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New Obama Budget Kills Loran  
User currently offlineRwessel From United States of America, joined Jan 2007, 2391 posts, RR: 2
Posted (5 years 6 months 3 weeks 5 hours ago) and read 4323 times:
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Apparently as part of an effort to save $17B, $36 million will be saved by killing the Loran-C system.

http://money.cnn.com/2009/05/06/news...bama_budget_cuts/index.htm?cnn=yes

(Note the CNN article doesn’t quite identify Loran by name, but other sources do.)

Personally I think it's a shame, and that Loran makes an excellent local backup to GPS, with wildly different operational parameters, for very, very little money.

The lack of a clear commitment to Loran has undoubtedly led to (additional) reduction in usage. After all, why would you add a Loran receiver to your navigation device if Loran had an uncertain future.

Perhaps the presence of Galileo and/or Beidou will mitigate the loss/missed opportunity somewhat, although they have many vulnerabilities similar to GPS/Navstar.

49 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineSoku39 From United States of America, joined Nov 2000, 1797 posts, RR: 9
Reply 1, posted (5 years 6 months 3 weeks 2 hours ago) and read 4295 times:

I am in complete agreement. No one ever stops to think about what happens if the satellites fail, because it could never ever happen (sarcasm).


The Ohio Player
User currently offlineWILCO737 From Greenland, joined Jun 2004, 9097 posts, RR: 76
Reply 2, posted (5 years 6 months 3 weeks 1 hour ago) and read 4273 times:
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Quoting Rwessel (Thread starter):
Apparently as part of an effort to save $17B, $36 million will be saved by killing the Loran-C system.

I thought there are not operational Loran- C stations left. That's what I've been told 8 years ago at flight school.  Confused

We don't even have a Loran- C receiver on board. Only GPS, IRS, conventional navigaion (VOR, DME, NDB).

wilco737



It it's not Boeing, I am not going.
User currently offlineRwessel From United States of America, joined Jan 2007, 2391 posts, RR: 2
Reply 3, posted (5 years 6 months 3 weeks ago) and read 4255 times:
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Quoting WILCO737 (Reply 2):
I thought there are not operational Loran- C stations left. That's what I've been told 8 years ago at flight school.

We don't even have a Loran- C receiver on board. Only GPS, IRS, conventional navigaion (VOR, DME, NDB).

Yeah, I've heard that kind of error from people who should know better before. Clearly a part of the problem - of course you're not going to try to use a system, or even have any interest in it, if you think no longer exists.

No, Loran is (technically) perfectly healthy, and the proposed eLoran upgrades (which would be fairly inexpensive - and currently being implemented in the UK and Western Europe), would bump accuracy to the 8-10m range.

Part of the problem is that it's pretty cheap to run, and is just not as sexy as satellites. Heck, the proposed cut will save $36m next year, and $190m over the next five. $190m won't even buy you a single GPS bird, much less get it launched.

It's really a shame. The system is technically so different from GPS, that's it's hard to imagine something taking both systems out at once. And adding Loran support to a typical GPS receiver is pretty trivial. You need all new analog/RF stuff, but nothing that's even slightly complex (how hard is it to build a 90-110KHz receiver?), and there's far more computing power than you need already built into any GPS receiver. And as a sanity/health check for the GPS, it would be excellent. And as a backup, you might not be able to fly a complete approach with (basic) Loran, but it'd reliably get you close enough that you could shoot a "200-and-a-half" manually.


User currently offlineNomadd22 From United States of America, joined Feb 2008, 1894 posts, RR: 0
Reply 4, posted (5 years 6 months 2 weeks 6 days 21 hours ago) and read 4197 times:

I first heard of the impending death of Loran when I was working on it in 1980. I've heard about it a dozen times since then. Every time a few congressmen make a deal to get the item stripped. I'll believe it when all the stations have been converted into homes for wayward seabirds and the trnasmitters are on ebay.


Andy Goetsch
User currently offlineDingDong From United States of America, joined Jan 2007, 661 posts, RR: 0
Reply 5, posted (5 years 6 months 2 weeks 6 days 18 hours ago) and read 4146 times:



Quoting Nomadd22 (Reply 4):
I first heard of the impending death of Loran when I was working on it in 1980.

