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Intercepting and

Tracking VORs
Ideal for IFR Students

by Derek W Beck
May 2008 (revised Nov 2008)
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Animations require viewing in slideshow mode

Objective
Develop an understanding of how
to use VOR for navigation and
how to track along a VOR radial

Content

What is a VOR and How Does it Work?


Tuning and Identifying a VOR
Flying to a VOR Station
Station Passage

Intercepting a VOR Course


Tracking a Course (Wind Correction)
Reverse Sensing
VOR Intersections
VOR Failures
Quiz

Why VORs?
VORs create the
highways in the sky
that, besides GPS,
are the primary way
to fly in IFR conditions
These highways are
called VOR Airways or
Victor Airways
IFR Enroute Low Altitude Chart
Depicting VOR highways

What is a VOR?
It stands for VHF (Very High Frequency)
Omnidirectional Range
Its a radio beacon on the ground that tells
allows an aircraft to identify their location
relative to the VOR
A typical VOR:

Source: FAA-H-8083-15A Instrument Flying Handbook

Inside the Aircraft


The airborne equipment includes the
navigation side of the radio, the VOR
indicator (often two in an airplane), and an
antenna for each VOR indicator
course deviation indicator (CDI)

N
A
V

TO
FR

OBS

omnibearing selector

How Does a VOR Work?


Imagine a lighthouse: Its beacon rotates,
but at North it flashes in all directions. If
you were to time between when you see
the flash and when you see the beacon,
you could calculate your position to it.
(A VOR does the same thing,
but with radio waves.)

Animations require viewing in slideshow mode

How Does a VOR Work? (technical)


It emits (2) two VHF radio waves, one
unchanging wave in all directions (a reference
for 360), and a second variable wave, the
phase of which changes as it rotates
A VOR receiver inside an aircraft compares the
phase of the rotating beacon to the reference
and determines which radial from the station
the aircraft is on

Tuning and Identifying VORs


Get VOR information
from IFR and VFR charts,
Airport/Facilities
Directory, etc
Put the VHF frequency
into the Nav side of the
radio and click IDENT
Listen to the Morse Code
identifier, also depicted
on charts (always confirm
you have the VOR you
think)

Frequency
& Morse
Code ID

VOR

Using a VOR
Lets go to the station

Radials
360

270

180

VOR radials emanate


(radiate) FROM the station
They are always FROM!!!!
They are NEVER to!
Imagine a bicycle wheel
the radials are the spokes,
coming FROM the center
090 They radiate in all
directions
Radials based on Magnetic
North
Since they converge at the
station, staying on course
becomes more sensitive
close to the VOR

Fly to a Station
360

270

Turn the OBS to center the


VORs needle (CDI)
Make sure it says TO the
station

090

Inside our airplane:

TO

180

OBS

HDG

Station Passage

360

The Cone of Confusion, a


zone of mixed signals just over
the station, gives erratic
readings
Stay on your heading during
the cone of confusion!

270

090

Look for the TO to change to


a FROM

N
A
V

TO
FR

180

OBS

HDG

After Passage
360

270

Notice it now says FROM the


station
You are now flying on the 360
radial FROM the station

090

Inside our airplane:

FR

180

OBS

HDG

Keep the CDI Centered


course to the right

360

on course

FR

FR

180

course to the left

FR

Needle centered = on course


Needle to the right = course to
the right (& vice versa)
Turn to the needle to stay on
course
Full deflection: 10-12 off

Heading Doesnt Matter!


360

course to the right

FR

on course

FR

180

course to the left

FR

VORs are dumb instruments


VOR assumes you are going
same direction as the course
Airplane A is still left of 360
course; B is still on the 360
course (momentarily)

Intercepting a VOR Course

Step 1: Set desired VOR


course on VOR using OBS
Lets intercept 090
Be sure to tune and ID VOR
first!

270

090
Inside our airplane:

TO

Turn OBS

OBS

HDG

Intercepting a VOR Course

Step 2: Turn aircraft to a same


desired course
Heading should match VOR
course you will parallel
course

270

090

TO

OBS

HDG

Intercepting a VOR Course

Step 3: Select an intercept


angle to get on course (to
center needle), 30-45 is best
Notice VOR needle is left, so
your course is to the left

270

090

TO

OBS

HDG

Intercepting a VOR Course

Step 4: Wait for VOR needle to


center
As you near the course, the
needle will come in towards
center

270

090

TO

OBS

HDG

Intercepting a VOR Course

Step 5: Turn to desired course


as needle centers
Try to lead the turn as the
needle centers to not
overshoot the course

