To review changes to VFR charts, see the VFR Chart Update Bulletins page, where you can download PDF summaries of late changes to and errors on published charts.