Yeah, ditto. I think Mark Twain once had a relevant quote regarding its death. Wink

Well, an option might be to deploy the newer eLORAN infrastructure which would nicely dovetail as a backup role for a GNSS system (NAVSTAR GPS, Galileo, Beidou, GLONASS, etc...) while maintaining contemporary relevance -- and thus, continued long-term funding for it. No bucks, no Buck Rogers, after all.



DingDong, honey, please answer the doorbell!
User currently offlineRoseFlyer From United States of America, joined Feb 2004, 9689 posts, RR: 52
Reply 6, posted (5 years 6 months 2 weeks 6 days 17 hours ago) and read 4125 times:

A lot of people are defending Loran, but who here has actually used it as a navigational tool apart from being taught how to use it in flight training?

I think the rumors of budgets cutting things like VORs or ADFs is a much bigger concern since thousands of GA aircraft rely on those two navigational tools and do not have GPS or Loran. I know I have never used it on any flights. I have been in planes equipped with it, but haven't even thought of using it on flights. I've just used GPS with VORs as my backup.



If you have never designed an airplane part before, let the real designers do the work!
User currently offlineSoku39 From United States of America, joined Nov 2000, 1797 posts, RR: 9
Reply 7, posted (5 years 6 months 2 weeks 6 days 17 hours ago) and read 4118 times:



Quoting RoseFlyer (Reply 6):
A lot of people are defending Loran, but who here has actually used it as a navigational tool apart from being taught how to use it in flight training?

It's just a good backup to the satellites. It doesn't get much easier than just spitting out a lat/long and plotting... I mean seriously it's just really easy to use.

Quoting RoseFlyer (Reply 6):

I think the rumors of budgets cutting things like VORs or ADFs is a much bigger concern since thousands of GA aircraft rely on those two navigational tools and do not have GPS or Loran.

The thought of them getting rid of VOR's completely makes my skin crawl... more so than the lack of Loran.



The Ohio Player
User currently offlinePilotpip From United States of America, joined Sep 2003, 3151 posts, RR: 11
Reply 8, posted (5 years 6 months 2 weeks 6 days 16 hours ago) and read 4075 times:

I've never flown a plane equipped with Loran. The plane I fly now isn't authorized to navigate via anything other than long range nav except when doing an ILS.

LORAN really has a bigger effect on marintime navigation but even they are switching over to GPS in droves.

As far as NDB, it's no rumor. They're going away pretty fast. By the time I was instructing two years ago I had to go out of my way to find a working NDB approach. VOR's won't be going away any time soon despite the FAA's desire to eliminate them.



DMI
User currently offlineKELPkid From United States of America, joined Nov 2005, 6428 posts, RR: 3
Reply 9, posted (5 years 6 months 2 weeks 6 days 15 hours ago) and read 4057 times:

Talk about a lack of long-term vision...

Sure, satellites are great. The GPS system works very well.

The FAA loves it, because it comes out of the Air Force's budget, not the FAA's. I've heard the Loran system comes out of the Coast Guard's budget.

If the Air Force ever got into a budget crunch, would they start billing civilian users for their "fair share" of the system (in fact, I'd estimate that nowdays, civilian users are probably about 90% of the users  Wink )?

In the grand scheme of things, the Loran-C system is much cheaper to maintain. There will be a time where keeping 24 satellites + 3 operational spares on orbit will start to weigh us down economically (especially when the said satellites start reaching the end of their operational lifecycles). It really was, and is, a "Cadillac" (maybe a Mercedes Benz or Rolls-Royce for our non-North American readers) solution, in a country where Chevy costs are better...

I, for one, was sad to see Loran lose to GPS in the RNAV wars of the early 1990's. It was for the reasons that I outlined above. Sure, GPS gives you altitude info, too, but Loran-C was really a more long-term solution.



Celebrating the birth of KELPkidJR on August 5, 2009 :-)
User currently offlineDescendVia From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 10, posted (5 years 6 months 2 weeks 6 days 14 hours ago) and read 4032 times:



Quoting KELPkid (Reply 9):
I've heard the Loran system comes out of the Coast Guard's budget.

Yeah the Coast Guard maintains it and provides NOTAMs to the FAA about it.

