To VOR or not to VOR?

To VOR or not to VOR?

Various Glider pilot exam databases and study guides include questions about VOR/ADF navigation (but not GPS). The predecessor of the Glider Flying Handbook, Soaring Flight Manual, has half a chapter dedicated to  the subject while ASA’s 2013 Private Pilot Test Prep, e.g., does not include VOR navigation in its glider rating test subjects. GPGS includes it in its commercial pilot book but not in its private pilot book. Dauntless Aviation software covers tens of VOR questions in its glider rating test database, exams4pilots.org only one, while a student at our club just took his written test and didn’t get a single VOR question. This made me wonder: Is this a required subject for a Private Pilot glider rating? I took the question to gliderbooks_forum@googlegroups.com:

” I remember very well that there were a few VOR questions [35 years ago].”

“It can be a mistake to believe the FAA’s decisions are based on sound logic. In any event, it doesn’t matter why.  If the questions are there you have to answer them.”

“While most glider pilots never opt to exercise [the] privileges [of sophisticated aircraft, like a Stemme motor glider], they are not absolved of the responsibility of knowing at least a little about what is expected of them if they do.”

“These aircraft preceded the FAA’s acceptance of GPS technology for navigation. FAA is always catching up.”

“Unfortunately, the FAA does still required glider pilots to know a little about VORs.”

“VORs are not obsolete.  Wait till the Chinese shut down some satellites and you will be happy there are VORs still in operation.”

“GPS systems do fail.  When they do, you need a backup.  If it is the satellites or the signal that failed, another GPS receiver is not the answer.”

With all of this said and done – and while  the Chinese are cooking up a plan to ground gliders in the US – I decided to take the question straight to the executive branch of the United States government. Here’s what Washington has to say:

“There is not a requirement for VOR/ADF knowledge in the Private Pilot Glider knowledge test.”

– Chip Peterson, Aviation Safety Inspector, Seattle Flight Standards.

Rest assured, dear soaring students, thy shalt not hone in on a radio beacon any time soon.

Do you think VOR/ADF navigation should still be required knowledge for glider pilots? Did you get a VOR/ADF question on a recent knowledge test? Leave a comment to let us know.

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