Aircraft heading

Aircraft heading

An aircraft's heading is referenced by using either the magnetic compass or heading indicator, two instruments that most aircraft have as standard.

Simply defined, the heading is the direction that the aircraft's nose is pointing. Using standard instrumentation, it is in reference to the local magnetic north direction. True heading is in relation to the lines of meridian (north-south lines). The units are degrees from north in a clockwise direction. East is 90, south is 180 and west is 270 degrees.

Note that, due to wind forces, the direction of movement of the aircraft, or track, is not the same as the heading. The nose of the aircraft may be pointing due west, for example, but a strong northerly wind will change its track south of west. The angle between heading and track is known as the drift angle or crab angle.


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