Quoting KELPkid (Reply 9):
Sure, GPS gives you altitude info

Off subject but really GPS altitude is not used for navigation unless its WAAS augmented. Raw Baro-GPS altitude is only for RAIM predictions if the required number of satellites are not visible.


User currently offlineRoseFlyer From United States of America, joined Feb 2004, 9689 posts, RR: 52
Reply 11, posted (5 years 6 months 2 weeks 6 days 13 hours ago) and read 4009 times:

But why keep it if no one uses it? Just as a backup in case? VORs, dead reckoning and GPS should be enough.

GPS is not going away. It is used in everything. Not just air force or navigation. The same satellites are used for tracking systems used everywhere in the economy. Even Chevys come with optional navigation installed.



If you have never designed an airplane part before, let the real designers do the work!
User currently offlineNomadd22 From United States of America, joined Feb 2008, 1894 posts, RR: 0
Reply 12, posted (5 years 6 months 2 weeks 6 days 13 hours ago) and read 4000 times:

Once Galileo is up and can back up GPS, there will be less justification for Loran to stay active.


Andy Goetsch
User currently offlineRoseFlyer From United States of America, joined Feb 2004, 9689 posts, RR: 52
Reply 13, posted (5 years 6 months 2 weeks 6 days 12 hours ago) and read 3933 times:



Quoting KELPkid (Reply 9):

In the grand scheme of things, the Loran-C system is much cheaper to maintain. There will be a time where keeping 24 satellites + 3 operational spares on orbit will start to weigh us down economically (especially when the said satellites start reaching the end of their operational lifecycles).

Do you honestly think GPS will be phased out because it is too expensive? Should we keep an older generation system working just because it is cheaper? GPS is used in far more applications. I don't see it going away.

If satellite television has been made cost effective, how will GPS disappear? GPS replaced less capable systems. Satellite television on the other hand tried to replace cable, which technically works better than Satellite.



If you have never designed an airplane part before, let the real designers do the work!
User currently offlineA342 From Germany, joined Jul 2005, 4689 posts, RR: 3
Reply 14, posted (5 years 6 months 2 weeks 6 days 11 hours ago) and read 3928 times:



Quoting RoseFlyer (Reply 11):
But why keep it if no one uses it? Just as a backup in case? VORs, dead reckoning and GPS should be enough.

It does provide a backup to GPS and IRS over oceans where you don't have VORs, DMEs or NDBs.



Exceptions confirm the rule.
User currently offlineRoseFlyer From United States of America, joined Feb 2004, 9689 posts, RR: 52
Reply 15, posted (5 years 6 months 2 weeks 6 days 10 hours ago) and read 3905 times:

These are the types of decisions I make every day as an engineer working on aircraft designs. You don't keep something just because it is inexpensive or is used for peace of mind. I would expect data to be tracked. How often is Loran used? Have there been any aircraft where all other navigational tools have failed so that Loran was the only backup available? If so, what would have been the consequence if it did not exist? Every one of those questions can be quantified, even the last one. If it does not have a payback, then it should be eliminated. If it does have a payback and the beliefs fo those here are that it is needed, then it should be kept. I deal with people saying that they really want to keep relics of the past just because they want to keep them.

With that said, Loran had a purpose, but has it been replaced adequately or are we looking at a serious safety issue with it going away?



If you have never designed an airplane part before, let the real designers do the work!
User currently offlineDiamondFlyer From United States of America, joined Oct 2008, 1595 posts, RR: 3
Reply 16, posted (5 years 6 months 2 weeks 6 days 8 hours ago) and read 3869 times:



Quoting RoseFlyer (Reply 11):
But why keep it if no one uses it? Just as a backup in case? VORs, dead reckoning and GPS should be enough.

Because, if the FAA has their way, the VOR's are going away (unlikely, IMO). However, in the event of a solar event, with no VOR's, what would be used as primary navigation? With nothing else but GPS, the only choice is to send up new satellites, probably a 5+ year proposition. With LORAN, you could just install a receiver in each aircraft in a short time, and be back in a limited business. Seems like keeping LORAN around is a good deal, considering the relatively low costs associated with it.

-DiamondFlyer


User currently offlineRwessel From United States of America, joined Jan 2007, 2391 posts, RR: 2
Reply 17, posted (5 years 6 months 2 weeks 6 days 7 hours ago) and read 3853 times:
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Quoting RoseFlyer (Reply 11):
But why keep it if no one uses it? Just as a backup in case?

