You will encounter five basic problems in the routine use of the VOR:
- Determining a course to take you direct to a VOR.
- Intercepting and tracking radials inbound and outbound from a VOR.
- Identifying an intersection.
- Determining the Wind Correction Angle that will keep you on course.
- Where on earth am I?
Now turn to and fly that heading, applying drift correction as necessary to keep the needle centered, and that's all there is to it.
Setting the Nav Receiver and VORThe proper time to tune your Nav receivers is while the aircraft is on the ground. Don't need to be fumbling about after take-off, looking at the Nav receiver or VOR indicator, when you should be concentrating on your climb-out and your turn to the outbound heading. So include tuning the Nav receivers, along with the ADF, in your pre-take-off checklist. That includes setting the OBS to the desired radial.
I've set the Nav Radios, but the TO-FROM flag is still off. What's wrong?Well, nothing is wrong, actually.
Microsoft, in their "as real as it gets" approach, doesn't allow a VOR to indicate until the aircraft is 1000 ft or so above the ground, unless the VOR station is located at the departure airport. VORs operate in the VHF band, "line of sight," and therefore their signals can not be received until attaining a certain altitude above the ground.
The solution is to turn on the "ident" feature of your Nav receiver, so that you will be able to hear the VOR's Morse-code identification. Take off with everything properly set, and when you hear the Morse ident, or shortly afterward, you have gained sufficient altitude for reliable reception. The VOR's To-From flag should appear. Then, verify by its code that the proper station is tuned, and turn off the ident.
Take note, though, of the published range of the VOR, which FSNavigator displays when the cursor is placed on the VOR. If you're out of range, you won't pick up the VOR signals, and the To-From flags will not appear.
You may also have noted that while on the ground the ADF indicator usually jumps to life when that radio is tuned to the correct frequency, even if the NDB is 25 NM away. That, too, is proper, because the LF radio waves of an NDB propagate differently than VHF, and can be received while the aircraft is on the ground.
Great Barrington Airport to Chester VOR. Click image for full size.
As the aircraft nears the Chester VOR the needle will become more sensitive and may swing farther off center. Continue to resist the urge to chase the needle. Maintain the correct heading until station passage, indicated by the TO-FROM flag switching to the FROM position.
Repeat this flight once more, then reverse to runway 29 for another two flights. Fly this route twice more from Rwy 29, but set in a 24 kt wind from 005° to practice tracking a radial with a crosswind. Follow the same technique of "bracketing" that you used for NDB flights.
Cortland County Airport to Ithaca VOR, V423 outbound. Click for full size.
The procedure to intercept an outbound radial is:
- Before takeoff, set the Nav receiver to the appropriate VOR frequency.
- Similarly while still on the ground, set the OBS to the radial intended to intercept.
- On takeoff, turn to the heading set into the VOR. Since we are intercepting an outbound radial, the heading and the OBS setting should match.
- The TO-FROM indicator should settle on FROM. If it doesn't then continue on the OBS heading until the FROM flag appears. Be aware that the TO-FROM flags won't appear until reaching the minimum reception altitude.
- Where are you in relation to the desired intercept radial? The CDI, left-right needle, will tell you. If the needle is centered, with a FROM flag, you are already dead-center on course. Rather unlikely, though.
- If the needle is to the left, turn left to intercept the radial. The amount of turn depends on how much needle deflection is showing. A large needle deflection warrants a large intercept angle, perhaps 30°. A small needle deflection requires a more modest interception angle.
- A needle deflection to the right requires right turns to intercept.
- Once intercepting the radial, return to the OBS heading and check for any wind correction needed to properly track the radial outbound.
Your cruise altitude will be 5500 ft. Takeoff and maintain runway heading until 2000 ft. Then turn right to 340°. This will give you a 45° intercept angle with V423. It will take seven or eight minutes before you note movement of the VOR needle with a 90 kt climb. As the needle nears the center of the gauge, turn right to 026° for the intercept. Correct your course as necessary to center the VOR needle and to keep it centered.
