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.

Latest Update on VOR Decommissioning Program

The latest update from FAA on its plans to decommission VORs includes the following details:

  • Decommission approximately 30% (308) of the current 957 VORs by 2025
  • 74 VORs will be shut down during phase 1 (FY2016 through FY2020)
  • Another 234 VORs will be decommissioned during phase 2 (FY2021 – FY2025)
  • Of the 308 VORs to be shut down, 15 will be in the West, 162 in the central U.S., and 131 in the East.
  • 649 VORs will remain in operation after 2025, forming the minimum operational network (MON).

The goals established for the MON include allowing pilots to:

  • Revert from PBN to conventional navigation in the event of a Global Positioning System (GPS) outage;
  • Tune and identify a VOR at an altitude of 5,000 feet or higher;
  • Navigate using VOR procedures through a GPS outage area;
  • 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; 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.

Progress will be slow initially. Only 5 VORs are to be shut down by September 2016. Another 4 navaids will be decommissioned by September 2017, followed by 4 more through September 2018. In 2019, FAA plans to shut down an additional 25 VORs, followed by 36 more in 2020.

Phase 2 begins in FY2021. A total of 234 VORs will be shut down through 2025.

You can read more details about the MON plan in the minutes of the 15-02 meeting of the Aeronautical Charting Forum.

 

List of Next VORs to be Decommisioned

FAA has published a list of the next VORs to be decommissioned as part of its plan to establish a minimum operational network (MON) of the ground-based navigation aids. The list is part of a news item at AOPA that explains the process.

Most of the 35 VORs on this list are in the eastern two-thirds of the continental U.S. Only one, ECA, is in the West, near Stockton, CA.

You can find more background the FAA’s plan to decommission VORs  at BruceAir, here.

 

VOR Decommissioning: Latest FAA Update

The latest meeting of the FAA’s Aeronautical Charting Forum included an update from FAA on its plans to decommission many VORs as the nation’s air navigation and air traffic control services transition to a GPS-based system. Here’s a summary of the briefing from the ACF meeting minutes:

Discontinuation of VOR Services

Leonixa Salcedo, AJM-324, briefed the issue. Leonixa gave an overview of the VOR MON program and a status report since the last ACF. She reviewed the progress made to date on identifying VORs that may be decommissioned. She pointed out to the audience a significant change in the number of VORs expected to be decommissioned. Previously, it had been reported that approximately 50% of all the VORs in the NAS would be decommissioned. That estimation has been readjusted to just over 33% (approximately 308).

Leonixa stated that since the last ACF, the criteria for decommissioning VORs has been developed by the FAA and MITRE. Discussions have also taken place between the FAA and the DoD, during which the military emphasized that their operational requirements within the NAS require that fewer VORs be decommissioned.

Leonixa explained that the VOR MON program will be on a 10 year timeline of three phases, with the decommissioning of approximately 100 VORs during each phase. The goal is for final transition to the VOR MON by 2025. In the short term, Leonixa stated that a list of VORs initially selected for decommissioning will be released to the public sometime in 2015.

You can review the PowerPoint presentation about the VOR decommissioning program from the ACF meeting here (PDF).

FAA Publishes List of Instrument Approaches Set for Cancellation

FAA has published the latest list of 736 VOR and NDB approaches that it wants to cancel. You can download a Microsoft Excel worksheet that includes all of the procedures here.

According to the April 13, 2015 announcement in the Federal Register:

This action proposes to remove certain redundant or underutilized ground-based non-directional beacon and very high frequency, omnidirectional radio range Standard Instrument Approach Procedures based on the criteria established by the FAA’s Policy for Discontinuance of Certain Instrument Approach Procedures.

The announcement offers additional details as background:

On June 27, 2014, the FAA published a policy establishing criteria for cancelling instrument approach procedures (79 FR 36576). Cancelling certain ground-based non-directional beacon (NDB), and very high frequency (VHF), omnidirectional radio range (VOR) SIAPs is one integral part of right-sizing the quantity and type of procedures in the National Airspace System (NAS). As new technology facilitates the introduction of area navigation (RNAV) instrument approach procedures, the number of procedures available in the National Airspace System has nearly doubled over the past decade. The complexity and cost to the FAA of maintaining the existing ground based navigational infrastructure while expanding the new RNAV capability is not sustainable. Therefore, the FAA is proposing the following list of SIAPs for cancellation based on the criteria established in the Policy.

The proposal is open for comments until May 28, 2015.

You can find details about the current inventory of instrument approaches and related procedures at the Instrument Flight Procedures (IFP) Inventory Summary website.

To learn more about specific procedures and procedures in development, visit the Instrument Flight Procedures Information Gateway.

