Loran's Last Chance?

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With GPS available everywhere, cheap and reliable, do we really still need Loran, the venerable long-range navigation system? The U.S. Department of Transportation on Monday issued a request for public comment to search for reasons to continue to maintain the aging system -- or not -- beyond the end of fiscal year 2007 (Sept. 30). At question is whether Loran should be decommissioned; maintained as is; or upgraded to be used either as a back-up or as a complement to GPS. If you have an opinion, DOT wants to hear from you by February 7. AOPA has expressed opposition to ditching Loran until a permanent backup system for GPS is established. "Once gone, Loran will no longer be a backup option, and any other suitable aviation alternative would likely be more costly, take longer to implement, and would be the responsibility of the FAA exclusively," AOPA President Phil Boyer said in a letter to FAA Administrator Marion Blakey. "Let's look before we leap on this issue." Loran, which is operated by the U.S. Coast Guard, was designed for maritime navigation, but is also approved as a navaid for aviators. The UK has a similar system and is also pondering whether to keep it or not.