Tag Archives: navigation

Air Navigation Name Nonsense

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Air navigation maps and computers contain thousands of routes and waypoints (or fixes) to help pilots and air traffic controllers keep track of where the airplanes are. To make navigation and communication a little easier, most of the fixes are given names. Read on for some fun fix naming nonsense!

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Straight Talk on Great Circles

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Pondering my next great circle route.

Why do airplane routes look funny on world maps?

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, right? If you want to fly, boat, bike, or drive, following a straight line saves time and money. When you look at aircraft routes on flight tracking sites, does it look like airliners take the long way home? Why do they fly those curvy routes across the oceans and continents?
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How do pilots find their way?

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I asked my wife if she had any ideas for an article. She said, “You know, I really don’t know how you find your way from one city to another.”  “Great,” I thought, “an article about how airliners navigate!” Or perhaps it was a sly insult; I can never really tell.

Navigation is a really broad subject. Different aircraft have different types of equipment to help pilots find their way. I’ll stick with a generic airliner setup. And don’t worry… I’ll make this really simple and easy to understand!

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