Graham Warwick/ATLANTA

THE USA HAS brought forward the date for phasing out the Loran C radio-navigation system from 2015 to 2000, a move strongly opposed by the general-aviation (GA) community. The US Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) is lobbying for the system to remain operational at least until 2010.

The new date is included in the much-delayed 1994 Federal Radio Navigation Plan, which was finally published in early July. The Plan is a joint US Department of Transportation (DoT)/Department of Defense document which is revised every two years.

The 1994 Plan is believed to have been delayed by a dispute within the DoT between the US Coast Guard, which operates Loran, and the US Federal Aviation Administration, which helps pay for it. The FAA is pushing for ground-based Loran to be retired early in favour of the satellite-based global-positioning system (GPS).

AOPA is arguing that thousands of GA operators who have bought Loran units based on the 2015 phase-out date will not see a return on their investment if the system is decommissioned in 2000. Steve Brown, senior vice-president for Government and technical affairs, says that the Loran is "very cost-effective" and a "viable back-up" for the GPS.

AOPA's position is that the FAA's wide-area augmentation system, which will allow GPS-only en route navigation and non-precision approach, will not be fully operational before 2000, and precision-approach GPS will not be available before 2005, Brown says.

The House Appropriations Committee, meanwhile, has added conditions to the 1996 budget, calling for the FAA to conduct a comprehensive study of Loran with a view to the possibility of the FAA taking over operation of the system from the Coast Guard and keeping it in service beyond 2000. Brown is confident that the Senate will follow suit.

Source: Flight International