New Aviation Data and Charts: What’s Changed?

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.”

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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VFR En Route Waypoints Added to Jeppesen NavData

Here’s a notice from Jeppesen (dated 4 November 2011) that I’d missed.

Jeppesen has started adding VFR en route waypoints in the U.S. and Europe to NavData updates. For examples of named VFR waypoints on terminal area charts, see this chart segment at SkyVector. Note the point named MID-SPAN SAN MATEO BRIDGE (VPMID). Such waypoints are common on Terminal Area Charts (for other examples, see the chart for KLAX, specifically the area around KLGB, and the insets that show the VFR routes that transit KLAX).

For more information about VFR waypoints, see AIM 1−1−19. Global Positioning System (GPS), paragraph C., which explains in part that:

1. VFR waypoints provide VFR pilots with a supplementary tool to assist with position awareness while navigating visually in aircraft equipped with area navigation receivers. VFR waypoints should be used as a tool to supplement current navigation procedures. The uses of VFR waypoints include providing navigational aids for pilots unfamiliar with an area, waypoint definition of existing reporting points, enhanced navigation in and around Class B and Class C airspace, and enhanced navigation around Special Use Airspace. VFR pilots should rely on appropriate and current aeronautical charts published specifically for visual navigation. If operating in a terminal area, pilots should take advantage of the Terminal Area Chart available for that area, if published. The use of VFR waypoints does not relieve the pilot of any responsibility to comply with the operational requirements of 14 CFR Part 91.

2. VFR waypoint names (for computer-entry and flight plans) consist of five letters beginning with the letters “VP” and are retrievable from navigation databases. The VFR waypoint names are not intended to be pronounceable, and they are not for use in ATC communications. On VFR charts, stand-alone VFR waypoints will be portrayed using the same four-point star symbol used for IFR waypoints. VFR waypoints collocated with visual check points on the chart will be identified by small magenta flag symbols. VFR waypoints collocated with visual check points will be pronounceable based on the name of the visual check point and may be used for ATC communications. Each VFR waypoint name will appear in parentheses adjacent to the geographic location on the chart. Latitude/longitude data for all established VFR waypoints may be found in the appropriate regional Airport/Facility Directory (A/FD).

3. VFR waypoints shall not be used to plan flights under IFR. VFR waypoints will not be recognized by the IFR system and will be rejected for IFR routing purposes.

4. When filing VFR flight plans, pilots may use the five letter identifier as a waypoint in the route of flight section if there is an intended course change at that point or if used to describe the planned route of flight. This VFR filing would be similar to how a VOR would be used in a route of flight. Pilots must use the VFR waypoints only when operating under VFR conditions.

5. Any VFR waypoints intended for use during a flight should be loaded into the receiver while on the ground and prior to departure. Once airborne, pilots should avoid programming routes or VFR waypoint chains into their receivers.

6. Pilots should be especially vigilant for other traffic while operating near VFR waypoints. The same effort to see and avoid other aircraft near VFR waypoints will be necessary, as was the case with VORs and NDBs in the past. In fact, the increased accuracy of navigation through the use of GPS will demand even greater vigilance, as off-course deviations among different pilots and receivers will be less. When operating near a VFR waypoint, use whatever ATC services are available, even if outside a class of airspace where communications are required. Regardless of the class of airspace, monitor the available ATC frequency closely for information on other aircraft operating in the vicinity. It is also a good idea to turn on your landing light(s) when operating near a VFR waypoint to make your aircraft more conspicuous to other pilots, especially when visibility is reduced. See paragraph 7-5-2, VFR in Congested Areas, for more information.

Note also that many VFR charts include the following warning: CAUTION: GPS accuracy necessitates extra vigilance for other aircraft when navigating near any fix retrieved from a GPS database.