AIM 1-1-15

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1-1-15. LORAN

FIG 1-1-11 U.S. and Canadian LORAN System Architecture

a. Introduction


In accordance with the 2010 DHS Appropriations Act, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) terminated the transmission of all U.S. LORAN-C signals on 08 Feb 2010. The USCG also terminated the transmission of the Russian American signals on 01 Aug 2010, and the Canadian LORAN-C signals on 03 Aug 2010. For more information, visit Operators should also note that TSO-C60b, AIRBORNE AREA NAVIGATION EQUIPMENT USING LORAN-C INPUTS, has been canceled by the FAA.

1. The LOng RAnge Navigation-C (LORAN) system is a hyperbolic, terrestrial-based navigation system operating in the 90-110 kHz frequency band. LORAN, operated by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), has been in service for over 50 years and is used for navigation by the various transportation modes, as well as, for precise time and frequency applications. The system is configured to provide reliable, all weather navigation for marine users along the U.S. coasts and in the Great Lakes.

2. In the 1980's, responding to aviation user and industry requests, the USCG and FAA expanded LORAN coverage to include the entire continental U.S. This work was completed in late 1990, but the LORAN system failed to gain significant user acceptance and primarily due to transmitter and user equipment performance limitations, attempts to obtain FAA certification of nonprecision approach capable receivers were unsuccessful. More recently, concern regarding the vulnerability of Global Positioning System (GPS) and the consequences of losing GPS on the critical U.S. infrastructure (e.g., NAS) has renewed and refocused attention on LORAN.

3. LORAN is also supported in the Canadian airspace system. Currently, LORAN receivers are only certified for en route navigation.

4. Additional information can be found in the "LORAN-C User Handbook," COMDT PUB-P16562.6, or the website

b. LORAN Chain

1. The locations of the U.S. and Canadian LORAN transmitters and monitor sites are illustrated in FIG 1-1-11. Station operations are organized into subgroups of four to six stations called "chains." One station in the chain is designated the "Master" and the others are "secondary" stations. The resulting chain based coverage is seen in FIG 1-1-12.

FIG 1-1-12 LORAN Chain Based Coverage

2. The LORAN navigation signal is a carefully structured sequence of brief radio frequency pulses centered at 100 kHz. The sequence of signal transmissions consists of a pulse group from the Master (M) station followed at precise time intervals by groups from the secondary stations, which are designated by the U.S. Coast Guard with the letters V, W, X, Y and Z. All secondary stations radiate pulses in groups of eight, but for identification the Master signal has an additional ninth pulse. (See FIG 1-1-13.) The timing of the LORAN system is tightly controlled and synchronized to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). Like the GPS, this is a Stratum 1 timing standard.

3. The time interval between the reoccurrence of the Master pulse group is called the Group Repetition Interval (GRI). The GRI is the same for all stations in a chain and each LORAN chain has a unique GRI. Since all stations in a particular chain operate on the same radio frequency, the GRI is the key by which a LORAN receiver can identify and isolate signal groups from a specific chain.

EXAMPLE- Transmitters in the Northeast U.S. chain (FIG 1-1-14) operate with a GRI of 99,600 microseconds which is shortened to 9960 for convenience. The master station (M) at Seneca, New York, controls secondary stations (W) at Caribou, Maine; (X) at Nantucket, Massachusetts; (Y) at Carolina Beach, North Carolina, and (Z) at Dana, Indiana. In order to keep chain operations precise, monitor receivers are located at Cape Elizabeth, ME; Sandy Hook, NJ; Dunbar Forest, MI, and Plumbrook, OH. Monitor receivers continuously measure various aspects of the quality (e.g., pulse shape) and accuracy (e.g., timing) of LORAN signals and report system status to a control station.

4. The line between the Master and each secondary station is the "baseline" for a pair of stations. Typical baselines are from 600 to 1,000 nautical miles in length. The continuation of the baseline in either direction is a "baseline extension."

