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Tue, Dec 26, 2006

UK Company Asks For Proposals To Modify Loran Stations

'eLoran' Considered As Backup For ADS-B

Although global positioning system technology is advancing by leaps and bounds, pilots shouldn't toss out their old Loran receivers just yet. A British company's efforts to retain and modify the system as a backup for GPS is receiving careful scrutiny in the US, as well.

FCW.com reports Trinity House, a United Kingdom company that provides maritime navigation aides throughout England, Wales, and Gibraltar, issued a request for proposals earlier this month for an enhanced long-range navigation system -- dubbed eLoran -- for pilots.

The company points out that ground-based loran radio signals are not as susceptible to jamming or disruptions that can sometimes plague GPS satellites.

As Aero-News reported earlier this year, several US organizations -- including the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Assocation -- have called on the FAA to retain loran transmitters now in place throughout the lower 48 states and sections of Alaska. Such a system is needed, AOPA says, as a backup in the event the agency's proposed GPS-based Automatic Dependant Surveillance-Broadcast system (ADS-B) goes down.

The UK's intent to pursue an eLoran backup system "sends a very strong signal to the US to go ahead" with its own eLoran system, said Aviation Management Associates consultant Mike Harrison.

Harrison, who recently co-authored a white paper advocating such a backup to the FAA, notes the government admits GPS signals can be jammed, possibly by terrorists. Two terrorism suspects arrested in Atlanta earlier this year planned attacks against GPS, he added.

Unintentional attacks can muck up GPS signals, as well. A report by General Lighthouse Authorities of the UK notes GPS signals covering a section of land 60 miles south of San Francisco, CA were jammed for nearly a month in 2001, due to an amplified television antenna near Moss Landing Harbor.

Signals are much stronger from eLoran systems, advocates say, so they're less susceptible to jamming.

Furthermore, the Aviation Management report says the FAA could implement such an eLoran program relatively cheaply, thanks in part to the agency's foresight. The FAA has already invested $160 million to modernize existing Loran transmitters since 1997, so bringing those stations up to eLoran standards could be done for between $24 million and $27 million.

FMI: www.trinityhouse.co.uk/, www.avmgt.com, www.faa.gov

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