Is FAA cost-cutting on VORs going to harm the national air navigation system? AOPA is concerned that recent actions in the Northeast may be a harbinger of things to come.
The agency is considering decommissioning the Providence (PVD) Vortac at T.F. Green Airport in Rhode Island and Bradley (BDL) Vortac at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut. In both cases, the VORs have to be shut down because of airport construction. Apparently the FAA would prefer to save money by not relocating and reactivating the navaids.
The VOR decommissioning shouldn't be confused with the FAA's effort to identify no-longer-needed NDB approaches.
"Canceling some redundant, underused NDB approaches after a careful review and considered comments from users makes sense. It will save money without inconveniencing pilots," said Andy Cebula, AOPA senior vice president of Government and Technical Affairs. "There is no logic to decommissioning two VORs that define heavily traveled airways and instrument approaches into busy airports with little notice and comment from the user community."
In a letter to the FAA opposing the proposal, AOPA said that it is "seriously concerned that isolated local studies to decommission traditional ground-based navigation aids based simply on the local need to relocate the VOR on the airfield could have significant negative effects on the National Airspace System.... The proposal provides no indication of how the FAA intends to replace existing en route and instrument approach services to users, or how users would continue to access Bradley, T.F. Green, and surrounding airports without the use of these navigation aids."
In fact, the two VORs support 10 Victor airways and 16 instrument approach procedures into multiple airports.
AOPA asked the FAA to extend the comment period to allow "impacted pilots and airport users the opportunity to provide the FAA with important information regarding the impact that these possible decommissionings will have on air traffic safety and efficiency."
In AOPA's opinion, the FAA did not provide enough notice or time for public comment.
"There have been other cases in which the FAA has looked at the cost savings from decommissioning a ground-based navaid without considering the larger impacts on the system," said Cebula. "AOPA is the leading advocate for transitioning to satellite-based navigation, but it must be done in a systematic, logical way. You can't just turn off VORs willy-nilly when circumstances present an opportunity."
February 28, 2005