5. At the LORAN transmitter stations there are cesium oscillators, transmitter time and control equipment, a transmitter, primary power (e.g., commercial or generator) and auxiliary power equipment (e.g., uninterruptible power supplies and generators), and a transmitting antenna (configurations may either have 1 or 4 towers) with the tower heights ranging from 700 to 1350 feet tall. Depending on the coverage area requirements a LORAN station transmits from 400 to 1,600 kilowatts of peak signal power.

6. The USCG operates the LORAN transmitter stations under a reduced staffing structure that is made possible by the remote control and monitoring of the critical station and signal parameters. The actual control of the transmitting station is accomplished remotely at Coast Guard Navigation Center (NAVCEN) located in Alexandria, Virginia. East Coast and Midwest stations are controlled by the NAVCEN. Stations on the West Coast and in Alaska are controlled by the NAVCEN Detachment (Det), located in Petaluma, California. In the event of a problem at one of these two 24 hour-a-day staffed sites, monitoring and control of the entire LORAN system can be done at either location. If both NACEN and NAVCEN Det are down or if there is an equipment problem at a specific station, local station personnel are available to operate and perform repairs at each LORAN station.

7. The transmitted signal is also monitored in the service areas (i.e., area of published LORAN coverage) and its status provided to NAVCEN and NAVCEN Det. The System Area Monitor (SAM) is a single site used to observe the transmitted signal (signal strength, time difference, and pulse shape). If an out-of-tolerance situation that could affect navigation accuracy is detected, an alert signal called "Blink" is activated. Blink is a distinctive change in the group of eight pulses that can be recognized automatically by a receiver so the user is notified instantly that the LORAN system should not be used for navigation. Out-of-tolerance situations which only the local station can detect are also monitored. These situations when detected cause signal transmissions from a station to be halted.

8. Each individual LORAN chain provides navigation-quality signal coverage over an identified area as shown in FIG 1-1-15 for the West Coast chain, GRI 9940. The chain Master station is at Fallon, Nevada, and secondary stations are at George, Washington; Middletown, California, and Searchlight, Nevada. In a signal coverage area the signal strength relative to the normal ambient radio noise must be adequate to assure successful reception. Similar coverage area charts are available for all chains.

FIG 1-1-13 The LORAN Pulse and Pulse Group
FIG 1-1-14 Northeast U.S. LORAN Chain
FIG 1-1-15 West Coast U.S. LORAN Chain

c. The LORAN Receiver

1. For a currently certified LORAN aviation receiver to provide navigation information for a pilot, it must successfully receive, or "acquire," signals from three or more stations in a chain. Acquisition involves the time synchronization of the receiver with the chain GRI, identification of the Master station signals from among those checked, identification of secondary station signals, and the proper selection of the tracking point on each signal at which measurements are made. However, a new generation of receivers has been developed that use pulses from all stations that can be received at the pilot's location. Use of "all-in-view" stations by a receiver is made possible due to the synchronization of LORAN stations signals to UTC. This new generation of receivers, along with improvements at the transmitting stations and changes in system policy and operations doctrine may allow for LORAN's use in nonprecision approaches. At this time these receivers are available for purchase, but none have been certified for aviation use.

2. The basic measurements made by certified LORAN receivers are the differences in time-of-arrival between the Master signal and the signals from each of the secondary stations of a chain. Each "time difference" (TD) value is measured to a precision of about 0.1 microseconds. As a rule of thumb, 0.1 microsecond is equal to about 100 feet.

3. An aircraft's LORAN receiver must recognize three signal conditions:

(a) Usable signals;

(b) Absence of signals, and

(c) Signal blink.

4. The most critical phase of flight is during the approach to landing at an airport. During the approach phase the receiver must detect a lost signal, or a signal Blink, within 10 seconds of the occurrence and warn the pilot of the event. At this time there are no receivers that are certified for nonprecision approaches.

