The FAA recently released a proposed rule for a gradual but major reduction in the VOR navigation system in the United States. ... With the increased use of GPS and proven accuracy of WAAS approaches, the FAA appears to view the cost of operation of the VOR system as excessive. According to the FAA proposal 80 percent of the 967 VORs have reached their “economic service life” and cost the agency $110 million per year. The document also claims that replacing all VORs would cost $1 billion.This almost would set a new record for being short-sighted. To my mind, this passes the idiocy of scrapping the NDBs. Between NDBs and VORs, pilots have enjoyed redundant methods of radio-based navigation. LORAN and GPS added to that redundancy.
But the redundancy is going away. NDBs are being dismantled as fast as the FAA's little feet can move. The Coast Guard has been scrapping the LORAN stations. Now the FAA wants to dismantle the vast majority of the VOR network, leaving just a skeleton network that would be only useful to the airlines.*
The article cited above mentioned that LightSquared's proposed network could severely degrade the usefulness of GPS. I've blogged about that a few times. GPS signals are very weak signals and they can be jammed or interfered with. Under the FAA's proposal, most of you guys flying IFR would be shit out of luck if something happened to the GPS signal.
It is odd, to me, that I've heard people carp about single-engined airplanes as having no redundancy, but now those same big-iron pilots are going to happily launch into the clouds with no redundancy when it comes to the second most important part of flying.** Some of those big boys have three comm radios and two transponders so even if they lose one of each, they can continue on, but they'll trust their asses to just one method of navigation?
The FAA needs to pull its collective head out of its ass and keep the VOR network up and running. If they need to replace/upgrade VOR stations, they should do that.
(And you guys flying cross-ocean routes? Better brush up on your celestial nav.)
Read the proposed rule and submit a comment. You have until the middle of March to comment, so let's get the word out and blast this rule to Hell!
* Who the FAA regards as their "customer". As far as the folks at 800 Independence Ave are concerned the rest of us FLIBS ("fucking little itinerant bastards") are the enemy.
** Avigate, navigate, communicate.