Digital Charts & AFD for Free (No Kidding and No Strings)

I don't know about everyone else out there, but I'm not a fan of paying $8 or $9 a piece for sectionals and other publications that expire every few months. The worst is when I'm taking a long cross country flight and have to buy pubs that I'll probably only ever use on that trip. Thanks to ever-improving technology and some much appreciated support from the FAA, we now have some options in these situations.

We can now download digital copies of Sectionals, IFR Low Enroute Charts, Airport/Facility Directories and more for free from the FAA's own website!

The charts come as enormous .tif (picture) files and should be viewable on any PC, tablet (like the iPad,) and potentially even some smartphones. They can also be cropped and resized to make wallpaper, invitations to your next fly-in and other non-navigation related products. The AFD is housed in .pdf files, though there's probably a better source for it...

...specifically, that'd be www.pdfplates.com pointed out to us last year by Jon. it offers full AFDs and IFR approach plates as .pdf files. They're viewable from any PC, tablet, smartphone or e-reader (like the Amazon Kindle) capable of handling .pdf files.

What does this boil down to? Depending on your comfort level with the latest technology you could do most or all of your flight planning and in-flight navigation without having to buy a single paper product.

These are some pretty awesome resources and actually do a lot to help cut the costs of flying. So, don't let the cost of pubs get in the way of you taking that dream cross country anymore. Just go online and get the source files directly from the FAA!

(Disclaimer: Although AviationBull feels that these resources are likely sufficient for VFR flight, we recommend you consult an aviation attorney or the FAA before conducting paperless flight ops...especially if you plan to fly IFR.)