That is the problem.

My (and a lot of other people's) issue with relying on only GPS is that it's a single system, with a number of vulnerable points, from the limited number of ground stations, to the very low signal strength (jamming, or even faking, the CA signal over a fairly large area is within the reach of anyone with a couple million to spend), and is a system that will require years to rebuild should a catastrophe happen - there is simply no fast way to build satellites and launch vehicles.

Loran is very different, in many ways. You could blow up every Loran transmitter in every chain on the continent, and with a somewhat crash program, have it all rebuilt in a six months – the most difficult part would be rebuilding the antenna towers (which is hardly high tech). It's also harder to jam over a wide area (the power requirements are much higher, even if the signals are simpler), and given that it works on total different sets of frequencies, and has seriously different vulnerabilities, having both makes a catastrophic failure much less likely, even in the face of deliberate attack. In fact having both makes a deliberate attack against either system less likely, because it will accomplish less.

That being said, the problem is that almost no one is using Loran as a GPS augment/backup system now. And why would anyone bother? The regulators seem intent on living with just GPS. And then Loran has been at death's door (politically, not technically) for a couple of decades now.

Loran *could* be used as a backup for many GPS system, and for very little cost to the user. You might not bother to add a Loran receiver to the GPS in your car, but the one in your airplane or boat, where you can't just pull over at the next gas station to ask directions, has a critical dependency on the continued operation of the navigation system for a period of hours or days. Loran *could* fill that role, and as I said, for very little money. It might not quite be the system I'd design for that purpose from scratch, but it pretty close to what I'd want, and it already exists.

I am *not* comfortable with the level of redundancy we'd have if we put all our eggs in the GPS basket. While things could be done to enhance GPS in that regard, WAAS and LAAS (or the European EGNOS) although they address specific issues with some uses of GPS, do not address those issues. Some of that will be addressed as some of the other satellite nav systems go online (or in the case of GLONASS*, if it ever gets put back together), but they all present similar sets of vulnerabilities, if at least somewhat disjoint.

Purely from an engineering point of view, a radically different backup/augmentation system (and getting both GPS and eLoran will get you a better and more reliable fix - straight Loran-C would improve a good GPS fix only trivially, although the much stronger signal allows Loran reception in many places with poor GPS reception) is a good idea, since you simply don't get the common failure modes. Consider that many FBW aircraft have at least partial control systems run with cables (admittedly that changing), or that hydraulically powered controls can have trim-tab "powered" backups, or a RAT in case all the real generators go offline.

But if nobody uses Loran, it will go away. The shame is that GPS, wonderful though it is, *needs* more backup, and Loran can provide that for a very small cost to the operators needing that additional level of redundancy. And it's a pretty darn cheap system to provide too! After all, it already exists. But if we all decide that GPS, perhaps backed up by Galileo or Beidou, is secure enough, then Loran has little reason to continue to exist.


*I didn't mention GLONASS upthread due to my lack of confidence on that issue.


User currently offlineKELPkid From United States of America, joined Nov 2005, 6428 posts, RR: 3
Reply 18, posted (5 years 6 months 2 weeks 5 days 18 hours ago) and read 3742 times:



Quoting RoseFlyer (Reply 13):
Do you honestly think GPS will be phased out because it is too expensive?

Let me ask you how much effort, Mr. aerospace engineer, goes into building a Delta II rocket?  eyebrow  Sure, space exploration has its place, and I'm glad our country is a leader in that. However, in the end, having to do a space launch on a very large, expendable launch vehicle every time something happens to a satellite is not a good investment in resources...considering that the oldest GPS satellite on orbit now was launched during my first semester of college (November 1990 for those of you keeping track  Wink ), they don't seem to have a long lifetime...(several first generation satellites were launched prior to that, and they're no longer in service). There's 33 of them in orbit right now...not to mention the Air Force's investment in ground stations, building more satellites, etc. etc.

A ground-based system with the same accuracy (well, minus WAAS) for RNAV, which uses high-powered AM transmitters, costs far less. Not to mention, when things first got going (in other words, the receivers appeared on the market), a LORAN receiver was far less costly to manufacture (probably not true today, as there's probably a factory in China turning out mass-produced GPS receivers on a single chip for 30 cents a pop).

