Jeppesen is the most famous name in navigation. And it is the only company that produces aeronautical charting and nav data for the globe. Jepp is simply the standard for airlines and corporate jets everywhere.
Jeppesen is enormously successful and by all accounts very profitable. Jepp is routinely the star performer in the Boeing collection of aerospace groups. Jepp has a sterling reputation and the prices for its charts and data are sterling, too.
But the people who run Jepp are pilots and aviation enthusiasts. They rose through the ranks flying and owning personal airplanes, not mega-million dollar jets. And they know the success of all of aviation—including Jeppesen’s worldwide nav data business—depends on a solid base of light airplane pilots and new pilots learning to fly.
All of that is pretty much feel good boilerplate unless a company puts its money where its mouth is. And this week at Oshkosh Jepp has done just that.
The stunner for me was Jepp’s new Mobile FliteDeck charting and flight planning service for the iPad. Nothing new about an iPad app, but it is a wonderful surprise to get one from Jepp for only $49 a year for complete VFR coverage of the U.S.
Jepp’s Mobile FliteDeck systems are different than most other iPad chart displays because the chart is “drawn” anew from stored data for each zoom level. Instead of showing an electronic picture of a chart, the FliteDeck creates an entirely new image at every scale so detail and resolution is always the same.
Jepp has combined data found on sectional or area or terminal charts seamlessly so you never need to select between charts. As you zoom out the chart unclutters leaving only the information you need. Zoom in and every detail appears down to the location of taxiways at larger airports.
It’s no surprise to me that Jeppesen does this for its IFR charts, but to create the system strictly for VFR, and then price it at $49, less than some other charting and flight planning apps, shows a true commitment to supporting the little guy. Jepp applied the techniques it has learned from its massive IFR charting and flight planning efforts to the VFR FliteDeck so the system is intuitive to use, shows you what you need to know for each phase of a flight, and is kept constantly up to date thanks to Jepp’s own comprehensive navigation data base.
The other convincing evidence of Jepp’s commitment to growing aviation at all levels is the way CEO Mark Van Tine has thrown his support behind the Build A Plane program. Van Tine sponsored a competition among high schools and the winners sent teams of students to Glasair in Washington to build two airplanes under the Glasair “two weeks to taxi” program.
The General Aviation Manufacturer’s Association (GAMA) also sponsored the Build A Plane program along with Glasair, but it was Mark’s personal commitment that drove the program forward. Mark is so dedicated to the program that he flew one of the Glasiars from Washington State to Oshkosh for AirVenture. Mark made the trip VFR, of course, and used Jepp’s new VFR FliteDeck along the way.
Jepp and Mark Van Tine are among many great aerospace companies that make their living supplying services and hardware to the upper end of aviation. But they haven’t forgotten their roots, and they do understand fully that we need the base of personal aviation to support the top tier.
So if you hear cynics saying that big aviation companies are only out to make money Jepp and Mark Van Tine prove the cynics are wrong. Jepp makes plenty of money, but it gives back and does what it can to help keep us all flying and to grow a new generation of aviators.