After intercepting V423 continue your climb to 5500 ft and fly en route for at least ten minutes confident that you are properly maintaining track. Repeat this outbound intercept flight two more times. Then fly the route another two times after setting in an 18 kt. wind from 090°.
Enjoy the flights.
Kingston-Ulster Airport to Albany VOR, 194° inbound20N to ALB VOR, Landing KALBIt's time to move from practice examples to an actual flight. On this flight we intercept and track a VOR radial inbound to the station.
When you are tracking a radial inbound to a station, you are actually flying in the opposite direction of the radial. Remember, all radials are outbound from a VOR. Suppose that you must track inbound on the 073° radial of the Busybody VOR. Since the 073° radial is outbound from the station and you are flying inbound, you must determine the reciprocal of the radial to properly set the OBS on the VOR indicator.
The reciprocal, of course, differs from the radial by 180°. Don't reach for your calculator to determine a reciprocal. Use the 200–20 method. With this method, you'll accurately determine the radial in less time than it takes to pick up your calculator and turn it on.
You either add 200 then subtract 20 or subtract 200 then add 20. Two examples will show you how easy this is.
Let's go back to tracking inbound to the Busybody VOR on the 073° radial. Add 200, we have 273°. Subtract 20 we have 253°—which is the reciprocal.
In that case we added 200 then subtracted 20. It can't be the other way around, subtract 200 and add 20, because the answer is impossible. Consider: subtract 200 from 073°, we have –127°. Add 20 brings this to –107°, an impossible answer since it's negative.
The second example, track inbound on the 345° radial. First, subtract 200 which gives 145°, then add 20 which gives 165°—the reciprocal, fast and accurate.
Now the flight.
Kingston-Ulster Airport to Albany VOR, 194° inbound. Click for full size.
You will intercept V123 about five to six minutes after lift-off from Kingston-Ulster Airport. This is a 46 nm flight and we will enlist the aid of the DME to signal when to begin our descent. Make sure that the DME is switched to Nav1. It should show the distance to Albany VOR as soon as there is a needle deflection on VOR1.
When the DME reads 11.0, begin a 500 fpm descent, maintaining 110 kts. When you are comfortably close to the Albany airport and Runway 01 is clearly in sight, slow your speed, set up your landing configuration, and land. Field elevation of Albany Airport is 285 ft.
Enjoy a cup of coffee in the pilot's lounge on the completion of the flight.
Repeat this flight with a 25 kt. wind from 100°.
Performing some action at an intersection is a commonplace piloting event. It may be a shift in course along a Victor airway, a point of departure to begin an instrument approach, or it could simply be a required or requested position to report to ATC.
Intersections are identified on both Sectional charts and IFR enroute charts. The illustration below shows the difference in presentation of intersections on those charts, with WARIC intersection the example.
The intersection of the 298° radial from the Gardner VOR and the 238° radial from the Keene VOR defines the WARIC intersection.
The right-hand illustration shows the format for an intersection on an IFR enroute chart. A triangle denotes an intersection. Note also that the two arrows pointaway from the VORs. The "21" in the box is the distance, in nm., from the Gardner VOR. That box signifies that the intersection may also be established by the 238° radial from the VOR plus a DME (Distance Measuring Equipment) fix at 21 nm.
The "14" in the upper right designates the 14 nm. distance between WARIC and the Keene VOR. The *3500 denotes the minimum obstruction clearance altitude, MOCA, and the 4000 denotes the minimum en route altitude, MEA.
Assume that you are flying outbound from Gardner VOR on the 298° radial. ATC has requested that you report arrival at the WARIC intersection for further clearance. If your aircraft has two Nav receivers, tune Nav-1 to Gardner VOR, 110.6 MHz. Set the OBS to 298°. Tune Nav-2 to the Keene VOR, 109.4 MHz., and set that OBS to 238°.
Flying outbound from Gardner, heading 298°; when the needle on Nav-2 centers, you have arrived at the WARIC intersection. Both VOR indicators will display FROM flags.
