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3 Answers

Why Isn’t All Navigation in True

Asked by: 2019 views , , ,
Aircraft Systems, Airspace, FAA Regulations, General Aviation

In the early days of aviation, the magnetic compass was the only reliable instrument by which to navigate. Today, in the age of universal GPS and abundant fixed location navaids, why do we still align to the magnetic poles? New digital compasses can be programmed to correct for declanation, wouldn't it be easier on everyone if we all pointed to the true poles?

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3 Answers

  1. Bill Trussell on Nov 13, 2013

    The issue is what do you do with the legacy systems such as the VOR or VORTAC network which is still oriented to magnetic north? Note that most of the navaids and electronic routs are still oriented to Magnetic north. Never mind the Runway ends!

    While convention has dictated this orientation to this point it would appear to be very early to change the convention.

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  2. Wes Beard on Nov 13, 2013

    If everyone has a GPS they can reference then I would also assume that navigating by the true course would be easier. Unfortunately, not everyone has a GPS. We would also lose some navigational backups if the GPS system ever failed or more likely turned off for some reason.

    As it stands right now, the VOR and NDB network is the backup for the GPS. There used to be a LORAN system but the US Navy decommissioned that system a couple years ago.

    The other reason is the cost to the make the transition. Every GPS receiver would have to be reprogrammed to show the true course, all the charts would have to be reprinted to show the true course and if the NAS wanted to use VORs, they would have to be recalibrated for true course. It would seem to me that it is a lot of work for minimal gain.

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  3. Alexander Gertsen on Nov 14, 2013

    That all makes sense, thank you for your thoughts. I agree that this would be a major and costly change, but I’m willing to bet within 50 years, we’ll all be flying true headings! 🙂

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