Final Goodbye to (Required) VOR Approaches!

Conscientious CFIs and DPEs have been carefully skating on the edge of “FAA legality” with the ambiguity in the FAA interpretation of “instrument approaches” in the regs. Until now, if you follow the strict interpretation of “different approach” in the Glasser Letter (as different “navigational system”) you are continually searching around for an operational VOR to execute an approach for training (flying another approach over a “local VOR” is also not legal for testing – has to be the real deal). You might think this is silly, but Portland FSDO just terminated 3 DPEs (in one day) for various indiscretions – we try hard to do this job legally and correctly. The long X-C has to be verified for qualification. If a test is flown with improper procedures, heads will roll.

As a result, the FAA is rescinding both the Glaser and Pratte interpretations. Furthermore, because the regulations do not define “navigation systems,” Flight Standards Service (AFS) is in the best position to issue policy and guidance on what “navigation systems” mean and which ones may be used under § 61.65(d)(2)(ii)(C)…[C]ongress intended for courts to defer to agencies when they interpret their own ambiguous rules.

Clarification was just issued and disseminated with this FAA Legal interpretation, separating “navigational systems” from “approaches” and freeing up training to use a LOC and/or ILS in a training event under CFR 61.65.

In testing, Appendix 7 of the Instrument ACS requires two different *navigational systems* for the non-precision approaches. (One certainly could be a VOR) Knowledge of VOR seems critical since this is the FAA backup in the MON system if the GPS constellation fails. ILS precision, LOC non-precision works here.

To be perfectly clear (thanks to a comment); this FAA memo clarifies *training.* Testing remains unchanged specifying two nav systems for non-precision approaches (but nowhere requires *three* separate nav sources).

Fly safe out there (and often)!

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Author: David St. George

SAFE Director, Master CFI (12X), FAA DPE, ATP (ME/SE) Currently jet charter captain.

21 thoughts on “Final Goodbye to (Required) VOR Approaches!”

  1. Wow! All this time I have been doing this right by doing it wrong … or is that right?

    The words of the reg have always seemed very clear to me — three different approaches, one precision and two non-precision. I even did my CFII checkride in an airplane with no GPS/FMS. I pointed out that I could meet the, “3 types of approaches, one precision and two non-precision,” using ILS, LOC, and VOR. At first the DPE didn’t think I could do it without GPS in the aircraft but a check with the FSDO produced, “Yes, it meets the requirements in the reg.” (Sounds like the FSDO didn’t know about the Glasser letter either.) He then grilled me mercilessly on GPS during the oral but that was fine. Just because the airplane didn’t have GPS didn’t mean that I wasn’t well versed in flying GPS-based approaches or in the characteristics of GPS.

    It is nice to have things clarified but, like I said, the words have always been clear, but I may have been doing it “wrong”. (I put that in quotes because while it was NOT wrong, it might have been interpreted as that should there have been some kind of investigation.) Of course, this raises a red flag for me: what else have I been doing “wrong” by interpreting the regs simply?

    This kind of thing is enough to give a good CFI nightmares.

  2. Still a little confused. “two different RNAV approaches” doesn’t sound like two different “kinds” of approaches unless you count LPV and LNAV as different “kinds” of approaches. Would that distinction woork?

    1. The FAA only rescinded the implied VOR requirement (3 diff. nav. systems). We are in uncharted territory😳 waiting for what we *can* do. “[C]ongress intended for courts to defer to agencies when they interpret their own ambiguous rules.” But it appears you could fly two (or three) different RNAV approaches w/ diff. minima (“different approaches”).
      Since even the FAA has contingency planning for a possible GPS outage (Minimum Operating Network) so it seems prudent for all CFIIs to cover real VOR approaches at some point in training to ensure proficiency(?). This is analogous to teaching crosswind landing during primary training – *not required to be tested* but a damn good idea to train.

  3. The reg says, “One precision and two non-precision.” You have three easy options for precision: ILS, PAR, and LPV. You have options for non-precision: LOC, VOR, NDB, LNAV/LP, LP+V, etc. When time comes for the check ride pick one from column 1 and two from column 2. How am I reading this wrong?

    1. Go for it! The historic problem was the requirement (by interpretation in Glasser Letter) of three different “navigation systems!” That brought in necessity for VOR. Now you have a lot more freedom to select when training (61.65). DPEs have to still select two different nav. systems for non-precision per Appendix 7.

    2. I can’t find where the regs say ‘one precision and two non-precision’. Can you point me in the right direction? Thanks!

