$100 Hamburger Flight: Palm Springs VOR

This is for FSBreak 37.

We highly recommend downloading the full document here, you will find screenshots and sectionals!

If you flew the two previous $100 Hamburger flights (Lost in Traffic, and the ZLA Swarm Event) you should now be a master of your COM radios and your Transponder. In this flight were going to learn how to use your NAV radios to navigate the airways using VORs.

What is a VOR? (VHF Omnidirectional Range)
I think this definition from the excellent website (Recommended by Danton) sums it up best:

 The VHF Omnidirectional Range navigation system, VOR, was probably the most significant aviation invention other than the jet engine. With it, a pilot can simply, accurately, and without ambiguity navigate from Point A to Point B.

 The widespread introduction of VORs began in the early 1950s and 50 years later it remains the primary navigation system in the overwhelming majority of aircraft.

 The basic principle of operation of the VOR is very simple: the VOR facility transmits two signals at the same time. One signal is constant in all directions, while the other is rotated about the station. The airborne equipment receives both signals, looks (electronically) at the difference between the two signals, and interprets the result as a radial from the station.

 The GPS, Global Positioning System, is making inroads onto the navigation scene and offers a flexibility unavailable with either NDB or VOR systems. However, it is supplementing these systems, not replacing them.

What is a DME? (Distance Measuring Equipment)
Aircraft use DME to determine their distance from a land-based transponder by sending and receiving pulse pairs - two pulses of fixed duration and separation. The ground stations are typically collocated with VORs, as shown in the picture above.

In short, VORs allow you to navigate to a specific location, from anywhere as long as you are in range. DME’s tell you how far away you are from a particular VOR Point.

The positives are pretty obvious over Dead Reckoning. Since a VOR transmits in ALL DIRECTIONS you can navigate to a specific geographic point from any direction. You are no longer relying on specific headings, and correcting your headings when you are off course. A DME is helpful, but not needed as we will learn in our flight.


A basic tutorial on how to tune to a VOR and navigate…
First and Foremost…
Select an aircraft you are comfortable with flying, and are fairly familiar with where the instruments are at and how to operate them.

NAV Radio

VORs are activated by entering the provided frequency into your Navigation radio (In this case, NAV 1 is just right of COMM 1, and NAV 2 right below NAV 1). The Navigation radios are activated  by clicking the “Nav 1” or “Nav 2” buttons.

After tuning either of the NAV radios to a valid frequency, you will hear a Morse Code tone with the VOR’s station ID. These codes can be found on the sectional chart for that particular VOR.

It is a great idea to tune the frequencies you will need while on the ground.


Omni Bearing Selector (OBS)
After you have tuned your NAV 1 radio to the correct frequency, you will need to use your OBS knob (In the photo above, the lower left knob) to narrow on to the VOR, this is done by rotating the knob until the Arrow is pointing to your VOR. This process is done after takeoff past 1,000 feet, as VORs are only line of sight.


Here is an example of a tuned OBS. In this case the VOR is facing 12 o’clock in front of my airport. This can face any direction, as long as the arrow is straight:

You will follow the OBS similar to how you would follow your heading indicator.  You may need to keep on tuning the OBS while in flight, since your orientation may change. The goal is to keep the arrow straight.

Distance Measuring Equipment (DME)
If you aircraft has DME, and the frequency you are tuning has both VOR and DME capabilities, you will see the distance away from your VOR:

In this case, we are 12.1nm from the VOR we are tracking. If the frequency does not have DME capabilities, you will not see any information here. 

Our Flight
If you were up with us during the Swarm 2009 Event, you will find this flight fairly familiar. We will be taking off from Van Nuys (KVNY) and landing at Palm Springs (KPSP). We will not be using any headings for this flight, instead you will be provided with VOR frequencies. You will need to key them in to your Navigation radio, and follow the VOR using the OBS Gauge.

Cruise Altitude: 5,000-6,000ft

Aircraft: A Single/Double Prop Aircraft that you know well

Weather: Real World Weather (15 Minutes)

-Depart: KVNY Runway 16R (Or Active Runway)

-Fly EAST, POMONA (POM) VOR/DME – Frequency 110.4

-RIVERSIDE (RAL) VOR – Frequency 112.4

-Fly through Banning Pass (Slightly North after passing RIVERSIDE VOR) while tuning to PALM SPRINGS (PSP) VOR/DME– Frequency 115.5

-Land: KPSP Active Runway

Flight Notes

1. Watch what happens when you get close to the POM VOR. You will notice that as you get closer, you will be fine tuning it more and more. Since you’re nearly on top of the VOR station, it will get very touchy when you are near it. At some point you will need to give up on fine-tuning the OBS knob and pass the VOR, I found the cutoff distance around 1.5nm or so away. When you pass the VOR, you will see your arrow flip, as the VOR is now behind you.

Remember this behavior because the second VOR (RAL) does NOT support DME, so you will need to use the sensitivity of the OBS Arrow to determine how close you are to the VOR, and when you have passed it.

2. Through the Banning Pass, you will need to adjust your altitude as needed.

3. Near the PSP VOR in real life there are many Wind Turbines. If you look up the sectional, you will see the highest windmill is 1980ft MS

I would encourage everyone to use the tools we have recommended over the past months such as and create their own flight map.

However, here is one that you can use just to make sure you have the right idea when making your own. I’ve covered up the Headings that SkyVector puts in with their flight planning tool, as navigating using just headings would make this learning exercise worthless! This burger flight is designed to introduce you to the Nav Radios, the OBS, and the DME on your aircraft, and how to navigate using VORs, and how a VOR acts differently from a VOR/DME.

When You're Done...

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