Aviation oriented question - MZB VOR San Diego

Good day. Sitting enjoying the view from the Hyatt at Mission Bay in San Diego I see the MZB VOR is located on an artificial island in the bay. With literally tons of man made land surrounding, why is the station on its own island? Was it the NIMBY thing when first made? Security would not have been such as issue as today when constructed. Many VOR installations are in easily accessible locations for maintenance etc, next to highways and in fields and on hilltops and on airports. Google was no help so maybe some local folks know?

I don’t know for sure but guess it needs to be there for a VOR approach.

It looks like VOR was initially deployed just before Mission Bay started being dredged out of the salt marsh in earnest (late 1940s). So it could be that the VOR site was already chosen and the city had a separate idea of what should be land and what should be water.

It was one of the bits that was sort of land to begin with.

Jusding from your user name and location I assume you’re enjoying a layover at the Hyatt. Nice place, isn’t it? Many’s the night …

That is a darn good question. I know of no public source for the history of individual VOR installations or siting decisions. No way to learn of the when & why. Which would be a cool piece of aviation history to get access to.

A quick search of nearby airport IAPs says it’s too far and in the wrong place to support any local approaches.

It is a fix on many victor & jet airways, plus some routes from the open Pacific. But that could be equally true if it had been built anywhere within 20 miles of where it is.

This is 100% guesswork, and worth every penny you’ve paid for it …

VORs have a need for a flat base. They don’t go well on seriously hilly terrain. A small island in the shallow bay would be ideal. I suspect the island already existed even if it was improved for the VOR siting.

VORs are also line of sight. HEC is famous for being sited just west of a gumdrop mountain and for decades was used on the main arrival into LAX. Shame it couldn’t be received reliably until you were 30 miles out. The “vector to Hector” was just how the game was played pre-INS/GPS.

The San Diego area has the same issue. To get good reception 100+ miles east of the coast you want to site the thing well to the west of the coastal range just behind the city.

The MZB VOR hasn’t been there forever. I started flying in SoCal in the late 60s. IIRC it wasn’t there then, but appeared some time in the 1970s. By which time the price of land in coastal San Diego had gotten well above the FAA’s usual budget for farm- or range-land. And by which time the SoCal residents’ sensibilities didn’t much like RF emitters next door. Despite the relatively low power of VORs.
Bottom line: I’m betting, based on no more than semi-educated conjecture, that some combo of real estate cost and aeronautical siting issues pushed it into the bay.

If anybody knows of or learns of a history of VOR installations, please share.

ETA: not disagreeing with vd’s simulpost, but where do you find a ref to the construction of the MZB VOR? I’d like to read that.

There was a push in the 1970s to 1980s to rename VORs that were near airports but not on them. In the very Olden Tymes they put a VOR or NDB and an airport somewhere near a city and named both for that nearby city. As aviation advanced it became increasingly confusing that the town of Someplace was here, the Someplace airport was 20 miles south over there, and the Someplace VOR was 20 miles north near that other place.

So they changed the standards and retroactively renamed things to be different. By and large if a VOR was on an airport it retained the same name. If it wasn’t it didn’t. The farther apart the two sites, the sooner they changed things. There are still exceptions, but not nearly the volume there used to be.

Not sure if this is sufficiently on-topic, but . . .

I have lately also been wondering about the (seemingly) capricious placement of some VOR stations in northern Ca. (SFO sectional). In the rather ruggedly mountainous region between the Salinas River Valley (the highway 101 corridor) and the San Joaquin Valley (the San Benito mountain range, I think), there are several VOR’s in the area. It’s not obvious (to me anyway) if they’re on any important routes to any MAJOR airports, and they certainly aren’t near any airports other than a few dirt strips in some flat spots in the mountains.

There’s the Panoche (PXN) VORTAC (about 25 miles directly south of Los Banos into the hills). About 40 miles further south (and just a bit east), also very obscurely in the hills is the Priest (ROM) VOR, which is also about 17 miles west of Coalinga.

I’ve spent a lot of time looking at Google Earth View of this region lately, and these two VOR’s are very difficult to spot, being tucked away in the mountains. I’m told they’re even harder to find (visually) from, y’know, an actual aircraft (which I hope to try doing sometime in the next few months).

Further south, there’s the Avenal (AVE) VOR-DME (which isn’t really near Avenal) – at least this one is out in the open in a flat area full of orchards. It’s near the intersection of State Routes 46 and 33.

I don’t know of much airplane traffic in these mountains. Parts of this area are much more used by sailplanes doing their multi-hour and multi-hundred-mile XC wave flights. (Which I hope to be doing at a big glider fly-in on Memorial Day weekend, which is why I’ve been studying this area.) But they certainly aren’t putting VOR stations around for gliders to use!

Its a good position for it to be , in that if you were limitted to just heading toward the VOR,
you could easily find the airport. When you realise you were above the VOR you could then find the airport relatively easily.

Also the controlled air space definitions are centred on the VOR … “within a 25 mile radius of the VOR” and so on… I guess that the exact location in Mission Bay isn’t so important for that but it does mean it has to be at Mission Bay and not 15 miles along the coast.