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.

Latest Update from FAA on Plans to Decommission VORs

Two representatives from the FAA recently provided an update on the agency’s plans to decommission VORs. The presentation, given at the FAA’s Aeronautical Charting Forum meeting on October 28-30, is available as a PDF in my Aviation Documents folder at OneDrive. The presentation largely recapped information described in briefings and white papers (described here, here, and here), but it did restate several key points and provide some new information.

Highlights from the latest presentation include:

  • The VOR MON Program will implement the [minimum operational network of VORs] by decommissioning 30-50% of the VORs in the NAS by 2025 (although the current plan retains all VORs in the designated mountainous region of the U.S.—roughly the western third of the country).
  • The reduction will begin gradually over the first five years during which time the bulk of the procedural/airway/airspace work will assessed. Then the plan is to accelerate the process, with 20-25 VORs shut down each year.
  • Only FAA owned/operated VORs will be considered for shutdown.
  • DMEs and TACANs will generally be retained.
  • Many of the remaining VORs will be enhanced to supply increased service volume. VOR standard service volume (SSV) will become 77 NM radius at 5000 ft. AGL.
  • Increase support for direct navigation between VORs without airways.
  • Retain sufficient ILSs, LOCs, and VORs to support “safe-landing” at a suitable destination with a GPS-independent approach (ILS, LOC or VOR) within 100 NM of any location within CONUS.
  • Provide seamless VOR coverage at and above 5000 ft AGL.
  • More than 5,000 instrument approaches may be affected by the reduction in operational VORs.
  • Nearly 1,300 SIDs, STARs, and ODPs may be affected by the reduction in operational VORs.
  • FAA is considering how to refer to and chart DME-only facilities.
  • Graphics in the presentation include a pair of maps that show how the current airway structure will be changed when the MON is established.

image

SNAGHTML9abefd8

Update on VOR Decommissioning

The Aeronautical Charting Forum, a forum sponsored by FAA, met on April 29, 2014 outside Washington, DC. Among the items on the agenda was an update on FAA’s plans to reduce the number of VORs to a minimum operational network (MON). You can download and review a PDF version of the FAA’s PowerPoint presentation here. (Minutes from the full two-day meeting are available here.)

Key points:

  • FAA now plans to transition from a legacy network of 967 VORs to a MON of  approximately 500 VORs by FY2025. That’s a slip of five years from the previous goal of establishing the MON by 2020. For more background, see the FAA’s VOR Minimum Operational Network (MON) Information Paper (PDF).
  • The number of VORs comprising the MON may increase or decrease depending on the requirements for the Department of Defense and the Tactical Operations Committee.

You can find additional details about the FAA’s program to decommission VORs here at BruceAir’s blog:

When a VOR is Decommissioned

The recent shutdown of the Lake Henry VOR (LHY), which lies northeast of Wilkes-Barre PA (VFR chart at SkyVector here), is an example of how the FAA is handling the gradual decommissioning of VORs. (See also More Details about VOR Shutdowns)

As the latest IFR low-altitude en route charts show, the VOR (at present still depicted on the charts to help pilots become familiar with the new routes) has been replaced by a five-letter waypoint, LAAYK.

LAAYK-02

Note that the frequency for the VOR (110.8) is now shaded to indicate that the facility has been shut down, as described on p. 54 of the Aeronautical Chart User’s Guide.

VOR-ShutdownFreq

A wider view of the area shows that several victor airways or segments of airways have been replaced with T-routes, depicted in blue on charts published by the FAA.

LAAYK-01

T-routes and their associated G (GPS-based) MEAs are described in AIM 5−3−4. Airways and Route Systems and in “Area Naviation (RNAV) ‘T’ Route System” on page 56 of the Aeronautical Chart User’s Guide (12th edition).

You can expect similar changes as more VORs are shut down over the next several years, leaving what the FAA calls the Minimum Operational Network. That plan at present calls for all VORs in the mountainous regions (essentially the western U.S.) to remain online, while many VORs elsewhere in the country are decommissioned.

More Details about VOR Shutdowns

The latest edition of the FAA SatNavNews includes a discussion* of the agency’s plans to shut down many VORs as the aviation world shifts to GPS-based navigation. The article, on pages 5-8 of the Summer 2012 issue (PDF), includes graphics that show how shutting down many of the VORs in the eastern two-thirds of the continental U.S. will change the existing airway system.

*As noted in the newsletter:

The following is an abridged version of the information paper on the Very High Frequency Omnidirectional Range (VOR) Minimum Operational Network (MON) presented by the United States in May 2012 at a meeting of the Navigation Systems Panel of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in Montreal, Canada.