Brent Luna is the NATCA National Article 114 Navigation Representative
Background: The Navigation Representative works closely with Agency Program Managers for the Very High Frequency Omni-directional Range (VOR) Minimum Operational Network (MON) Implementation Program, Distance Measuring Equipment (DME) / Very High Frequency Omni-directional Range (VOR) / Tactical Air Navigation (TACAN) Infrastructure (DVT) Program, NextGen DME Program, and the Instrument Landing System (ILS) Rationalization Program which are addressing rationalization, resiliency, and sustainment of the VORs, DMEs, and ILSs. The VOR MON Program is reducing the number of VORs in the CONUS, while NextGen DME, DVT, and ILS Rationalization Programs are investing in more equipment and upgrades to ensure these key NAS components remain in critical locations and in good repair for the next 20+ years.
During COVID, the VOR MON Program has been given authorization to work with Air Traffic facility SMEs during SME “Admin” time for navaid mitigations that will publish in FY21, FY22, and FY23. Runway Visual Range (RVR) programs have also been submitted to the Directors for consideration. NextGen DME and Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) will be next in seeking approval/priority to resume normal activities and recovery from COVID impacts to project timelines and future goals and expectations. An update regarding the priority of RVR, NextGen DME, and WAAS is expected in mid-February. AJM-32 is aware that access to air traffic field facilities and tech-ops equipment installations are still limited because of COVID precautions. Field Technician training remains a priority.
AJM-32 is also involved with other Department of Transportation offices in the Research & Development of Position, Navigation, and Timing (PNT) Resilience. The National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), along with the PNT Research and Development Interagency Working Group, the Subcommittee on Resilience Science and Technology, and the Committee on Homeland and National Security released the January 2021 National Research and Development Plan for Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Resilience as a requirement of Executive Order 13905 (previous Trump administration). I’ll be in contact with Dan Hamilton, NATCA Surveillance and Broadcast Services (SBS) Article 114 Representative, to keep him updated on surveillance and navigation technologies and programs that are both ground based and space based.
The DME/VOR/TACAN (DVT) Program continues to develop updated DME, TACAN Antenna and TACAN Transponder Specifications. Next Major program goal is to award the contract to procure the TACAN Antennas (target due date is 5/31/2021).
NextGen DME support resources in the Service Areas, Flight Inspection, and Engineering Services are all impacted by virus related concerns and mitigations. Decisions are still being made about which Agency National Initiatives are prioritized to resume their project schedules at full pace and implementation. The Segment 1 goal to have 12 new DME sites has been pushed and will not be met due to limitations of implementation resources during COVID.
ILS Programs are impacted by COVID-19 restrictions in the field, project deployments, and restarts based on Tech Ops’ phased restart plan. At this time, whole program recovery is developing as travel, training, and facility access evolves. FY21 goal includes the completion of one (1) ILS Project by 9/30/21. The three candidate projects are Knoxville, TN (TYS), Milwaukee, WI (GMF), and San Antonio, TX (SAT).
VOR MON is now targeting 218 VORs for discontinuance in Phase II (FY21-FY30), 7 Phase II VORs have been completed thus far in FY21. VORs being discontinued on the 2/25/2021 chart date are: Hazard VOR/DME in Hazard, KY (AZQ), Clarion VOR/DME in Clarion, PA (CIP), Huron VORTAC in Huron, SD (HON), Greenbrier VOR/DME in Lewisburg, WV (LWB), Park Rapids VOR/DME in Park Rapids, MN (PKD), and Sioux City VORTAC in Sioux City, IA (SUX). VORs being discontinued on the 4/22/2021 chart cycle are: Anthony VORTAC in Anthony, KS (ANY), Boles VOR/DME in Alamogordo, NM (BWS), and Lebanon VOR/DME in Lebanon, NH (LEB).
For most VORMON discontinuance work, ATC field facilities should be discussing what losses will occur and what mitigations will be required at least two years in advance of each VOR discontinuance date. It takes considerable time to gather intel on how ATC Operations and NAS User needs will be impacted. The new or amended procedures and route work should be designed and agreed upon approximately one year prior to the actual discontinuance date. This concept/method helps ensure that the 12 months prior to the discontinuance can then be utilized by the different charting and development offices, environmental reviews and/or analysis, community engagement/involvement execution, quality control checks, successful flight inspections, and any postings to the Federal Register for notification and/or public comment, as required. I can help any Air Traffic facility get in contact with and get the support they need to make these plans and decisions come to fruition. Josh Haviland, NATCA National Airspace Representative, is releasing a one page VOR MON summary and refresher to all FacReps in the near future to help keep attention on these important changes. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org if I can be of any assistance to any facility.
Looking two years down the road for VOR MON, the following VORs should be current topics of discussion at the local ATC facility level…unless they have already been effectively dealt with: 2/23/2023 discontinuances include: Allegheny VOR/DME in Pittsburgh, PA (AGC), Pawnee City VORTAC in Pawnee City, NE (PWE), and Sulphur Springs VOR/DME in Sulphur Springs, TX (SLR). 4/20/2023 discontinuances include: Bloomington VOR/DME in Bloomington/Normal, IL (BMI), New Hope VOR/DME in New Hope, KY (EWO), Elmwood VOR/DME in Marshalltown, IA (JWJ), Liberator VOR in Mountain Home, ID (LIA), Reserve VOR/DME in Reserve, LA (RQR), and Yankton VOR/DME in Yankton, SD (YKN). If any of these navaids are utilized by procedures in your airspace, please reach out if you need help or you know that your facility hasn’t been contacted by the Operational Support Groups in the Service Centers.