Flight Simulation has quite the economy surrounding it. I’m not particularly fond of the navigation data sector of that economy. If you want the latest navigation data, you must subscribe or buy it from Aerosoft or Navigraph.  But those companies that sell it to you must buy the raw data from Jeppesen or Lufthansa Systems. That data is delivered as ARINC424 format files or in a more reasonable tailored database format. That full navigation data is very expensive. An individual cannot afford it. I have seen quotes upwards of $10,000 USD. I do not know if that's for a single month’s data or a year’s worth. However, through Jeppesen, if you’re an actual pilot with a navigation computer that you must keep up to date, you can buy navigation data compiled specifically for that aircraft’s navigation computer at a substantially more reasonable, attainable price. But Jeppesen and Lufthansa Systems will not sell you compiled data for your home computer simulator. That’s where Aerosoft and Navigraph come in as middlemen. They buy the raw data and reprocess it into a myriad of formats suitable for flight simulation and 3rd party simulated aircraft. The two companies then resell that data to simmers at around $10 USD per month or per cycle. Once a simmer is introduced to the concept of navigation data cycles, many with disposable income forever chase the latest navigation data.

You see, updated navigation data is released around once a month, called a cycle, from a number of aviation authorities. Jeppesen and Lufthansa Systems compiles all of that into proprietary databases. Typically changes are not dramatic between cycles, though they can seem so if there are new or updated approaches or navigation GPS fixes. If you export a flight plan from flight simulator planner software using a cycle that is newer or older than what is in your simulator, you’ll get a software freakout. Or if you manually enter a plan into the simulator based on a different navigation cycle, you’ll find the simulator’s navigation data lacks the the desired approaches and fixes. Worse, some 3rd party aircraft use their own navigation database files and those are often not the same cycle as the simulator’s default navigation data.  You cannot simply import the simulator’s navdata into that aircraft’s system. You have to turn to Navigraph or Aerosoft to synchronize the data. Not to miss sales opportunities, Navigraph will happily provide several year old data for free distribution with aircraft and flight planner software. Of course that data will not match with the simulator’s data. Thus starts a cycle of chasing navigation data because people naturally dislike when things go sideways and need the latest navdata synchronized everywhere all of the time.

I used to subscribe to monthly navigation data. But now I’ve come to realize it is simply not necessary to chase reality like that. Frankly, I have enough monthly subscriptions. But for most of them, the services are used daily or supports independent work. Navigation data only benefits me a couple times a week, if that. For my flights, navigation data almost never changes. If it does, it’s not very noticeable or not noticeable at all. Just switch to available approaches or fixes and be done with it. It’s a home simulator, after all, not a check flight.

So it is reasonably simple, and takes barely any time, to use the flight simulator’s default older navigation cycle data (from Navigraph, of course!). If I’m using FlightAware to look at real-world filed flight plans, and if there’s an incompatibility with an approach or a navigation fix with the simulator’s older data, it takes just a minute to rework a flight plan in the open source Little NavMap software. And taking that a bit further, you can do whatever the heck you want in a simulator. Just fly and save some bucks for other more important things like saving democracy or supporting your favorite creators (including simulated aircraft designers).