Short Final: VOR Check


Flying north from Florida, Jacksonville Center asked for an assist.

JAX: “Meridian 821J, we’re not sure the Savannah VOR is working. Would you tune 115.95 and see what you get?”

Me: “Sure. (pause) It’s working fine.”

JAX: “Thanks a bunch. I bet you haven’t done that in a long time!”

Patrick Jebaily

Florence, SC

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  1. Before my flight school’s airplanes had GPS, (about 2 years ago) I had my students file /U and plan routes using VORs for instrument training flights. Almost without fail, the first instruction we would hear after takeoff was, “cleared direct to destination.”

    • I get the same thing. And you can almost hear the eye-roll from ATC when you remind them that you’re /A (no GPS). They usually sigh, give me a vector and ask “lemme know when you receive the VOR.”

      It’s even better when you pick up an amended clearance on the ground and it includes Tango routes. Clearing *that* up can take quite a while. During one bright, clear, VFR day the ground controller, after spending several minutes unsuccessfully trying to fix it, said, “just take off and sort it out with NY Departure.”

  2. When I was in controller training at Chicago Center in the early 1970’s each controller had to memorize what you see in an L and H Chart today. We had to know where the VOR, VORTAC, ADF stations, intersections, holding patterns, airways, and conflicting patterns the frequencies of each the MEA, MAA, MOCA, MCA, restricted areas, MOA’s, and much more just from memory and be able to draw them on a piece of blank paper. In addition we had to know the frequencies of all areas including high altitude, of abutting sectors, then aircraft type, speeds, and much more. I did something that was kind of foolish once, I departed out of upper Wisconsin IFR and left my charts behind. I realized it when I reached cruise altitude. I few the entire route back to Chicago all from memory in IFR conditions. This of course was all in the days before GPS and all done on VOR’s including the approaches. Knowing that was assuring but foolish not to say the least. Today GPS and GPS displays take all the fore thought away as we blunder along. After one mistake in my IFR training when I was making an ILS 31 approach to MDW, and after doing a crash course for nearly 2 weeks, I was bone tired, and turned out bound on the ILS. It sure got easy to fly the course until the Examiner asked me, (first clue) when I was going to reach the OM. I said I could not answer it because I didn’t have DME, like a dummy….no DME on an OM. It was about then he said I had done a great job so far (second clue something was wrong.) and to take off the hood. If I saw the airport the ride was over and he would give me my IRA. Well off went the hood, and after a few seconds I recognized Gary Indiana. Hummmmm, I suddenly realized I was headed 130 degrees and going the wrong direction. That was a Friday, I cam back on Monday and breezed through the ILS checks, knowing which was I was to turn BEFORE I got there instead of just reacting to stimulus and making an error. I have always remembered never get mentally fatigued and always plan ahead to know what I would do once I got there.

  3. I use to maintain the VORs and NDBs… they are going away like the concrete white arrows and fire towers of past. Soon ADS-B will replace transponders and radars for air traffic control. I use to maintain them too.
    Things change…