How do you know whether you have passed an intersection before you set up the two Navs? It's easy. When the "side" radial is set in the OBS, you have not arrived at the intersection as long as the needle is deflected toward the station, or to the right in this case.
If you had tuned in Keene VOR, set the OBS to 238° and the needle deflected left, you've already passed WARIC, and you better let ATC know it fast.
Only have one Nav receiver? All of the above still works, just takes a little more fiddling. After you are outbound from Gardner and are comfortable that you are accurately tracking the 298° radial, switch on the autopilot and activate the heading hold function. Now retune the Nav for the Keene VOR, reset the OBS to 238°, and monitor the CDI needle. It's worth a quick look back to the Gardner VOR on occasion to be certain that you are accurately tracking outbound on the 298° radial. Don't dwell there else you may pass the intersection.
Now the flight
Gardner Muni Airport to WARIC Intersection. Click for full size.
Before departure, set Nav-1 to Gardner VOR, 110.6 MHz., and set the OBS to 298°. This will be a single-receiver navigation problem. WARIC intersection is the 238° radial of Keene VOR, 109.4 MHz.
Gardner field elevation is 955 ft. ATC has cleared you to 6000 ft.
Repeat the flight with a Runway 36 departure from Gardner. Turn left on departure to 270° and maintain that course until you intercept V2 westbound. Then follow V2 to WARIC Intersection. On reaching WARIC Intersection you are cleared to intercept V93 inbound to the Keene VOR, 109.4, on the 238° radial (Set your OBS to 058°). Reduce altitude to 3000 feet for the leg to Keene.
We will use the DME as an aid on when to again descend. When the DME reads 4.0 on the way to EEN VOR, further descend to 2000 ft and reduce speed to 90 kts. At EEN VOR turn left to about 025° to land at Dillant-Hopkins Airport, Keene, N.H., elev. 485 ft. You are cleared for a straight-in approach on Runway 02, 5.3 nm. from Keene VOR on the 022° radial outbound.
Determining the Wind Correction Angle that will keep you on courseThis section will be a review for those who diligently worked the NDB portion of this tutorial. This is the situation that you will use most frequently if you set a wind in your flight simulator for your flying challenges: figuring out the proper Wind Correction Angle, WCA, or "bracketing the course."
If you always take immediate corrective action when you notice the left-right needle drifting off center, you'll never get off course far enough to need bracketing; but a sharp turn over the VOR or vectors to a new radial where the wind effect is unknown, may find you chasing a CDI that's off scale.
The first thing to do is to turn 30° towards the radial and wait for the needle to center. For example, in the last flight with a runway 36 departure from Gardner Muni Airport, turn left after exiting the traffic pattern to intercept the 298° radial. Since we want to intercept quickly, establish a 30° intercept angle with a heading of 268° and then track the 298° radial when the needle centers. With a crosswind, you'll soon notice that the CDI is drifting off center.
Assume the wind has blown you to the left of course—the needle is to the right of center. Here is the procedure for the example flight from Gardner to determine the Wind Correction Angle to accurately track the 0298° radial.
- Begin the bracketing procedure with a turn to 328°, which is the 298° desired track plus a 30° first-try bracket correction.
- This should move the needle back to center. Since it moved the CDI back to center, you now know the WCA bracket: 30° is too much and 0° is not enough.
- Try something in between, so with the needle centered, cut the wind correction in half—to 15°. Your heading should now be 298° + 15°, or 313°.
- Evaluate the effect of the 15° WCA. Depending on whether the plane still drifts away from the radial, add more correction; if it drifts toward the radial, decrease the WCA.
- Continue this cut-and-try process until the CDI stays nailed dead-on in the center.
- The procedure sounds complicated, but is very intuitive. Do it a few times and it becomes second nature.
Although I did the keyboarding for this site it contains the fine contributions of many people.
With no prior experience in building a website I was overwhelmed at the generosity of those that I asked for permission to either reproduce their work, or for their technical help, or to use their designs, artwork and descriptions.
