ATC Questions

I have a few things to ask about ATC Operations

  1. Do i hand over aircraft to departure before or after leaving tower airspace
  2. How do degrees work. e.g heading 360 north What do they mean. Thanks.

Hand over aircraft to departure (if its available) pretty much straight after takeoff.

The degrees are the heading the aircraft flies. If a plane was flying at 090, if you saw it on a map it would be flying directly right. If it was flying 360, it would be flying directly north. If an approach controller gives you a heading, input it into your heading autopilot.

Thanks a lot!

There is also True North and Magnetic North. True North is what you’ll see on a map, with TN always straight up. Magnetic North is what is found on a plane’s compass and can vary from TN differently depending on where in the world you are.

MN is important becuase the runways are named according to the nearest 10 degree compass direction it most closely lies. The last zero is removed for brevity. A runway at MN 272 degrees clockwise from north, would be called Runway 27. It’s also important because compass direction is how you know which way you’re going without GPS.

MN can vary from TN differently across the U.S. In Northern California, the declination (as the difference is called) is 17-18 degrees clockwise from TN. This becomes very important in navigation and ATC instructions.

The earth’s metallic mass, which compass needles react to lies, for the U.S., lsomewhere under the Canadian province of Ontario. And it is moving which makes the declination for a given area move as well. It can even result in the re-naming of runways if it is great enough. When I was flying out of KOAK in the 90s, the N Tower runways were 27R and 27L (yes and 33). Now, apparently, they are 28R and 28L.

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Thankyou very much!