FAA Clarifies: VORs to Begin Scaling Back in 2010

The FAA has announced more specific plans to begin scaling back its commitment to VOR stations beginning in 2010. Seen as a measure of commitment to GPS as a primary source of navigation information, the move, nevertheless, has some concerned. Reliance on GPS as primary source guidance is contingent on the adoption of wide area augmentation system (WAAS) technology, and the FAA has not satisfied all observers that its commitment to WAAS is sufficient. Just as there was no hurry to eliminate old-school non-directional beacons (NDBs) used by automatic direction finders (ADFs) in decades past, there are those who cling to VORs -- and not simply from a sense of nostalgia. With a large measure of the current aircraft fleet not WAAS-equipped (estimated as approximately 85 percent), losing VOR backup is considered a compromise to the majority. Still, a navigation system without VORs to service, test and maintain would make the FAA's financial burden significantly lighter. And with GPS becoming more ubiquitous, it would seem that day gets closer every year.