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NDB Continuation - an abuse of power?

As we enter 2020, students remain subject to this utterly irrelevant training. The students enrolling are at an age where they are vulnerable to believe just about anything told to them. As no modern aircraft is delivered with the said antique and no approach using it to published minimums is safe in the era of more modern technologies – there is is no conceivable reason for such legacy remaining. So why does it remain?

I do ponder about the “powers” in various countries who insist on such continuation and ask two simple questions, without my own conclusion?

(1) are these “powers” perhaps the biggest benefactor financially?
(2) are these “powers” perhaps the sole [only] benefactor of the training?

Perhaps it is time that the pilot community started calling this what is really might be when speaking with regulators.


Channel Islands

In the US NDBs are not part of the IR syllabus anymore, and knowledge is not tested. Don’t know about PPL training.

The Czech CAA is no longer requiring NDB approaches on IR skill tests. On the other hand, there are still lots of NDB-only small IFR aerodromes even in Europe, not to mention other regions of the world. Also, given the increasingly frequent GPS outages around Northern Europe, presumably due to jamming by the Russian military (even though they energetically deny it), ADF may be useful for emergency backup en route.

LKBU (near Prague), Czech Republic

I have a KR-87 ADF and KN-62 DME sitting about so I’m going to drop them into the 206 panel. Don’t see the harm in them for training/practice.

Buying, Selling, Flying
EIBR, Ireland

pistonfever wrote:

(1) are these “powers” perhaps the biggest benefactor financially?
(2) are these “powers” perhaps the sole [only] benefactor of the training?

I think you have probably overreacted; the conspiracy theory is somewhat far fetched in my opinion. I think it’s more to do with inertia and the fact that nobody wants to be the one to advocate change.

Darley Moor, Gamston (UK)

In the UK there is an NDB approach option at the majority of airfields that have instrument approaches. Should it not therefore be part of IR training? And that should be the case until that is no longer the case.

Last Edited by Bathman at 19 Jan 19:36

I cannot remember when was the last time I used an ADF for navigation, not even for the IFR proficiency check. But I know several who practice NDB approaches regularly, and one of them made a point that with ILS systems starting to disappear, to be replaced by GPS approaches, the backup approach at many of those airfields will be NDB approaches in case of GPS outages. ILS decommissioning has been happening in France for some time now, and will undoubtedly come to other countries, if it has not already. The plan was originally to do away with all ground based procedures, but with ever more cases of GPS jamming the need for backup has become more visible. While the NDB technology is old and the equipment worn, it is still much, much cheaper for an airport to maintain an NDB and a procedure, than having an ILS. In some parts of the world I believe that NDB’s are still an important part of the IFR infrastructure.

With more and more IFR airplanes loosing the ADF, and with very few IFR pilots keeping up the skills, I am not sure this makes sense to us, but it is definitely true that for many years the plan was to go all in on GPS and not think much about the need for backup procedures. But that may be changing. Should we bring back in the SRE and GCA equipment, or maybe the VDF?

EKRK, Denmark

I seem to recall discussion in regulatory circles a few years back about alternatives in case of GPS outage, with a for-purpose designed LORAN network being one of the candidates. Haven’t heard anything about that for some time now though, so it has likely died. A bit of a shame since it seemed to have potential as a less expensive and more flexible alternative to NDB.

LSZK, Switzerland

I often hear such animosity toward the NDB.
However I made use of the ADF in so much of my VFR flying in the early years that for the small comparative cost it seems to me sensible to keep some for backup.
For my IMC rating, all holds were NDB holds.
Plenty still are. I always enjoyed it.
To be super accurate was difficult, but to achieve a safe hold patern was easy.
I really don’t understand why people get so worked-up about it.

United Kingdom

@chflyer, I have been following the eLoran development. It’s neither dead nor alive – some companies like Ursa Navigation Solutions and Hellen Systems are working on it, but it will take serious governmental and intergovernmental involvement for Loran to come back into air navigation.

@GA_Pete, I concur. It’s actually quite easy, and I heard more than once from military pilots that even with VOR, they would rather use RMI than CDI.

LKBU (near Prague), Czech Republic
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