LORAN could have been used for time, just as GPS is often used now in the civilian world, too...

In short, I believe LORAN would have been a much better investment in resources than GPS.




Quoting Rwessel (Reply 17):
That is the problem.

My (and a lot of other people's) issue with relying on only GPS is that it's a single system, with a number of vulnerable points, from the limited number of ground stations, to the very low signal strength (jamming, or even faking, the CA signal over a fairly large area is within the reach of anyone with a couple million to spend), and is a system that will require years to rebuild should a catastrophe happen - there is simply no fast way to build satellites and launch vehicles.

Agree 100%.



Celebrating the birth of KELPkidJR on August 5, 2009 :-)
User currently offlinePhilSquares From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 19, posted (5 years 6 months 2 weeks 5 days 17 hours ago) and read 3730 times:



Quoting KELPkid (Reply 18):
In short, I believe LORAN would have been a much better investment in resources than GPS.

But, GPS wasn't developed for the civilian market! The DOD wanted a extremely accurate navigation system that they controlled and development costs were not an issue. The simple fact is the civilian market got a great navigation aid for 0 cost.

The USAF tried using LORAN in the F-4 and it failed miserably. With the need for accurate navigation systems for harden targets the GPS was the best and cheapest way for the military to proceed.


User currently offlineSoku39 From United States of America, joined Nov 2000, 1797 posts, RR: 9
Reply 20, posted (5 years 6 months 2 weeks 5 days 16 hours ago) and read 3718 times:



Quoting PhilSquares (Reply 19):
The simple fact is the civilian market got a great navigation aid for 0 cost.

Well there is this whole issue of the taxes we pay...  Wink



The Ohio Player
User currently offlinePhilSquares From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 21, posted (5 years 6 months 2 weeks 5 days 16 hours ago) and read 3715 times:



Quoting Soku39 (Reply 20):
Well there is this whole issue of the taxes we pay...

And your point is? GPS was developed, funded and implemented for the military and it was later opened for the civil market. A high accuracy navigation system was needed and at the end of the day it was going to happen. At least there was a spin off benefit that was allowed to come to the civil market. The elimination of LORAN and NDB is a great step forward. Getting rid of those facilities will save $$$ (read taxpayer $$) in the long run.


User currently offlineKELPkid From United States of America, joined Nov 2005, 6428 posts, RR: 3
Reply 22, posted (5 years 6 months 2 weeks 5 days 14 hours ago) and read 3689 times:



Quoting DescendVia (Reply 10):
Off subject but really GPS altitude is not used for navigation unless its WAAS augmented. Raw Baro-GPS altitude is only for RAIM predictions if the required number of satellites are not visible.

Ahh, that explains why the GPS'es at the flight school where I got my instrument always prompted for the current altimeter setting any time you punched a GPS approach in "on-the-fly", I guess it was in case there weren't enough satellites in view for a RAIM calculation  Smile



Celebrating the birth of KELPkidJR on August 5, 2009 :-)
User currently offlineDiamondFlyer From United States of America, joined Oct 2008, 1595 posts, RR: 3
Reply 23, posted (5 years 6 months 2 weeks 5 days 13 hours ago) and read 3674 times:



Quoting PhilSquares (Reply 21):
The elimination of LORAN and NDB is a great step forward. Getting rid of those facilities will save $$$ (read taxpayer $$) in the long run.

I've got no problems with eliminating the NDB's. LORAN is a needed backup, because, well, if the GPS satellites go down, then we are sunk. Long term, it will be cheaper to keep the LORAN chains up and running, than to shut them down, only to find out in 15 years time that all of the sudden we need them, and have to get it up and running again. With new eLoran, it has just as good as accuracy as GPS does, without augmentation. That's really good, for a radio based system. Hopefully, it doesn't go away any time soon.


User currently offlinePGNCS From United States of America, joined Apr 2007, 2834 posts, RR: 45
Reply 24, posted (5 years 6 months 2 weeks 5 days 12 hours ago) and read 3667 times:



Quoting PhilSquares (Reply 21):
GPS was developed, funded and implemented for the military and it was later opened for the civil market. A high accuracy navigation system was needed and at the end of the day it was going to happen. At least there was a spin off benefit that was allowed to come to the civil market. The elimination of LORAN and NDB is a great step forward. Getting rid of those facilities will save $$$ (read taxpayer $$) in the long run.

