The US Administration has decided to continue operating the Loran-C navigation network "in the short term" while the US Department of Transportation (DoT) evaluates the long-term need for the system.

Meanwhile, the US Coast Guard (USCG) has initiated development of a dual-mode Loran-C/global positioning system (GPS) receiver.

Loran-C, which is used by more than 80,000 general aviation (GA) aircraft, or 40% of the US GA fleet, was due to shut down on 31 December.

In 1997, the DoT launched a review of the Loran-C decommissioning decision in response to user concerns, particularly from the GA community. The US rethink means that Loran-C will remain operational for at least eight more years.

Loran-C provides navigation, location and timing services for civil and military air, land and marine users. It is approved as a supplemental en route air navigation system for instrument flight and visual flight rules operations.

The 1999 Federal Radio navigation Plan, the recently released blueprint for government-operated navigation systems, says that "while the [Clinton] Administration continues to evaluate the long-term need for continuation of the Loran-C radio navigation system, the government will operate the system in the short term. The US Government will give users reasonable notice if it concludes that Loran-C is not needed or is not cost-effective."

The DoT's fiscal year 2001budget request includes $47 million to maintain Loran-C infrastructure. The budget submission includes $27 million in Loran funding for the USCG and $20 million for the US Federal Aviation Administration.

Langhorne Bond, a former FAA administrator, says the USCG will this month announce it has awarded Stanford University a research contract to develop a dual-mode Loran-C/GPS receiver. Such a device could lead to long-term use of Loran-C.

Although the US Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association supports FAA plans to move to satellite navigation, it wants Loran-C retained as a back-up. Its 350,000 members are "sceptical about placing sole reliance on satellite navigation".

Source: Flight International