Jeppesen is one of the largest companies globally that offers navigational and flight planning software. It was founded in 1934 as one of the first companies to offer charts for pilots and was only acquired by Boeing in 2000. Today it offers all kinds of navigational logistics, tools, and training.

As a company, Boeing has many divisions and services – including the historic Jeppesen. Photo: Boeing

Making charts since 1934

Jeppesen was founded in 1934 by Elrey Borge Jeppesen, a pilot from US-based airlines Varney Air Lines (later to become part of United Airlines). He developed charts that he had used personally on fights to sell to other pilots – initially referred to as his “little black book.” He was soon sourcing route sketches from other pilots and expanded the charts on offer.

In 1931, Varney Air Lines became part of United Airlines, and this was one of the first airlines to start using Jeppesen’s charts. Jeppesen remained a pilot with United Airlines until 1954, when he left to focus on developing the chart business.

Elrey Borge Jeppesen was a pilot from a young age. Photo: Jeppesen Memorial via Wikimedia

Jeppesen’s company soon started working on other services alongside chart development. As early as 1947, it worked with the US Civil Aviation Authority (later to become the FAA) on developing standard instrument approaches for airports. Jeppesen also developed the important standard procedures for missed approaches.

The company was initially based in Jeppesen’s hometown of Salt Lake City, Utah. It moved to Denver in 1941 as it expanded. Its first international branch opened in Frankfurt in 1957. This was initially to support a contract with the US Army, but it also allowed further expansion into Europe.

cquisitions and company expansion from the 1960s

Jeppesen remained the owner of the company until 1961, when it was sold to the media company Times-Mirror Company (Jeppesen remained on as Chairman, though). Since then it has seen a series of mergers and acquisitions that have expanded its offerings to reach the multiple services it has today.

In 1974 it merged with Sanderson Films, a leading flight training company at the time. This had been formed by pilot Paul Sanderson after the Second World War to use technology and film to improve pilot training.

In 1989, Jeppesen purchased Lockheed DataPlan, a leading flight planning, logistics, and weather information provider. In 1996, Jeppesen acquired MentorPlus, another map and flight planning services provider. And in 2000, it also took over Nobeltec, a company providing marine navigation software and charts.

cquisition by Boeing

By 2000, Jeppesen had expanded its service offering significantly into flight planning, training, and logistics, as well as charts and navigation. It has also expanded globally with further offices in Europe, Australia, and China.

In 2000, the Times-Mirror Company was taken over by competing media company Tribune in one of the largest media acquisitions in history. This gave Tribune an extensive portfolio of newspapers and the benefits of economies of scale that go along with that.

However, after paying $8.3bn and adding massive debt, it soon sold off many of the non-core media parts of the company. The Jeppesen division was sold to Boeing in October 2000 for $1.5 billion.

Boeing ForeFlight Dispatch
Boeing ForeFlight includes dispatch and planning tools and is part of Jeppesen today. Photo: Boeing

Under Boeing, the company continued its series of acquisitions and service expansion. In 2004, it acquired SBS, a provider of crew-scheduling services. It went further in this market in 2006 by taking over Carmen Systems, a leading provider of crew scheduling and disruption-management software.

The company moved into fuel management in 2014 with the acquisition of ETS Aviation. And in 2019, after a two-year partnership, it acquired ForeFlight Mobile, expanding its services in digital and real-time mapping for pilots.

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Jeppesen services today

Jeppesen retains its position as a leading provider of maps and charts – for both aviation and maritime use. These have of course rapidly moved away from paper charts to electronic. The electronic flight bag concept was introduced in 2002, and Jeppesen is a key supplier. Charts can also be incorporated into cockpit displays – first offered on the Embraer E2 in 2019 (according to Boeing).

Charts in Cockpit
Charts are used in some cockpit displays. Photo: Boeing

Other flight operation services include flight planning, and crew planning and management. Network and operations management services include aircraft utilization, fuel efficiency and management, and flight routing. It is also a leading supplier of pilot training materials and other equipment.

Have you used Jeppesen maps – either before or after it became part of Boeing? Or any of the company’s other products and services offered today? Feel free to discuss these further in the comments. 

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