Couldn't agree more. This is a tempest in a teapot, and the dollars are far better off allocated to something more needed.

Quoting DiamondFlyer (Reply 23):
I've got no problems with eliminating the NDB's. LORAN is a needed backup, because, well, if the GPS satellites go down, then we are sunk.

We are? I have routinely flown legs of over 10 hours on IRS only nav with great accuracy and no need for any outside navaid. LORAN is an antique whose demise is due.


25 DiamondFlyer : Really? Great for all the big guys flying 100 million dollar plus airplanes. How about all of us that fly GPS equipped planes. If you elminate VOR's
26 DocLightning : To some degree, the system is already obsolete. Because of a need for backwards compatibility, GPS signals can take a long time to acquire and they a
27 PhilSquares : If the GPS systems goes down what guarantees do you have the LORAN won't go down too? Have you tried to fly a NDB approach with a TRW in the vicinity
28 DiamondFlyer : Can't ever say I have. In fact, I've only shot NDB approaches in a simulator, because the flight school I did my instrument at didn't have ADF equipp
29 KELPkid : On a cloudy day, my Garmin Nuvi 200 in my car takes noticably longer to acquire satellites than on a clear day Ironically, for navigational usage in
30 DescendVia : Yeah and to tell you the truth I just had read about the baro stuff w/o enough satellites about an hour before I posted..... funny how you put stuff
31 DiamondFlyer : Yes, but it would be possible with the eLORAN chains to install said device, in a short term (matter of weeks to months, if required). Whereas, if th
32 Soku39 : That it was not free for the public... as the public finances the military... that's all.
33 SCCutler : The fundamental benefit of keeping Loran? GPS signals are of miniscule power, nad are very easily jammed, whether intentionally or inadvertently. Lora
34 DocLightning : Right. Point is that a better system would not use a band that can't make it through the leaves of a tree.
35 PhilSquares : Easy, did you ever hear of ILS/DME updating? Works great and is just as accurate as LORAN. Why not have the user shoulder the cost. Make it mandatory
36 MD11Engineer : Not millions, a few bucks are enough. A few years ago, when a GPS based road toll system for commercial vehicles was introduced in Germany, some prot
37 DescendVia : Heck the Honeywell IRU models alone are rated at 12 hours with no previous updating in class II RNP10 en route/MNPS airspace. 11.5 hours after the la
38 Meister808 : ... we're sunk one way or the other, since the equippage of LORAN is very low... Doubtful, since recieving certification on a new piece of avionics t
39 DiamondFlyer : I never once complained about decommissioning NDB stations. If you really want to use that ADF in your plane, use commercial AM broadcast to navigate
40 Rwessel : True - straight jamming is trivial. My (unclearly written) cost estimate applied to producing a fake set of GPS signals.
41 SCCutler : Understood, but the cost of maintaining the vast network of VOR stations virtually guarantees that they will be eliminated. Maintaining the relativel
42 L-188 : True, but I don't think I really want to trust my life to an "Air America" broadcast. But the fact that ADF isn't reliant on USGovt facilities is pro
43 KELPkid : I have one of those, and I taught my self to use it (okay, so that I could teach a bunch of 3rd-5th grade kids a little bit about nautical navigation
44 L-188 : Omega RNAV MLS Radio Ranges A lot of systems have died over the years. Actually when it comes to naviation I am surprised that Inertial Navigation has
45 DescendVia : Not so much....... that is pretty much the basis for this topic
46 KELPkid : Traditionally, RNAV was based upon analog computations of nearby VOR's, localizers, and their respective DME readings If you bought an RNAV unit in t
47 L-188 : RNAV is going to have a really hard time if they shut down all the VOR's which has been proposed more then once. And I am going to get some flack for
48 DescendVia : Exactly but I'm more referring to the term RNAV in its current form........
49 Post contains links Rwessel : Just to stir the pot a bit: http://www.newscientist.com/article/...atellites-to-hit-gps-accuracy.html "Ageing satellites to hit GPS accuracy" Summary
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