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

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.

 

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.