The readers of the Arkansas Times are a curious lot, and have a lot of questions. So here’s our relaunch of Ask the Times, where we will, to the best of our ability, try to bring light to the darkness. (Question? Send to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
There’s a strange object that looks like a giant white sombrero in a field west of Thibault Road, just before you get to the turnoff to the David D. Terry Lock and Dam south of Interstate 440. (The turnoff is Damsite Road, by the way, which is a great name for a road.) What is that thing?
The Times drove out Thibault Road to answer your question. We could not get very close to the object in question because the road there is gated, and on that gate it warns that trespassers will end up in federal prison because the property belongs to the Federal Aviation Administration.
So we sent Lynn Lunsford at the FAA district office in Dallas a query. The object is a VOR (Very High Frequency Omni-Directional Range) that is used in air traffic control. It has a beacon that sends out radio signals in a 360-degree radius. “Pilots are able to tune into the beacon, and using instruments in the cockpit, fly directly to the airport. We use these beacons as one of many facets in our air navigation system,” Lunsford wrote, and referred us to Wikipedia for more information.
There we learned that VORs, which have a range of up to 200 miles, were first deployed in 1946, and that there were 967 in operation in 2013. Wikipedia said the FAA planned to decommission half the remaining VORs by this year, including some in Arkansas, because more planes rely on the Global Positioning System to find their way.
The Little Rock VOR was not on a decommissioning list published by the FAA in 2016, so it should be there for a while for more people to wonder what it is. However, the FAA is likely to move the VOR at the request of the Little Rock Port Authority to free up the acreage for development.