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Very High Frequency Omnidirectional Range (VOR) (Part Two)

in Navigation Systems

VOR Operational Errors
Typical pilot-induced errors include:

  1. Careless tuning and identification of station.
  2. Failure to check receiver for accuracy/sensitivity.
  3. Turning in the wrong direction during an orientation. This error is common until visualizing position rather than heading.
  4. Failure to check the ambiguity (TO/FROM) indicator, particularly during course reversals, resulting in reverse sensing and corrections in the wrong direction.
  5. Failure to parallel the desired radial on a track interception problem. Without this step, orientation to the desired radial can be confusing. Since pilots think in terms of left and right of course, aligning the aircraft position to the radial/course is essential.
  6. Overshooting and undershooting radials on interception problems.
  7. Overcontrolling corrections during tracking, especially close to the station.
  8. Misinterpretation of station passage. On VOR receivers not equipped with an ON/OFF flag, a voice transmission on the combined communication and navigation radio (NAV/COM) in use for VOR may cause the same TO/FROM fluctuations on the ambiguity meter as shown during station passage. Read the whole receiver—TO/FROM, CDI, and OBS—before you make a decision. Do not utilize a VOR reading observed while transmitting.
  9. Chasing the CDI, resulting in homing instead of tracking. Careless heading control and failure to bracket wind corrections make this error common.

VOR Accuracy

The effectiveness of the VOR depends upon proper use and adjustment of both ground and airborne equipment.

The accuracy of course alignment of the VOR is generally plus or minus 1°. On some VORs, minor course roughness may be observed, evidenced by course needle or brief flag alarm. At a few stations, usually in mountainous terrain, the pilot may occasionally observe a brief course needle oscillation, similar to the indication of “approaching station.” Pilots flying over unfamiliar routes are cautioned to be on the alert for these vagaries, and in particular, to use the TO/ FROM indicator to determine positive station passage.

Certain propeller revolutions per minute (RPM) settings or helicopter rotor speeds can cause the VOR CDI to fluctuate as much as plus or minus 6°. Slight changes to the RPM setting will normally smooth out this roughness. Pilots are urged to check for this modulation phenomenon prior to reporting a VOR station or aircraft equipment for unsatisfactory operation.

VOR Receiver Accuracy Check

VOR system course sensitivity may be checked by noting the number of degrees of change as the OBS is rotated to move the CDI from center to the last dot on either side. The course selected should not exceed 10° or 12° either side. In addition, Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 91 provides for certain VOR equipment accuracy checks, and an appropriate endorsement, within 30 days prior to flight under IFR. To comply with this requirement and to ensure satisfactory operation of the airborne system, use the following means for checking VOR receiver accuracy:

  1. VOR test facility (VOT) or a radiated test signal from an appropriately rated radio repair station.
  2. Certified checkpoints on the airport surface.
  3. Certified airborne checkpoints.

VOR Test Facility (VOT) The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) VOT transmits a test signal which provides users a convenient means to determine the operational status and accuracy of a VOR receiver while on the ground where a VOT is located. Locations of VOTs are published in the A/FD. Two means of identification are used. One is a series of dots and the other is a continuous tone. Information concerning an individual test signal can be obtained from the local flight service station (FSS.) The airborne use of VOT is permitted; however, its use is strictly limited to those areas/altitudes specifically authorized in the A/FD or appropriate supplement.

To use the VOT service, tune in the VOT frequency 108.0 MHz on the VOR receiver. With the CDI centered, the OBS should read 0° with the TO/FROM indication showing FROM or the OBS should read 180° with the TO/FROM indication showing TO. Should the VOR receiver operate an RMI, it would indicate 180° on any OBS setting.

A radiated VOT from an appropriately rated radio repair station serves the same purpose as an FAA VOT signal, and the check is made in much the same manner as a VOT with some differences.

The frequency normally approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is 108.0 MHz; however, repair stations are not permitted to radiate the VOR test signal continuously. The owner or operator of the aircraft must make arrangements with the repair station to have the test signal transmitted. A representative of the repair station must make an entry into the aircraft logbook or other permanent record certifying to the radial accuracy and the date of transmission.

Certified Checkpoints

Airborne and ground checkpoints consist of certified radials that should be received at specific points on the airport surface or over specific landmarks while airborne in the immediate vicinity of the airport. Locations of these checkpoints are published in the A/FD.

Should an error in excess of ±4° be indicated through use of a ground check, or ±6° using the airborne check, IFR flight shall not be attempted without first correcting the source of the error. No correction other than the correction card figures supplied by the manufacturer should be applied in making these VOR receiver checks.

If a dual system VOR (units independent of each other except for the antenna) is installed in the aircraft, one system may be checked against the other. Turn both systems to the same VOR ground facility and note the indicated bearing to that station. The maximum permissible variation between the two indicated bearings is 4°.


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