Choking on escalating cockpit data costs

If you are flying with a glass cockpit or other state-of-the-art avionics, sooner or later you may start choking on the escalating costs to keep all of these fancy gadgets running with the data they require. In fact, the rising costs associated with all of this data was the subject of a recent AVweb post by Paul Bertorelli.

Paul began his post by noting that he received a few irritated emails from readers who were annoyed that when he reported on Garmin’s new GTN-series navigators, he failed to mention anything about database costs. He then commented how the modern cockpit has become a “data-sucking black hole” full of databases that do not communicate or share much information with each other.

Moreover, all of this data adds up to the point where, if you include the cost of any portables or paper charts, you can easily spend a few grand a year on data alone. Worst, it appears that the cost of data is only heading in one direction and that is up. 

In the US where many of the innovative iPhone and iPad apps originate from, the FAA will stop offering free digital chart data next year – meaning you can say goodbye to any new iPad or iPhone apps that are free or inexpensive as many rely on this free FAA data. 

And then there is the proliferation of GPS approaches with the FAA planning thousands more of them. In fact, Paul wrote that:

One reader wrote me and said he noticed that a couple of GPS approaches for Ft. Myers, Florida were dropped from his current navigation database. Jeppesen confirmed this. Why? Too much data to process for that cycle; those procedures were dropped to be picked up for the next revision cycle. This begs the question: Why have all this infrastructure if the system to process the data chokes in getting it to users?

Paul ended his post by writing that the aircraft industry and aircraft owners need to figure out a better path because as data costs begin to rival what is paid insurance, many pilots will not be able to afford to be aircraft owners anymore.

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