There are four rules to using the VOR to navigate. The first two everybody knows:
1. To identify what radial you’re on from a VOR, turn the OBS knob until the needle centers with a FROM indication on the ambiguity indicator.
2. To go directly to a VOR, turn the OBS knob until the needle centers with a TO indicator on the ambiguity indicator and then fly the heading at the top of the OBS ring.
But the next two are the most important ones. I use a mnemonic of “In the bottom, out the top.” If you want to go inbound on a radial, dial the number in on the bottom of the OBS ring, if you want to go outbound on a radial, dial it in at the top. In
. Here it is, step by step:
3. To fly outbound on a radial, turn the OBS knob until the desired radial appears at the top of the OBS ring, then turn to a heading that is on the same side of the dial as the needle (not
left or right).
4. To fly inbound on a radial, turn the OBS knob until the desired radial appears at the bottom of the OBS ring, then turn to a heading that is on the same side of the dial as the needle (not
left or right).
The critical part is “turn to a heading that is on the same side of the dial as the needle.” This doesn't mean turn right if the needle is to the right, it means, look on the dial for a number, then reference your heading indicator to determine if you need to make a right or left turn
to get to that heading and then turn.
This works from any position around the VOR, no matter what your heading, and you don't need to have any idea where you are around the VOR as long as you correctly
tell the VOR what you want to do by using “In the bottom, out the top”.
If you master #3 and #4, you will never be confused about VOR navigation. The important point is to use these mechanically. If you try to visualize your position around the VOR, you will be slow and often incorrect. I expect about a 3 second reaction time to being assigned a radial to intercept and seeing a turn in the correct direction.
There are also some additional skills that can be gleaned from a VOR. I think it's helpful to be able to glance at the VOR and know immediately where you are with respect to a particular radial and the VOR. For instance, where are you with respect the the radial and the VOR with these needle indications?
The mnemonic is "you're where the needle's not". The needle is to the west, which means you're to the east of the radial, so you're somewhere in the blue:
If you have a heading of 270, you know you haven't reached the radial yet. If the radial is a cross radial defining an intersection, you're not there.
You can get more info by using the ambiguity indicator. If it's "FROM", you're on the same side of the VOR as the radial you have selected, meaning you're here:
Somewhere to the northeast, between 360 CW 090.