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Is your local VOR on the chopping block?
The FAA has been working for years on their NextGen and Performance-Based Navigation systems. These RNAV based systems are designed to make air travel much more efficient from takeoff to touchdown, whether you're flying a single-engine piston or a Boeing 777. And many of them are in place right now.
As part of the upgrade, the FAA is shutting down older navaid equipment, including VORs. Why VORs? First off, operating the VOR network in the US is really expensive. According to the FAA, it costs about $110 million per year to operate and maintain VORs.
There are also lots of VORs. In fact, there are nearly 1,000 active VORs in the US right now. With the planned shutdown, the FAA can still maintain a strong VOR navigation network across the country, and save a significant amount of money on a navaid system that was first deployed in 1946.
So how does the FAA pick what stays and what goes? They don't just throw darts at a map (though that would be an interesting way of doing it...).
They came up with several criteria that you can read about here, but if you're not interested in reading the Federal Register, here are the high points:
If a VOR is needed to meet these criteria, it stays. And if it isn't needed, it's added to the discontinuance list (A.K.A. the chopping block).
By doing this, the FAA has created what they call the Minimum Operational Network (MON), so that aircraft can still use VOR navigation, especially in the event of a satellite based navigation outage. But at the same time, FAA isn't saddled with such a large legacy VOR system.
The FAA has put together two phases of VOR shutdowns, which they creatively named "Phase 1" and "Phase 2".
Phase 1 is the smaller of the shutdowns. From 2016-2020, they plan to decommission 74 VORs across the US. (click or touch the map to see the VOR name)
During Phase 2, which happens from 2021-2025, the remaining 234 VORs are shuttered.
So will you still be able to use your trusty VOR to get from Point A to Point B? In most cases, yes, for years to come.
10 years from now, the network of VORs will be about 68% the size it currently is. But there will still be plenty of VORs and Victor airways to get you from place to place.
But by then (and already today), you're probably going to want to go GPS "direct" anyway. After all, that's the entire point of the FAA's NextGen system.
Colin is a Boldmethod co-founder, pilot and graphic artist. He's been a flight instructor at the University of North Dakota, an airline pilot on the CRJ-200, and has directed development of numerous commercial and military training systems. You can reach him at email@example.com.