Monday, November 25, 2013

Little Swiss town, famous among pilots, gets a plane: “St Prex” in the A320 fleet might puzzle passengers, but not pilots

St Prex’s VOR, 165 metres offshore, worthy of a plane name

A Swiss plane heads in towards Geneva, following the corridor the VOR shows it from St Prex

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Airline Swiss once named its planes after Swiss mountains, but it recently began to name them after Swiss cities, starting in Vaud with Lausanne, Montreux and Nyon. This week Saint Prex will have a an A320 Airbus named after it, in honour of its worldwide reputation.  

You read that right and if you’re wondering why you weren’t aware of its fame, it’s clear you are not a pilot.

Sitting 165 metres off the shore of the medieval village (home to, by the way) is a VHF Omni Directional Radio Range (VOR), one of 11 in Switzerland, according to 24 Heures, but the only one sitting in water.

A VOR, using Wikipedia’s definition, is “a type of short-range radio navigation system for aircraft, enabling aircraft to determine their position and stay on course by receiving radio signals transmitted by a network of fixed ground radio beacons, with a receiver unit.”

The VOR has been in place since 1971 as part of the buildup of air security in the region following the crash of a Bombay-London flight over Mt Blanc five years earlier.

The increasing use of GPS by planes could eventually make the St Prex VOR obsolete, but it is still widely used by the steady stream of airplanes flying over or coming into Geneva airport, and the name St Prex is widely recognized by pilots worldwide.

24 Heures has a lengthy article about it, including a chart of how planes use it to fly in and out of Geneva.

Story and Photos:

La balise de Saint-Prex fait briller le bourg jusqu’à la stratosphère - L’émetteur situé au large du village guide les avions depuis 1971. Swiss va baptiser l’un de ses Airbus du nom du bourg: