FAA intends to reduce VOR network soon

August 28, 2008

The FAA has confirmed to AOPA that it is making plans to reduce the network of VORs across the country, beginning in 2010.

However, AOPA members are not quite convinced that a widespread VOR reduction is acceptable. Survey information shows that only about half of AOPA members believe a significant number of VORs can be eliminated without affecting their flight operations.

“Clearly this marks a big step forward in pilot acceptance of GPS and reduced reliance on VORs, but members are still saying ‘not yet,’” said Andy Cebula, AOPA executive vice president of government affairs.

Despite high levels of GPS use, FAA regulations require pilots who use GPS to also carry a primary navigation system, and for general aviation the primary system available for regulatory compliance is VOR. Second-generation GPS systems that incorporate the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) do not require VOR as a backup, but the current state of equipage in the GA fleet is about 15 percent.

In a letter to the FAA, AOPA cautioned the FAA against making plans to reduce VORs because there are several key issues currently preventing the dismantling of the VOR infrastructure. Barriers include pilot confidence in relying solely on GPS signals and the lack of systematic implementation of area navigation. AOPA pointed out that the FAA should broaden its focus to ensure that all IFR flights can be conducted from takeoff to touchdown with an IFR GPS, regardless of the airports involved. Ultimately, the FAA needs to change its policies to reduce GA’s reliance on VORs.