Funding bills differ on loran, but not on GA security

July 15, 2009

The Senate on July 9 passed an appropriations bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security for fiscal year 2010. A conference committee will now work out the differences between the Senate and House versions of the bill, including whether or not to continue to fund the loran (long-range navigation) system as a potential backup to GPS.

The president’s budget for 2010 proposed cutting funding for loran, but the Appropriations Committee report for the House bill, which was passed June 24, rejects termination of loran-C and directs the Coast Guard to provide a plan for upgrading the system to enhanced loran, known as eLoran. The Senate version provides for the termination of loran, effective Jan. 4, 2010, if the Commandant of the Coast Guard certifies that it is not needed as a backup to GPS and that its termination will not adversely impact navigation safety.

While few pilots utilize loran today, there are currently a limited number of potential backups for GPS. If the decommissioning of loran goes forward, a GPS outage could leave pilots without a backup for navigation. AOPA has cautioned against decommissioning loran before a reliable backup for GPS is in place, and an Independent Assessment Team (IAT) report released this year from the Institute for Defense Analyses recommends that the government complete its upgrade to eLoran so that it can fill that role.

“More and more pilots are using GPS for navigation, and satellite failures could leave them without a backup,” said Craig Spence, AOPA vice president of regulatory affairs. “A ground-based navigation system is important, and an upgraded eLoran system could provide that capability.”

The Senate appropriations bill funds the Department of Homeland Security at $42.9 billion for fiscal year 2010. The Appropriations Committee reports on both the Senate and House versions of the bill included language commending the TSA for working with stakeholders to develop a modified rule for its Large Aircraft Security Program that “minimizes adverse effects on general aviation while addressing security concerns,” and encouraging the agency to weigh all the costs and benefits of the security measure. Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Rep. David Price (D-N.C.) were instrumental in including the language in the committee reports.