As you’ve doubtless heard by now, Boeing has bought app developer ForeFlight. Boeing also owns Jeppesen, a company that has the best aviation navigation data in the world, and has for many, many decades. Jeppesen’s aeronautical charts, “Jepps” for short, are the gold standard because they’re accurate, boast a world-class user experience, and they span the globe. They’re also offered as an upgrade with ForeFlight Mobile. For a fee, ForeFlight subscribers can upgrade from government charts, which aren’t bad, mind you, to Jepps, which, as I mentioned, are awesome.
Now, the acquisition of ForeFlight by Boeing wasn’t wholly unexpected. The two have been courting for years, well, in that they’ve been partnering for that length of time. ForeFlight has been supplying its platform to Jepp customers (military, charter and airline customers, primarily) to make Jepp charts nice and easy to use in the cockpits of planes big and fast.
I’ve had a couple of friends comment that the two companies’ cultures are complementary, and I guess that’s true. Regardless, when two substantial companies come together both of them will change, the only questions are: which will change more, how will they change, how much different will they be, and when will it happen? Admittedly, those are pretty much all the questions.
Crystal ball time: ForeFlight is an innovative company—it recently announced its latest feature, an airport preview feature that lets you check your destination in 3D, changing your angle and perspective to mimic your position in flight (or your soon to be position). It’s one of approximately one million cool features the company has launched over its dozen years in existence, a period over which the company has matured and added platforms and capabilities. Like the best companies in the world, ForeFlight has a vision and a plan for the future. They don’t share that plan with many folks, but rest assured that when they launch a crazy cool new feature, they didn’t dream it up the week before. So they have a good backlog of intellectual property to roll out, all of which Boeing was surely privy to in its negotiations.
The danger of a big, established company, and they don’t come any bigger or more established than Boeing, gobbling up a small, entrepreneurial company like ForeFlight is the fear that the small company will lose its mojo. That doesn’t always happen, but let’s face it, it almost always does happen. The keys to helping the little fish in the new giant corporate pond stay agile is in letting its brilliant people continue to operate as brilliant people. But reining in outliers is what big corporations do, so Boeing will have to fight to prevent that from happening.
For the sake of a great product and a great company, I hope they make that happen.
As far as immediate effects of the marriage to end users, aka, us pilots, the biggest fear is that ForeFlight users – many of whom opt for the cheaper, still very good quality government charts instead of the upgraded Jepp charts – will be forced to upgrade, which will be reflected in a price hike to the basic product. I’ve reached out to ForeFlight to ask that question and heard back from folks at both ForeFlight and Jeppesen.
Jeppesen’s Reggie Arsenault confirmed that the NOS chart option and current subscription prices will remain the same. ForeFlight EVP Stephen Newman added, “I can tell you on the record that NOS charts in ForeFlight will not go away. I can also allay concerns of GA pilots that there will be no changes in price and our commitment to providing GA pilots the best and most innovative products is as strong as ever. It’s our passion and our mission and that will never change.”
It’s a great start.