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IFR Fix: 'Conventional navigation' in NextGenIFR Fix: 'Conventional navigation' in NextGen

When a local flying club acquired a late-model, glass-cockpit Cessna 172, many members got their first look at the emerging air traffic system, sampled flying satellite-based approaches, and could practice familiar ILS and VOR procedures with all the data-display capabilities technology has to offer.

This was a logical, fortuitous advance for a club founded on providing access to affordable training and innovation. The air traffic system is transitioning to a satellite-navigation-based system of direct routings and GPS-based terminal procedures, and away from airways and terminal operations anchored by VORs. But many pilots don’t yet have a seat at that table.

A long-anticipated step in ATC’s evolution occurred July 26 when the FAA published the document, “Provision of Navigation Services for the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) Transition to Performance-Based Navigation (PBN) (Plan for Establishing a VOR Minimum Operational Network).”

Of interest to IFR pilots accustomed to procedures based on “conventional navaids,” as the FAA now describes the old stuff, is the section on “reducing the current VOR network to a Minimum Operational Network (MON) as the NAS transitions to performance-based navigation (PBN) as part of the Next Generation Air Transportation System.”

According to the two-phase plan for navaid shutdowns, the inventory of VORs will be much reduced—a necessary cost-control step in bringing the satellite-based system on line.

Creating the MON suggests the coming of a time when you will know pilots for whom the prospect of flying a raw-data VOR approach is as remote and unfamiliar as flying an RNAV/GPS approach was, or perhaps still is, for you.

There could be a moment when your conventional experience gives you an edge. In the likely-or-not event of a GPS outage, you may someday find it necessary to escape the clouds the old-fashioned way by flying a radial to a course reversal, or stepping down to minimums along a gauntlet of crossing fixes.

An airport where you can do that won’t ever be far away. An important element of the VOR MON’s ultimate configuration is to “allow aircraft to proceed to a MON airport where an ILS or VOR approach procedure can be flown without the necessity of GPS, DME, ADF, or Surveillance. Of course, any airport with a suitable instrument approach may be used for landing, but the VOR MON assures that at least one airport will be within 100 NM,” the document says.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: Avionics, ATC, Navaids

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