AS9120B, ISO 9001:2015, and FAA AC 0056B ACCREDITED

What Is VOR in Aviation?

When discussing VOR approach operations within the aviation industry, one is referring to a non-precision approach where landing is achieved through lateral guidance alone. VOR aids, or Very High Frequency Omni-Directional Range aids, are ground-based systems that offer azimuth data on both high and low altitude routes and airport approaches to assist pilots in navigation. To utilize such navigation aids, an aircraft must have a suitable receiving unit so that a position and course can be maintained during an approach. In this blog, we will discuss the concept of VOR in more detail, allowing you to have a better understanding of what it is and how pilots rely on it.

While modern flights often take advantage of GPS technology for navigation, such devices were not always available. As such, VOR stations served as an earlier form of aircraft navigation aid that found use between the 1930s and 1970s. Generally, these stations would be cone-shaped structures on the ground that communicated with receivers situated within the aircraft cockpit. While many VOR stations have been decommissioned in recent decades, they are still often used as backup solutions in the instance that GPS outages ensue.

During standard operations, VOR stations will broadcast a three letter identifier in the form of Morse code, and these signals can traverse upward of 200 miles. With such a large range, it is possible for aircraft to receive signals from multiple stations at one time, necessitating VOR identification by the pilot to ensure the right aid is used. While not always the case, some stations may even broadcast a voice signal that includes the name of the station and any recorded advisories.

While VOR systems can be split into ground and aircraft components, they more specifically consist of elements like an antenna and distance measuring equipment (DME). With a VOR antenna, VOR frequencies can be picked up and displayed on a cockpit instrument so that the pilot has the necessary information for such landings. For DME, such equipment will be co-located with a VOR station while relying on L-band signals to determine the distance between a station and a cockpit receiver. It is important to know that DME provides slant distance readings, meaning that they are not a measurement on a 2D scale.

Despite GPS technology offering better accuracy than VOR options, VOR stations are still important so that there is always a backup navigational aid in case of a failure. Despite this, VOR stations require maintenance, leading to their continued decommission over the years. Additionally, VOR signals may be affected by adverse weather conditions with lower accuracy.

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