June 20, 2004

The Eternal Question...

NOS or Jeppesen? (Or, more accurately now, NACO vs. Jep...). It's one of those instrument rights of passage, chosing an approach plate system that you can live with. There's not a huge difference in quality or usability any more (the newer NACO plates are evolving towards something that I like visually and ergonomically more than the Jep plates), so it usually amounts to a personal decision based on things like cost or aesthetic preferences. Cost and convenience are real issues -- you have to keep the plates up to date, meaning a new set every 56 days -- but the overall cost isn't a huge deal in either case. Ergonomics is a big deal -- you don't want to have to spend a lot of time deciphering unfamiliar approach plates in IMC after going missed for real, for instance -- but, in my opinion, both plate systems are pretty similar. Both suffer from having to put a lot of crucial information into a small space, and both do a pretty good job (if you ask me, anyway).

Frankly, the web's making some of these decisions less important. NACO now publishes all approach plates (and associated gubbins) in PDF form on the web for each cycle, and the quality of these when printed locally on my printer is excellent -- better than the subscription version on the crappy paper they use -- and, best of all, they're free, with no strings attached. So I've evolved a method that combines a NACO paper subscription with the PDF versions: I dutifully load the new loose-leaf paper versions each cycle into my folder, so every damn plate's there in my flight bag if I need it during a flight, but I print out the plates for the approaches planned for a flight beforehand and put these into the little plastic protectors instead of the loose-leaf versions. The best of both worlds, I guess.

Of course, if I were really rich, I'd use an entirely electronic system, the sort of thing Jeppesen is doing with JeppView. Not being rich, I'll wait a few years until something like that becomes truly affordable...

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