Understanding headings and professionalism with flying

I was quite surprised to see that no one has created a topic like this in the past. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do not comment below linking me to another thread because I spent the last twenty minutes searching and could not find direct answers to all of my questions.

  1. I understand in general the difference between magnetic heading and true heading but I mean what actually is the point? like why do we have one if we only are suppose to use Magnetic heading in aviation?

  2. I generally understand the difference between track and heading but how do you do the math to find at “what degree you have to fly” (do not even understand what that means) to keep the plane on track if there is a wind or other factor because even though you are flying a certain heading, it does not mean you are actually flying in that direction?

  3. I heard of the rule if you are flying north or east fly on a odd altitude and if you are flying south or west fly on a even one, but what if you are flying northwest or southeast?

Please be very very thorough in your response and ONLY respond if you are 100% sure you know what you are talking about. I really want to get a better understanding of all this to become more realistic and also I am considering a career in ATC. Thank you in advance and again please respond to the questions or not at all


I will answer no. 3 for you.

Odd altitudes are for 0-179 degrees, while even altitudes are for 180-359 degrees. Obviously, the heading is the one in the sim.

I can only respond to 3. I will attach a graphic to aid the explanation.image

Northwest would be roughly a heading of 315°. Flying IFR and referencing the altitude rules in the graphic above, this would be an even altitude.


and just to be 100% sure, that is referring to the magnetic heading?

Yes, it’s magnetic heading.


Thank you guys. This chart and explanation was perfect for question #3, 3 is Complete. Only 1 and 2 are needed now.

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It’s a bit of a scientific thing. True heading is a fixed point. We have a fixed point of the North Pole. However the magnetic heading has to do with earths magnetic fields that are affected by our core. Our magnetic heading changes over time, this is why a published alteration of magnetic heading is given so if using that reference you can know what the difference is between your directions

For number 1, Google is a very helpful tool, but I’ll sum it up for you.

Magnetic Heading - Direction relative to magnetic north

True Heading - Direction relative to geographic north

Geographic north is measure by latitude and longitude, so the integer coordinate at the highest point of the Earth. In that case, it’s 90.0000° N, 135.0000° W, or the North pole.

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As for your heading in relation to wind, this is where LNAV helps out. It’ll keep you on the right heading when flying on auto pilot

For how you can see your heading and the effect from wind, fly into a location with crosswind and you’ll see how the wind pushes your aircraft. Your heading may be 95 but because of a crosswind, your flying directly 90 as your aircraft moves toward that headin

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okay so why cant they just use true north as a reference point, seeing that it never changes?

Solid question, my understanding is that it will depend on what instruments you’re using. Some rely on the magnetic heading


I’ve got an article related to the use of either magnetic or true heading.


In the old days, magnetic heading was used because it was easy to fit into an aircraft. But now that we have much more advanced technology, the errors of magnetic heading are (not big) but pesky, so modern commercial airliners are making the switch to true heading.

Airliners today have computers to convert true heading to magnetic heading.

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