5. Most certified receivers have various internal tests for estimating the probable accuracy of the current TD values and consequent navigation solutions. Tests may include verification of the timing alignment of the receiver clock with the LORAN pulse, or a continuous measurement of the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR). SNR is the relative strength of the LORAN signals compared to the local ambient noise level. If any of the tests fail, or if the quantities measured are out of the limits set for reliable navigation, then an alarm will be activated to alert the pilot.

6. LORAN signals operate in the low frequency band (90-110 kHz) that has been reserved for marine navigation signals. Adjacent to the band, however, are numerous low frequency communications transmitters. Nearby signals can distort the LORAN signals and must be eliminated by the receiver to assure proper operation. To eliminate interfering signals, LORAN receivers have selective internal filters. These filters, commonly known as "notch filters," reduce the effect of interfering signals.

7. Careful installation of antennas, good metal-to-metal electrical bonding, and provisions for precipitation noise discharge on the aircraft are essential for the successful operation of LORAN receivers. A LORAN antenna should be installed on an aircraft in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions. Corroded bonding straps should be replaced, and static discharge devices installed at points indicated by the aircraft manufacturer.

d. LORAN Navigation

1. An airborne LORAN receiver has four major parts:

(a) Signal processor;

(b) Navigation computer;

(c) Control/display, and

(d) Antenna.

2. The signal processor acquires LORAN signals and measures the difference between the time-of-arrival of each secondary station pulse group and the Master station pulse group. The measured TDs depend on the location of the receiver in relation to the three or more transmitters.

FIG 1-1-16 First Line-of-Position

(a) The first TD will locate an aircraft somewhere on a line-of-position (LOP) on which the receiver will measure the same TD value.

(b) A second LOP is defined by a TD measurement between the Master station signal and the signal from another secondary station.

FIG 1-1-17 Second Line-of-Position

(c) The intersection of the measured LOPs is the position of the aircraft.

FIG 1-1-18 Intersection of Lines-of-Position

3. The navigation computer converts TD values to corresponding latitude and longitude. Once the time and position of the aircraft are established at two points, distance to destination, cross track error, ground speed, estimated time of arrival, etc., can be determined. Cross track error can be displayed as the vertical needle of a course deviation indicator, or digitally, as decimal parts of a mile left or right of course.

e. Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs) are issued for LORAN chain or station outages. Domestic NOTAM (D)s are issued under the identifier "LRN." International NOTAMs are issued under the KNMH series. Pilots may obtain these NOTAMs from FSS briefers upon request.

f. LORAN status information. To find out more information on the LORAN system and its operational status you can visit or contact NAVCEN's Navigation Information Service (NIS) watchstander, phone (703) 313-5900, fax (703) 313-5920.

NOTE - In accordance with the 2010 DHS Appropriations Act, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) terminated the transmission of all U.S. LORAN-C signals on 08 Feb 2010. The USCG also terminated the transmission of the Russian American signals on 01 Aug 2010, and the Canadian LORAN-C signals on 03 Aug 2010. For more information, visit Operators should also note that TSO-C60b, AIRBORNE AREA NAVIGATION EQUIPMENT USING LORAN-C INPUTS, has been canceled by the FAA.

g. LORAN's future. The U.S. will continue to operate the LORAN system in the short term. During this time, the FAA LORAN evaluation program, being conducted with the support of a team comprising government, academia, and industry, will identify and assess LORAN's potential contributions to required navigation services for the National Airspace System (NAS), and support decisions regarding continued operation of the system. If the government concludes LORAN should not be kept as part of the mix of federally provided radio navigation systems, it will give the users of LORAN reasonable notice so that they will have the opportunity to transition to alternative navigation aids.

Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) — Chapter 1
1-1-1 - 1-1-2 - 1-1-3 - 1-1-4 - 1-1-5 - 1-1-6 - 1-1-7 - 1-1-8 - 1-1-9 - 1-1-10 - 1-1-11 - 1-1-12 - 1-1-13 - 1-1-14 - 1-1-15 - 1-1-16 - 1-1-17 - 1-1-18 - 1-1-19 - 1-1-20 - 1-1-21 - 1-1-22
1-2-1 - 1-2-2 - 1-2-3