Many thanks to those listed below in alphabetical order, who so willingly shared their talent so that I could assemble these webpages:
Bob Austin, of Mission Viejo, California. A scenerio in the VOR Approaches section required an over-kill list of mountaineering equipment for Mr. Benjamin Counter. Counter intends to "scale" southwest New Hampshire's 3165 ft. Mt. Monadnock, the second-most climbed mountain in the world, behind only Mt. Fuji in Japan. Since Florida's highest "mountain" just reaches 345 ft. I had to look elsewhere for an expert. Bob Austin jumped right in, providing an awesome equipment list, which I had to shorten. Any omissions are my work, not his. Bob has the credentials to provide an accurate and complete list, too. In his climbing he's completed six big-walls including two El Capitan routes—The Nose and Triple Direct. Thanks, Bob. Just reading your equipment list I could imagine the wind fiercely blowing off the face of the mountain, daring any climber to move higher.
Wagner Beskow, for his Handy Sheet 3.0. Wagner, a Brazilian in New Zealand taking his Ph.D., assembled this one-page compendium of useful facts for the flight-simmer. "It takes a while for a beginner to find all that information and when he does it's all scattered and difficult to refer to. The idea was to produce something useful that could stay around without cluttering the 'cockpit' too much." Thanks, Wagner. I wish I could say my cockpit was uncluttered now.
Boeing Company, photo of 40-A mailplane. The 40-A, a fabric-covered mail plane, was Boeing's first commercial success. Built in 1927 (the year Charles Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic), it carried mailbags and—load permitting—two passengers. http://www.boeing.com/companyoffices/gallery/boeinghistcom.html
Tom Christine, Electrical Engineer, Federal Aviation Administration. Tom was very helpful on specifics about present-day Non Directional Beacons, including their power levels, uses, their friendly coexistence with GPS, and frequency limits of the LF band. Thanks Tom.
Mario Corral, Sydney, Australia, who sent me the sketch of the homing pigeon. Mario patiently explained to me some similarities and differences between homing pigeons, racing pigeons, and carrier pigeons. Thanks Mario for keeping me on the right track.
Rick Covington, photos of the Piedmont DC-3 in the "On the Beam" section. Thanks Rick ... an excellent photo. You can find more of his photographic expertise at www.airliners.net. He photographed the Piedmont shown here in Durham, N.C.
Mike Genovese for the finest interior shot I've seen of any aircraft. "The shot was taken in Nassau in the early 90's... the plane was just sitting there unattended as we (crew of a major airline) walked by on the ramp... I could not resist the opportunity for the 'Kodak Moment!' ... " Great pic Mike and keep your camera handy as you jet to all those tough destinations. See www.airliners.net for more of Mike's work.
Jesse Kempa for his virtual E6-B calculator program. This program does it all, and best of all, it's freeware. Input True Course, TAS, wind speed and direction and on the click of a button it returns the Wind Correction Angle and Ground Speed. It will calculate distances between points with known lat. and long. coordinates, and on and on. Thanks Jesse for a great utility.internet.oit.edu/~kempaj/e6b.htm
Brian Kostick, the gauge programmer of the very-useful digital Elevator Trim indicator. With it the pilot has repeatability in elevator trim settings. Thanks to Brian, Br5an@aol.com, for an instrument that I rely on and for his quick willingness to let me use it in this panel.
Paul Lutus ... who wrote the freeware HTML editor "Arachnophilia" which I used in assembling these webpages. Arachnophilia is a full-featured, nearly perfect editor—and now v4.0 is even better with a 120,000 word spell-checker. Paul has an outstanding philosophy on life, too. Thanks, although we've never "met." www.arachnoid.com
Alice Marks ... for the extraordinary sketch of McGirr field. That picture is the essence of the intermediate fields that Air Mail pilots aimed for when facing an emergency. Her artistry instantly backed me onto McGirr field—into the new era of Air Mail, with the wind sweeping across the plains, striking me in the face. But then, it should have because Alice Marks's father was McGirr field's caretaker and Alice grew up there. She has a wonderful first-person account of the activities at the field that beats anything you'll read in stuffy history books. Take five and go to her site and relive the experience. http://www.halcyon.com/cliffsan/airmail/air_mail.html. Thanks Alice, twice ... for sketching McGirr field to keep that kernel of history alive and for letting me share it with others.