      1. But it *is* usable as “precision approach” for flight test (see ACS) if mins. <300agl?

  4. the Glasser letter was never correct. The regs never said, “3 different navigation systems.” The regs said, “One precision and two non-precision approaches.” There is nothing ambiguous about that and nothing that required any particular navigation system. One could meet the requirement with ILS, LOC, and an RNAV/GPS LNAV approach. Or it could be done with LPV, NDB, and VOR. As I said when doing my CFII add-on, I did it with ILS, LOC, and VOR, which only used two navigation systems (LOC/GS and VOR), and that was specifically approved by the FSDO. That was 2014.

    I suppose one could meet the requirement using three different GPS approaches, one LPV, and the others LP or LNAV but I would be skeptical of the qualifications of an instrument pilot who had never flown a VOR or LOC approach. I have had GPS go away on me just too many times to be willing to put all my IFR eggs in the GPS basket. So people thinking that they HAD to do a VOR approach was probably not a bad thing. I am more worried about the general loss in the IFR community of the ability to fly approaches using raw VOR/ILS data without a GPS overlay.

    I guess I am just an old stick-in-the-mud, emphasis on ‘old’.

    1. It really does not matter how we *personally* read and interpret an FAA reg! The FAA writes them and sets the policy. we need to follow Otherwise, we would legislate by Facebook Forum and “the loudest voice wins.” The real problem is that most pilots never seem to read the regs at all. Most regulations gain meaning through their larger context. You should see the blow-back we received trying to clear up the “long” VFR student X-C. People were following 61.109 and forgetting 61.1 (>50nm) and everyone in the modern society thinks they are an expert.

      I agree 100% on the need for redundancy in IFR navigation. I just published an article about the “ILS on the Chopping Block.” How would we find our way out of the clouds when the GPS system fails? I think every conscientious CFII will still teach VOR because that is what the back-up MON system is based upon.

    2. “I am more worried about the general loss in the IFR community of the ability to fly approaches using raw VOR/ILS data without a GPS overlay.” I am also. And another skill which I see pilots losing is manual OBS control. The GPS navigator plugs in the desired course for everything – Direct-to, flight plan, procedure turns, and approach legs. If you do have to go to VOR navigation and ATC says proceed inbound on xxx radial, or hold southwest of xxx vor, etc., is the pilot going to manually dial in the correct course or even know how to get manual control on the GPS/EFIS equipment. I try to include those types of procedures at least often enough so I know the pilot hasn’t forgotten – could be even a small manual adjustment in desired course while continuing with GPS.

  5. I am confused about the comment in parenthesis in the original article that said “(“overlaying” an approach is also not legal for testing)”. The examiners in my area actually desire to see the applicant “overlay” the approach that they are flying and demonstrate their understanding that it IS legal to use an RNAV system for navigation during approaches, such as a VOR approach or ILS, except for the final approach segment (see AC 90-108). “The use of a GPS during a ground based approach enhances situational awareness”, is what they proclaim. If one cannot use an overlay for a practical test, where is it stated?

    1. Sorry that is my ambiguous statement (will fix) – not RNAV overlay of VOR…

      What I *meant* was the (old) CFII procedure of flying a western plate (at a higher altitude) over a nearby VOR that is operational (but might lack an instrument approach). This “overlay technique” would allow a CFII to “import” many different procedures for the opportunity of student practice. Fly KMSO (MIssoula) using CFB VOR (in upstate NY). This unfortunately does not work with RNAV (now you have to fly a distance to get “variety and surprise?”) Desperate DPEs have been known to use this technique to evaluate the VOR when no approach was available; not legal…

  6. Oh, okay, I understand. Good to know that there is another way to use the term “overlay”.

  7. “But it *is* usable as “precision approach” for flight test (see ACS) if mins. <300agl?"

    "equal to or less than 300 feet HAT" per ACS.

  8. The text in Appendix 6 says: “The evaluator will select nonprecision approaches representative of the type that the applicant is likely to use. The choices must use at least two different types of navigational aids.” This could be an RNAV and a LOC.(it could be a VOR also if one is handy nearby). Unlike the restrictive Glasser rulling, this does not mandate *three* different nav systems.

      1. Thanks for the comment Ron! The way I wrote it confused training with testing.

    1. When you do a LOC approach where there is also an ILS, or an LNAV where there is also an LPV, do you change anything (i.e. cover the GS or downgrade the GPS)?

      1. The technique necessary to meet the standard depends on what set-up is in the airplane chosen for the test (this is always a challenge). Some modern aircraft have so many redundant systems it seems unrealistic to fail enough equipment to get rid of all vertical guidance. Often if NAV #1 is WAAS capable, e.g. Garmin 430, this unit is easily “failed” to require the use of NAV 2 (often lacking vertical guidance). Alternatively, selecting an obstructed RNAV approach nearby works. I personally do not alter the GPS settings but have heard other DPEs downgrade the sensitivity in settings.

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