Thursday, January 14, 2010


I already commented on the decommissioning of LORAN-C at N631S. In addition, here are two excerpts from my book, Understanding Mathematics for Aircraft Navigation.

p. xiv [A World War II story from my father]: "...enroute to tiny Eniwetok, they were unable to make celestial sights due to weather. He and another officer decided to try the ship's LORAN. The LORAN worked and gave them an indication of their position, but the captain refused to believe it."

p. 168 "[they] might have been more successful if they had used the LORAN in their daily navigational chores, rather than waiting until a crisis. The accumulated experience might have tempered the captain's skepticism. Conversely, older methods that aren't used at every opportunity become rusty and unreliable, especially in an emergency."

Someone once noted that a large number of navigators have been replaced by a small number of engineers. The engineers have made our navigational lives immeasurably easier. But shit happens, so it is important to practice the basics. I don't mean that you have to torture yourself and turn off all of your avionics; looking at a chart and keeping a navigation log keeps your dead reckoning and piloting skills current.

Instead of playing my "old man" card and bemoaning the decommissioning of the last CONSOLAN station within my lifetime (it was on Nantucket), here's something more positive, an essay from the National Air & Space Museum blog on the remnants of the lighted airway system, and some chart scans that show the beacons. I'm ashamed to say that I have never navigated by these beacons, despite a lot of Montana flying. I missed out on the four-course range and CONSOLAN and DECCA and OMEGA-VLF, so I should get myself back up there and see for myself.

Of course I want LORAN to stay, even if it goes, remember:
back yourself up; fly safely!

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At January 14, 2010 at 4:36 PM , Blogger Frank Van Haste said...


Thanks for including the sectional clip. Interesting to us flatlanders. The "36F" designation seems cross-threaded with the Morse "K" (if you believe (and I do) the Smithsonian's writer. But it's nice that those antiques are still around and still guiding aviators through the dark of night.

(Oh, and thanks for the h/t.)

Best regards,



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