Ned Preston, Agency Historian, Federal Aviation Administration. Ned provided the chronology on when VORs were introduced, a whole wealth of information on the four-course radio range and on the light-beacon system used to identify the airways at night before radio navigation facilities were in place. Never met a more helpful person. Thanks Ned.
Bill Rambow for his many e-mails answering so many questions. Bill designed the incomparable dual panel for the Douglas DC-3 / R4D / C-47. A restored, flyable U.S. Navy R4D at the Mid Atlantic Air Museum in Reading, Pa. was the model for his work. A finer piece of work I've never seen. Thanks for the encouragement, Bill.
Tom H., "Rumple," a gentleman who always sets his work aside to answer the other fellow's questions. I reaped the benefits of his very-methodical air-file testing. He also designed the manifold pressure gauge for the training panel in my Virtual Airline. Tom is very visible on newsgroups and forums patiently answering questions that are asked over and over. Thanks for being there, Tom.
Sarah at Airline History Website for the photo of the KLM Douglas DC-5 which opens the VOR Navigation section. I only recently learned that a DC-5 had ever existed and wanted to include a picture of it. Since Sarah's site has 350 Airline Histories, 1700 Airline Pictures, and 150 Airliners from 1920 to 1999, I knew it would be there. Why is Sarah interested in all this stuff? ... because she's a pilot—and more. She writes software for and sells IFR flight Simulator programs for real IFR training. Thanks Sarah for the great work that you put into your site.airlines.freeuk.com/airlines
Chris Sheldon, email@example.com, from the U.K. He photographed G-AMPZ at Manchester Airport, and it appears here in the IFR Charts section. The aircraft belongs to Atlantic Airways (previously called Air Atlantique) who are based at Coventry Airport. The first letter in the registration number, "G," denotes a U.K. aircraft. Chris exhibits his work at www.airliners.net. Thanks Chris.
Russ Strine, Mid Atlantic Air Museum in Reading, Pa. Here's another fountain of information. A very busy man at the museum, he pushed his papers aside and spoke with me for an hour on the telephone about aviation in the old days and VORs and NDBs and answered questions that I just wasn't savvy enough to ask. He gave me some anecdotal stuff, too, that you can't find in books. Thanks for your time, Russ, and all the information. www.maam.org
Barry Thomas, Silversmith, who created the magnificent chalice pictured in the section on tracking ADF's inbound. That section's lead-in story centers around Mr. Benjamin Counter's desire to fly to Meriden, Connecticut, 'The Silver Capital of the World' to buy some silverwork. The chalice pictured was not created in Meriden, nor even in the U.S. Barry Thomas is a silversmith in rural Derbyshire, England. Meriden earned the Silver-Capital title in the late 19th century and it is doubtful that it still retains the rights to that sobriquet. Thanks Barry for the great picture, too. More of his masterpieces can be found athttp://easyweb.easynet.co.uk/bthomas.
Rod Watson, for his stunning photograph of the Gay Head Lighthouse on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. Rod has visited over 170 lighthouses in the US. and the Lighthouse Gallery section of his website, Rod's Photo Gallery, includes photographs of most of those lights, organized by geographic locations. He photographs more than lighthouses, too. Thanks, Rod, for a great picture.Rod's Photo Gallery
Roland Zuiderveld, from Sweden, for his totally awesome picture of a DC-3 descending out of the clouds at dusk to land. Roland also displays his work onwww.airliners.net. Thanks Roland, and if you take any more pictures like this one I want to hear about them.
Many others contributed to my virtual airline webpages and were just as generous. They are identified on that site. Assembling a webpage is so much easier with the assistance of people like these.