Long Range Aid to Navigation System (LORAN) | Aircraft Systems

Long Range Aid to Navigation System (LORAN)

Long range aid to navigation system (LORAN) is a type of RNAV that is no longer available in the United States. It was developed during World War II, and the most recent edition, LORAN-C, has been very useful and accurate to aviators as well as maritime sailors. LORAN uses radio wave pulses from a series of towers and an on-board receiver/computer to positively locate an aircraft amid the tower network. There are twelve LORAN transmitter tower “chains” constructed across North America. Each chain has a master transmitter tower and a handful of secondary towers. All broadcasts from the transmitters are at the same frequency, 100 KHz. Therefore, a LORAN receiver does not need to be tuned. Being in the low frequency range, the LORAN transmissions travel long distances and provide good coverage from a small number of stations.

Precisely-timed, synchronized pulse signals are transmitted from the towers in a chain. The LORAN receiver measures the time to receive the pulses from the master tower and two other towers in the chain. It calculates the aircraft’s position based on the intersection of parabolic curves representing elapsed signal times from each of these known points.

Long Range Aid to Navigation System (LORAN)
Panel-mounted LORAN units are now obsolete as LORAN signals are no longer generated from the tower network

The accuracy and proliferation of GPS navigation has caused the U.S. Government to cease support for the LORAN navigation system citing redundancy and expense of operating the towers as reasons. The LORAN chain in the Aleutian Island shared with Russia is the only LORAN chain at the time of printing of this handbook which had not yet been given a date for closure. Panel-mounted LORAN navigation units will likely be removed and replaced by GPS units in aircraft that have not already done so.