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All of Our Navigational “Eggs” in One Basket

As an Eagle Scout, I’ve always been a proponent of being prepared, and having a backup plan.  Ever since we demonstrated the ASAT program back in the 80’s, we’ve known that satellites were easy to shoot down.  Now there are emerging technologies that make that task even easier and cheaper.  There are LASERs and killer satellites only to name a few.  And we can’t forget the fact Mother Nature (an employee of God) can wipe out or interfere with satellites with sun spots or other natural phenomena.

So, if you put all of your navigational hopes on Global Positioning System, and the Chinese or somebody else knocks down a couple of satellites or they are knocked off line by solar activity, you have a bad situation.  At best, planes are grounded, and lots of people on the ground have to stop and ask for directions.  At worst, airborne aircraft lose all ability to navigate while in the weather and lives are lost from the resulting crashes, the military can’t employ many of its “smart” weapons, and aviation is crippled.

Maybe I’m crazy, or maybe I’m dumb like a fox.  But it seems to me that having a backup air navigation system would be a good idea.




Congress calls for study of GPS backup

By Sarah Brown

As VORs are being decommissioned and with loran-C on the chopping block, pilots are relying more on satellite-based technology for navigation—but what will happen if there is a GPS outage? The House of Representatives is calling for the Coast Guard and Department of Transportation to study whether there is a continued need for a backup navigation system to GPS.

The House voted Oct. 23 to authorize Coast Guard programs for the current fiscal year. The bill included an amendment to require a study on whether a backup for GPS is needed and an investigation of the capabilities of available backup technologies such as long-range navigation (loran).

Rep. Frank A. LoBiondo (R-N.J.), ranking member of the Coast Guard and maritime transportation subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, introduced the amendment with Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine).

“In many regions around the country, the GPS can be found unreliable,” LoBiondo said as he proposed the amendment. “… Our amendment would simply require the two departments to study the issue of whether a backup to the GPS is needed for safe navigation and report the findings to Congress.”

The amendment would require the Coast Guard and Department of Transportation to “analyze the impact of the termination of a supplemental system may have on maritime and aviation safety, including general aviation.” Loran is a potential ground-based backup system to GPS. A previous study commissioned by the Department of Transportation already has recommended that the government complete its upgrade to enhanced loran (eLoran) so that the upgraded system can serve as a backup.

The Coast Guard currently maintains loran-C, but the conference report for this year’s Homeland Security appropriations bill allows decommissioning loran-C if the Coast Guard determines it is not needed as a backup to GPS. The House passed the conference report Oct. 15.



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