FAA Releases List of VORs to be Shut Down

FAA has published a list of 308 VORs that it plans to shut down in phases by 2025. The notice in the Federal Register appeared on July 26, 2016. The notice includes a list of VORs that the FAA wants to decommission.

This document provides the discontinuance selection criteria and candidate list of VOR Navigational Aids (NAVAIDs) targeted for discontinuance as part of the VOR MON Implementation Program and United States (U.S.) National Airspace System (NAS) Efficient Streamline Services Initiative. Additionally, this policy addresses the regulatory processes the FAA plans to follow to discontinue VORs.

For background on the FAA’s plans, see Latest Info on VOR Shutdowns here at BruceAir. Note that under this plan, only about one-third of the existing network of VORs will be decommissioned.

According to the FAA notice:

The following criteria were used by the FAA to determine which VORs would be retained as a part of the MON:

— Retain VORs to perform Instrument Landing System (ILS), Localizer (LOC), or VOR approaches supporting MON airports at suitable destinations within 100 NM of any location within the CONUS. Selected approaches would not require Automatic Direction Finder (ADF), Distance Measuring Equipment (DME), Radar, or GPS.Show citation box

— Retain VORs to support international oceanic arrival routes.

— Retain VORs to provide coverage at and above 5,000 ft AGL.

— Retain most VORs in the Western U.S. Mountainous Area (WUSMA), specifically those anchoring Victor airways through high elevation terrain.

— Retain VORs required for military use.

— VORs outside of the CONUS were not considered for discontinuance under the VOR MON Implementation Program.

The following considerations were used to supplement the VOR MON criteria above:

— Only FAA owned/operated VORs were considered for discontinuance.

— Co-located DME and Tactical Air Navigation (TACAN) systems will generally be retained when the VOR service is terminated.

— Co-located communication services relocated or reconfigured to continue transmitting their services.

According to the FAA notice:

The FAA remains committed to the plan to retain an optimized network of VOR NAVAIDs. The MON will enable pilots to revert from Performance Based Navigation (PBN) to conventional navigation for approach, terminal and en route operations in the event of a GPS outage…

The VOR MON is designed to enable aircraft, having lost Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) service, to revert to conventional navigation procedures. The VOR MON is further designed to allow aircraft to proceed to a MON airport where an ILS or VOR approach procedure can be flown without the necessity of GPS, DME, ADF, or Surveillance. Of course, any airport with a suitable instrument approach may be used for landing, but the VOR MON assures that at least one airport will be within 100 NM.

Advertisements

Latest Info on VOR Shutdowns

The FAA recently provided an update on its plans to decommission about 30 percent (308) of the existing network of 957 VORs by 2025. The presentation, made at the April 2016 meeting of the Aeronautical Charting Forum, is available here (PDF).

Some highlights:

As I’ve noted in previous posts on this topic (e.g., here), the basic plan remains as follows:

  • Decommission about 308 VORs in two phases. Phase 1 runs from FY2016-FY2020. Phase 2 runs from FY2021-FY2025.
  • About 649 VORs will remain in service. In fact, many of those VORs will be upgraded to expand their service volumes.
  • Most of the VORs to be shut down will be in the Central (162) and Eastern (131) U.S. Only about 15 VORs will be decommissioned in the West.

The list of the first VORs to be shut down is available from AOPA here (PDF). AOPA also has good background about the program to decommission VORs on its website.

To provide backups should GPS signals fail or be disrupted, the FAA will retain a minimum operational network (MON) of VORs and MON airports that have ILS and/or VOR approaches.

Those MON airports and VORs are designed to enable pilots to:

  • Revert from PBN [i.e., GPS-based] to conventional navigation in the event of a Global Positioning System (GPS) outage;
  • Tune and identify a VOR at a minimum altitude of 5,000 feet above ground level or higher;
  • Navigate to a MON airport within 100 nautical miles to fly an Instrument Landing System (ILS) or VOR instrument approach without Distance Measuring Equipment (DME), Automatic Direction Finder (ADF), surveillance, or GPS where the capability currently exists; and
  • Navigate along VOR Airways especially in mountainous terrain where surveillance services are not available and Minimum En Route Altitudes (MEAs) offer lower altitude selection for options in icing conditions.

You can learn more about MON airports in this presentation (PDF) from the ACF meeting.

Charting Proposal for VORs Under NextGen

The FAA continues its plans to overhaul the nation’s airspace as part of the NextGen system, which relies on GPS/WAAS instead of the current network of ground-based navaids. Part of the plan includes shutting down about 50 percent of the VORs currently in use to create a minimum operational network (MON).

For more information about plans to shut down VORs and reorganize enroute navigation, start at this post here at BruceAir.

The FAA hosts the Aeronautical Charting Forum, a semi-annual gathering of experts to discuss improvements and changes to the charts that pilots and others rely on. A proposal for the April 2015 meeting includes a document that describes a suggested change in how VORs are depicted on charts, and the text also includes more details about how the national airspace system (NAS) and navigation will change under performance-based navigation (PBN), which is an enhanced version of today’s area navigation (RNAV) concept.

The following paragraph provides background for discussion:

The VOR MON program (AJM-324) is discontinuing the service of approximately half of the VOR facilities in the NAS. In parallel, the PBN Policy and Support Group (AJV-14) is planning to implement a new PBN Route Structure, which will provide “Structure where necessary and Point-to-Point where structure is not needed.” The PBNRS will generally remove most Victor Airways and Jet Routes east of the Western Mountainous region of the CONUS. Q-Routes will be published where needed, particularly in high traffic density airspace east of Chicago to New York, Atlanta, etc. T-Routes will provide structure primarily around Metroplex areas, special use airspace, and for terrain avoidance in mountainous terrain areas. The rest of the NAS will likely fly point-to-point using RNAV.

The document then describes how VORs that are part of the MON but which are not points along named airways might appear on aeronautical charts.

As this new strategy is implemented, many of the VORs retained for the MON will not have any VOR Airways associated with them, but pilots will need to use them to navigate VOR-to-VOR. Therefore a charting scheme is needed.

The VOR MON Concept of Operations includes a proposed scheme for charting the MON VORs which is depicted in the figure below. The approach is to use feeder routes showing the MEA, course, and distance to each adjacent MON VOR.

Here’s the figure:

VOR-MON-Chart

I plan to comment on the use of MON, used to distinguish VORs that are part of the MON and not associated with airways from other navaids. I think the use of a three-letter abbreviation will cause confusion when printed near a VOR symbol that is also associated with a three-letter identifier.

If you have comments, direct them to the ACF.