Aug. 12, 2015

The FAA recently announced plans to end publication of VFR World Aeronautical Charts (WACs), despite prior assurances that the agency would first provide industry stakeholders with an opportunity to comment on any such proposal.

Published at a scale of 1:1,000,000, WACs are less detailed than standard VFR sectional charts and used primarily onboard aircraft flying at high altitudes. A WAC contains topographical information – such as city limits, railroads and distinctive landmarks – as well as aeronautical information, including airports and airways, visual and radio navigational aids, restricted areas and other pertinent data.

NBAA Access Committee member John Kernaghan said the possibility of ending WAC publication first came to NBAA’s attention during the first 2014 meeting of the biannual FAA Aeronautical Charting Forum.

“We conducted an informal poll of NBAA Members to see how many were still using WACs, and 36 percent of respondents indicated they still used these charts,” he said. “We subsequently informed the forum chair that NBAA was opposed to the product’s removal at this time.”

The FAA’s proposal to cease WAC publication – without a public comment period – was posted to the Federal Register in June. Not having WACs available poses a number of potential issues for pilots who rely on them to fulfill the requirement to carry VFR charts when utilizing digital charting products like electronic flight bags (EFBs).

Read the FAA’s policy for the discontinuance of world aeronautical charts.

“While we welcome the transition to digital solutions on the flight deck, some EFBs require a Wi-Fi connection for live updating, or present other situations where their use isn’t stable,” said Kernaghan. “Had NBAA been able to comment on the agency’s rulemaking, we would have recommended that WACs be maintained until digital products were universally available and seamless.”

In lieu of WACs, pilots will also need to carry additional sectional charts (at 1:500,000 scale) that are updated more frequently.

“I’m sure there will come a time when WACs will no longer be required on the flight deck,” said Bob Lamond, NBAA director of air traffic services and infrastructure. “We aren’t there just yet, though, and such a decision shouldn’t be rushed over cost concerns.”

Under the FAA proposal, publication of many WACs would end following the final editions to be printed for fiscal year 2015. The agency plans to continue publishing WACs for areas not covered by sectional charts, or as otherwise agreed upon by the FAA and the International Civil Aviation Organization.