VOR Status–Another Update

FAA provided another update on its plans to reduce the VOR network at the October 2018 meeting of the Aeronautical Charting Meeting. The latest Very High Frequency Omnidirectional Range (VOR) Minimum Operational Network (MON) Program update (PDF) includes the following key details:

  • 311 VORs (about 30 percent) will be shut down by 2025
  • 585 VORs will remain operational
  • Most of the VORs to be deactivated are in the East (133) and Central (163) regions; in the West, only 15 navaids are on the list to be turned off.
  • As of September 2018, 34 VORs, VOR/DME, and VORTACs have been shut down.
  • At the end of 2018, 34 of the 74 Phase 1 VORs have been shut down.
  • FAA plans to enhance the service volume of remaining VORs from 40 nm to 70 nm beginning at 5000 AGL. The enhanced VORs will be classified as VOR Low (VL) and VOR High (VH).  Documents such as the AIM will be updated as the enhancement program gets underway. The illustration below shows the coverage that the enhanced VORs will provide at or above 5000 AGL.

VOR-MON-70NM.jpg

As I’ve noted in several previous posts (e.g., here), the VOR MON program is designed to provide backup to GNSS (GPS). Specifically, within the contiguous United States the MON program will support conventional navigation in the event of a GPS outage by ensuring that pilots can:

  • Tune and identify a VOR at an altitude of 5,000 feet above site level and higher
  • Conduct VOR navigation through a GPS outage area
  • Navigate to a MON airport within 100 nautical miles to fly an Instrument
    Landing System (ILS), Localizer (LOC) or VOR instrument approach without
    GPS, DME, Automatic Direction Finder (ADF), or radar
  • Navigate along VOR Airways, especially in mountainous terrain, where
    Minimum En-route Altitudes (MEAs) make direct-to navigation impracticable

MON airports (i.e., those with conventional instrument procedures as described above) will be identified on en route charts, FAA Chart Supplements, and included in the National Airspace System Resource (NASR) Subscriber File data set for developers of electronic charts, apps, and so forth.

The FAA’s detailed policy for the transition was outlined in the Federal Register, here. More information about the program to reduce the VOR neworks is available at AOPA, here.

Here’s the list of next round of VORs scheduled to be shut down. I have provided links to the navaids at SkyVector.com so that you can see each location on a sectional chart. Note that in each case, several nearby VORs will remain in service:

BUU (BURBUN) Burlington, WI – Nov. 8, 2018
RUT (RUTLAND) Rutland, VT  – Nov. 8 2018
VNN (MT VERNON) Vernon, IL – Nov. 8, 2018
TVT (TIVERTON) Tiverton, OH  – Nov. 8, 2018
CSX (CARDINAL) St. Louis, MO – Jan. 3, 2019
ISQ (SCHOOLCRAFT CO) Manistique, MI – Jan. 3, 2019
MTO (MATTOON) Mattoon, IL – Jan. 3, 2019
ORD (CHICAGO O’HARE) Chicago, IL – Jan. 3, 2019
RID (RICHMOND) Richmond, IN – Jan. 3, 2019
FRM (FAIRMOUNT) Fairmont, MN – Feb. 28, 2019
GNP (GLENPOOL) Tulsa, OK – Feb. 28, 2019
LSE (LA CROSSE) La Crosse WI – Feb. 28, 2019
MTW (MANITOWOC) Manitowoc, WI – Feb. 28, 2019
GTH (GUTHERIE) Guthrie, TX – Apr. 25, 2019
HUB (HOBBY) Hobby, TX – Apr. 25
CZQ (CLOVIS) Clovis, in Fresno, CA – Apr. 25, 2019

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Another Update on IPCs

Changes to the wording of 14 CFR Part 61.57(d) in July 2018 caused confusion among some flight instructors about which tasks are now required when administering an instrument proficiency check (IPC). I earlier wrote about a question that I posed to FAA and the agency’s response in Clarification of IPC Requirements.

As that post notes, the FAA still requires an IPC to include the tasks listed in Appendix A of the Instrument Rating-Airplane ACS.

FAA released an editorial update to AC 61-98D Currency Requirements and Guidance for the Flight Review and Instrument Proficiency Check, but Appendix J of that document still referenced the old language of 14 CFR Part 61.57(d), so I wrote FAA again to point out the error and ask for clarification.

Here’s part of the response that I received via email:

Background. As stated in the preamble discussion addressing the revised regulatory text language in § 61.57(d), “The FAA finds that this revision is not a substantive change because the areas of operation and instrument tasks required for an IPC remain unchanged. Thus, an IPC is still driven by the standards for the instrument rating practical test.” For instance, just as § 61.65(c) describes the areas of operation that a pilot must meet to complete the instrument rating practical test successfully, the ACS provides the required tasks, details, and level of proficiency for successful completion of that practical test. The Instrument Rating ACS also include the tasks that a pilot must accomplish for the successful completion of an IPC, as well as providing the associated proficiency standards applicable to the areas of operation identified in §61.57(d). Bear in mind that § 61.43(a)(3), Practical tests: General procedures, require examiners to conduct evaluations under approved standards. It states, “(a) Completion of the practical test for a certificate or rating consists of—3) Demonstrating proficiency and competency within the approved standards.” Applicable ACS/PTS documents provide FAA approved standards. In this same manner, the FAA provides the standards by which an authorized instructor must conduct an IPC. Therefore, the FAA still requires the use of applicable ACS/PTS to provide the tasks and standards for an IPC. The tasks required for an IPC are still driven by the approved standards for the instrument rating practical test.

Response. In review of your feedback, our office determined that your observation is correct. The FAA did not update the regulatory reference to § 61.57(d) in AC 61-98D, Appendix J, which can cause confusion. To correct this inaccuracy, we will:

  1. Revise AC 61-98D by correcting its reference to § 61.57(d) containing obsolete regulatory text and replace it with the current regulatory text in § 61.57(d);
  2. Provide additional information explaining the basis for the requirement to use the approved standards provided by ACS/PTS, as applicable, in the conduct of an IPC; and
  3. Submit an editorial revision correcting this matter at the time of the next approved revision period for AC 61-98D.