What pilots use VOR navigation: GA pilots, commercial pilots, military pilots? When is it most used?

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    $\begingroup$ It may be useful to note that the VOR system is being (slowly) decommissioned. Mostly by not servicing the VOR stations anymore, when they stop working, they are decommissioned. Some VOR stations are being maintained, but the aviation system in the US is moving towards NexGen. VOR's are used by all the pilots you listed, and I'd say a majority of them are IFR pilots. $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Mar 2 '16 at 16:21
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    $\begingroup$ @RonBeyer It's important to note that the VOR system is not being decommissioned, it is being downsized to a "minimal operational network" (which is admittedly a major reduction from what's currently available). Ground-based navaids like VORs are expected to remain a part of the national airspace system for the foreseeable future. This slide deck is a bit dated, but the general information is still current $\endgroup$ – voretaq7 Mar 2 '16 at 17:04
  • $\begingroup$ @voretaq7 Decommissioned isn't the right word there, its being reduced to a "minimal navigational network" and giving navigational priority to GPS, keeping the VOR stations around in case of "widespread navigational satellite outage". While they may not have plans to fully decommission the VOR system, hanging on to it for backup to nav-sats is going to become less of an argument considering there are 2 different constellations (GPS and GLONASS) and two more in development (Galileo and BeiDou). $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Mar 2 '16 at 17:57
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    $\begingroup$ @RonBeyer This is getting into chat territory, but the reason they're hanging on to ground-based navaids (VOR, ILS) is that the failure modes for all satellite-based systems are similar: Multiple constellations and redundant satellites can't eliminate the catastrophic common-mode failures (ionospheric disturbance, solar flare, etc.), they just fix the "Oh crap, we lost a satellite!" problem. $\endgroup$ – voretaq7 Mar 2 '16 at 18:03
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    $\begingroup$ the last time I used VOR for primary navigation was on my IFR checkride $\endgroup$ – rbp Mar 2 '16 at 20:32

Im not sure on military but its still used by GA and Commercial pilots frequently. Although as has been noted in the comments it is slowly being downsized. It should also be noted that Commercial planes and GA planes use the same facilities and the same ATC. Once in the air a C172 may be given the same instructions as a 777 with the only differences being altitude and speed.

On one hand some VOR's are used for approaches to some airports. There is an effort to replace these with GPS approaches but there are still active VOR approaches out there today so anyone flying IFR to these airports needs them.

They are used for all sorts of IFR navigation and are often the terminal points on an airway, so you may be cleared after departure direct to a VOR.

VOR's can be used as a fixed point for a hold in IFR flying.

VOR navigation (and the use of paper charts for that matter) is still taught during PPL training since GPS is not necessarily installed in every plane.

Some FMS units use RNAV as a backup to GPS or inertial navigation.

This AOPA article covers most of their uses.

Personally, I am a big fan of GPS and fly direct when the airspaces and clearances allow for it (VFR). That being said, the planes I rent generally have dual Nav/CDI installations which I frequently use to cross check my position with the GPS.


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