Seal Beach VOR Out of Service

“If we raise the roof, then phat beats will come.”  At least, that’s what Jon says.

And perhaps that’s what the FAA had in mind when they shut down the Seal Beach VOR last week to rebuild the roof.

I keep thinking that this must be some serious repair job.  I imagine a fraternity from Cal State Long Beach trashing the place during a knock-down-drag-out keg party.  A VOR transmitter is pretty small.  If the roof on a house can be replaced in a week, I wonder why it’s going to take so long to fix one that’s significantly smaller?  Could it be because the government is doing it?


Perhaps it’s a testament to the widespread use of GPS that one of the nation’s most frequently used VOR stations can be out of service for more than a month without causing a meltdown of traffic in the Los Angeles area.

Every northbound IFR flight out of John Wayne Airport gets radar vectors to Seal Beach as the start of their clearance.  Departures and arrivals into many (perhaps most) airports around here use Seal Beach in some way.  If you look at an IFR chart, you’ll see that Seal Beach sits in the heart of Southern California.  Pretty much everything rotates around it.

I’m surprised they aren’t using a temporary or portable VOR.  I believe they used one of those when the Filmore VOR burned down during the fires a couple of years ago.

I count 44 instrument approach, arrival, or departure procedures listed in the NOTAM.  Many of these are listed as N/A (not available) until SLI is back online, the rest are changed in some way from what’s printed on the plates.

I forsee some confusion, especially if we get actual IMC around here, because it seems that the FAA’s left hand doesn’t know what the right one is doing.  For example, I flew the ILS into Torrance a few days ago, and when we executed the missed approach procedure, the controller told us to hold “as published”.  This raised a question in my mind.  I said, “Published where?”, thinking he might be referring to the NOTAM.

Nope.  He wasn’t aware of any change on the ILS 29R missed approach procedure.  He was aware the the VOR was offline, though.  And it gets better: on a tower enroute flight from Santa Monica to John Wayne, another controller cleared us “direct Seal Beach”.

Ah well.  At least they waited until after the June gloom to perform this maintenance.

  1 comment for “Seal Beach VOR Out of Service

  1. July 17, 2006 at 8:14 pm

    There’s a similar issue right now with the Sacramento VOR. It went down at the beginning of June for a month, but it’s still down. Obviously there’s little chance of real IFR this time of year in the SAC valley, but it makes things interesting for IFR training flights. Last Saturday I had a student do a practice ILS RWY 2 approach to SAC and request the published missed, which is a hold over the SAC VOR. The controller didn’t skip a beat and apparently just assumed we would hold using our GPS. After a turn in the hold, we requested a practice VOR A approach to Rio Vista and he again approved it (there is no VOR overlay).

    There are a range of radials on the Oakland VORTAC that have been unusable for several years, but that never stops Oakland Center from giving pilots “direct Oakland.” I once reminded a controller that the range of radials we would track were NOTAMed as unusable and he just said “Fly heading 150, WHEN ABLE, direct Oakland.”

    I think you’re right – one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing …

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