December 20, 2021
The salmon-colored paper book we carry in our airplanes, formally known as the Chart Supplement Alaska, contains a wealth of information important to pilots flying in Alaska. The first half of the book contains the airport/facility directory that gives us information about such things as runway lengths and headings, radio frequencies, and whether one can expect to buy gas. The latter half (Notices, Associated Data, Procedures) contains an incredible mixture of information, such as the Denali flight advisory frequencies and VFR arrival procedures for the Anchorage airports. Finding specific information in this portion of the over 500-page document, however, can be a challenge. The FAA is starting a process to modernize this document and is inviting input, regarding what is and isn’t needed to help navigate the skies of Alaska. And they would like to hear from you—the user.
The chart supplement is a joint publication providing information needed for both civil and military aviators. Updated every eight weeks, the document is available in hard copy (salmon colored paperback) or electronically as a pdf file. The Notices, Associated Data, and Procedures sections of the supplement are commonly referred to as the “backmatter.” These sections contain a rich mixture of details not found on our flight charts, yet include information pilots need to know when engaged in pre-flight planning. For example, details of the Alaska-specific CTAF areas assigned in different parts of the state are not uniformly depicted on the charts but may be found in the supplement. Unfortunately, a lack of structure and specific guidelines over the years has allowed this section of the supplement to become a mixture of current and outdated material. As more pilots migrate to using electronic flight bags, having a structure that allows the document to be more easily ingested by automation is needed so that third-party vendors can more easily parse and present the information to pilots in flight apps. Another objective is to avoid repeating information already published in other documents, such as the Aeronautical Information Manual.
Change is ahead
The FAA has picked up the baton and established an internal working group to modernize the chart supplements. A series of workshops invited input from aviation stakeholders—a copy of the presentation from the workshops is available online. The panel, including staff from FAA headquarters and the Western Service Center, is tasked with developing internal processes that will change the scope of the document. This group would like to hear from pilots concerning what information they value and what they can do without. If you have comments or recommendations regarding the Chart Supplement Alaska, please send them directly to the FAA via email and send a copy to AOPA. After reviewing the input received, the FAA will develop recommendations, which will also be circulated for comments and presented to the Aeronautical Charting Meeting, the primary venue for announcing significant changes.
It is challenging to retain information that is unique to Alaska, organize it in a logical structure, and keep it up to date. AOPA has advocated for a cleanup of this section of the chart supplement for several years. Please take some time to inspect this section of the document and provide your thoughts on what is essential—and what is not!