Today’s news about Boeing purchasing ForeFlight is very interesting and, I think, changes GA in a material way. And it sounds very, very familiar…
In 2000, a little data company based on Denver was purchased by Boeing. In the press release about the Jeppesen acquisition from 2000, Boeing wrote:
“We are delighted at the prospect of becoming part of The Boeing Company,” said Horst Bergmann, CEO of Jeppesen. “We’re looking forward to working together to create an array of new digital information services and to speed the movement of our existing products to new digital platforms.”
Today’s ForeFlight press release said, effectively, the same thing.
Before the acquisition, Jepp had been a very innovative company that significantly increased GA safety. They were admired and respected by GA pilots. But after the purchase, I don’t think I saw anything innovative come from Jepp again. Of course, there has been plenty of innovation in GA since 2000 and, to put credit where credit is due, much of that has been because of ForeFlight (not to mention other innovative companies like Seattle Avionics.) In other words, Jepp was once innovative then wasn’t. Will the same thing happen to ForeFlight? In fact, has it already? In the past two years, many of us have noticed a shift by ForeFlight away from GA and towards commercial aviation.
One major reason for the success of ForeFlight, FlyQ, WingX, Garmin Pilot, and other apps has been mass distribution of the FAA approach plates and airport diagrams. Before these apps, pilots certainly could choose to use the FAA printed diagrams over expensive Jepp charts, but the ease of use of these apps combined with the vastly higher cost of Jepp plates, definitely drove the success of these apps. Now that Jepp and ForeFlight are together under one roof, one has to wonder if it’s in Boeing’s best interest to continue to favor FAA plates or to push expensive Jepp data much more strongly into ForeFlight. Perhaps “nudge” people towards using Jepp data by increasing the price of the FAA subscriptions?
So what’s the takeaway from today’s news? In my opinion, based on 25 years of business experience, I would expect the past to be prologue. I would expect a slower pace of innovation, higher prices, and focus on commercial aviation.
I’d love to hear your thoughts.