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FAA Releases VOR Decommissioning Policy

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The FAA formally published its policy including the criteria for selecting hundreds of VOR navigation aids that will be decommissioned over the next decade. The policy, released today, further outlines the process for decommissioning. The agency has selected 308 VORs to be decommissioned as the agency moves to a satellite-based navigational system.

It originally proposed the policy in 2011, and initially indicated plans to decommission more than 500 VORs. Industry groups, including the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, protested, arguing that a larger VOR minimum operational network is necessary to serve as a backup in case there should be a widespread GPS satellite outage.

The FAA then worked with an industry group to refine criteria for VORs that should be saved and established a two-phase timeline for the decommissioning of the VORs. Under the criteria, the FAA has opted to retain VORs to perform ILS, localizer or VOR approaches with 100 nm of locations within the continental U.S.; support international oceanic arrival routes; and provide coverage above 5,000 feet agl. The agency will also retain most in the Western U.S. mountainous area, those required for military use, and those outside the continental U.S. Supplementing that criteria, the FAA considered only agency-owned/operated VORs for discontinuance and decided to retain co-located DME and Tactical Air Navigation systems when VOR service is terminated.

Under the plan, 74 VORs are set for decommissioning through Phase 1, which is ongoing through 2020. Under Phase 2, which is to take place between 2021 and 2025, 234 more VORs will be decommissioned. The FAA last fall received investment plan approval and had announced the list of the first 35 to be decommissioned

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