270

090

TO

OBS

HDG

Tracking: Fighting the Wind

090

WIND

270

Step 1: Turn 20 towards


course to re-intercept

TO

OBS

HDG

Tracking: Staying on Course

090

WIND

270

Step 2: Wait until the needle is


re-centered

TO

OBS

HDG

Tracking: Staying on Course

270

090

TO

WIND

net result

Step 3: once needle is recentered, turn heading back


half way of correction angle
(10)
Tweak with smaller corrections
as necessary to stay on course
(called bracketing)

OBS

HDG

A Warning

270

090

Notice the airplane isnt on the


090 radial? Its on 270!
But radials are FROM the
station!
We are on the 270 radial
But to go TO the station, we
must use the reciprocal
heading (090)

TO

OBS

HDG

The Danger: Reverse Sensing

090

FR

S
OB

270

If we put the 270 course in the


VOR, what would happen?
VORs are dumb! It assumes
you are going 270
The flag says FROM even
though you are going TO!
Remember: Heading doesnt
matter to a VOR!

HDG

The Danger: Reverse Sensing

090

Not to mention that FROM


flag when going TO the VOR!

FR

S
OB

270

If you are off course when


reverse sensing The needle
gives opposite indications
This airplane has the course to
the right, but the VOR shows it
off to the left!

HDG

Avoid Reverse Sensing

090

FR

S
OB

270

Is reverse sensing confusing?


Thats why you should avoid it!
Insure the VOR course
selected generally matches the
heading you are flying

HDG

Tricky Wording

090
No!

FR

S
OB

270

If told track the 270 radial to


the station
Watch out! Radials ONLY go
FROM the station!!!
Instead, track the reciprocal
heading (notice you are on
270 but tracking 090?)

No!

HDG

Finding Intersections
030

270

090

Heading

VOR 1

VOR 2

TO

TO

OBS

OBS

HDG

210

An VOR intersection is a point


where a radial from one VOR
crosses a radial from a second
VOR

Finding Intersections
030

Step 1: Set VOR 2 to desired


intersecting radial

In this case: 030


Be sure to tune and ID for
VOR 2
090

270

Heading

VOR 1

VOR 2

TO
FR

O
BS

210

OBS

HDG

Finding Intersections
030

Step 2: Wait for VOR 2s


needle to center

Its recommended to use VOR


1 for the course you are on,
VOR 2 for intersections
090

270

Heading

VOR 1

VOR 2

TO
FR

O
BS

210

OBS

HDG

Finding Intersections Made Easy


030

270

Heading

A Trick: if we use the heading (East or


090 on the heading indicator) and find
this on the VOR 2 dial, 090 on VOR 2
is the same side as the CDI needle:
Same Side Safe (you havent
reached the intersection yet)
If the CDI is on the opposite side,
youve passed the intersection.

VOR 1

VOR 2

TO
FR

O
BS

210

OBS

HDG

If CDI is same side as heading, you


havent reached the intersection
(Same Side Safe)

Finding Intersections
030

270

Once the VOR 2 needle is


centered, you are at the
intersection

090

Heading

VOR 1

VOR 2

TO
FR

O
BS

210

OBS

HDG

VOR Failure
Tune and ID but no ID signal?
The VOR station may be
inoperative (check NOTAMS)

VOR flag on the indicator?


N
A
V

Station or indicator may be


inoperative

VORs must be checked for


accuracy every 30 days for
use in IFR flight
see 14 CFR 91.171 for details

FR

OBS

Quiz Time!

Quiz #1
Where is this aircraft relative to the VOR?
Heading

VOR 1

TO

OBS

HDG

Quiz #1
Where is this aircraft relative to the VOR?
045
Heading

VOR 1

TO

OBS

HDG

225

Quiz #2
Where is this aircraft relative to the VOR?
Heading

VOR 1

FR

S
OB

HDG

Quiz #2
Where is this aircraft relative to the VOR?
330
Heading

VOR 1

FR

S
OB

HDG

150

Quiz #3
Where is this aircraft relative to the VOR?
Heading

VOR 1

TO

OBS

HDG

Quiz #3
Where is this aircraft relative to the VOR?
030
Heading

VOR 1

TO

OBS

HDG

210

Quiz #4
Where is this aircraft relative to the VOR?
Heading

VOR 1

TO
FR

OB
S

HDG

Quiz #4
Where is this aircraft relative to the VOR?
315
Heading

VOR 1
TO side of 135
TO
FR

OB
S

HDG

FROM side of 135

135

Quiz #5
Where is this aircraft relative to the VOR?
Heading

VOR 1

TO

HDG

S
OB

Quiz #5
Where is this aircraft relative to the VOR?
290
Heading

VOR 1

TO

HDG

110

S
OB

Reverse Sensing

Further Reading
FAA-H-8083-15A Instrument Flying
Handbook Chapter 7
FAA-H-8083-25 Pilots Handbook of
Aeronautical Knowledge Chapter 14