Assuming no correction is made for wind effect, if an aircraft is heading eastward at 120 knots, and the air mass moving southward at 20 knots, the aircraft at the end of 1 hour is almost 120 miles east of its point of departure because of its progress through the air. It is 20 miles south because of the motion of the air. Under these circumstances, the airspeed remains 120 knots, but the GS is determined by combining the movement of the aircraft with that of the air mass. GS can be measured as the distance from the point of departure to the position of the aircraft at the end of 1 hour. The GS can be computed by the time required to fly between two points a known distance apart. It also can be determined before flight by constructing a wind triangle, which is explained later in this chapter. [Figure 15-14]
Figure 15-14. Aircraft flightpath resulting from its airspeed and direction, and the wind speed and direction.
The direction in which the aircraft is pointing as it flies is heading. Its actual path over the ground, which is a combination of the motion of the aircraft and the motion of the air, is its track. The angle between the heading and the track is drift angle. If the aircraft heading coincides with the true course and the wind is blowing from the left, the track does not coincide with the true course. The wind causes the aircraft to drift to the right, so the track falls to the right of the desired course or true course. [Figure 15-15]
Figure 15-15. Effects of wind drift on maintaining desired course.
The following method is used by many pilots to determine compass heading: after the TC is measured, and wind correction applied resulting in a TH, the sequence TH ± variation (V) = magnetic heading (MH) ± deviation (D) = compass heading (CH) is followed to arrive at compass heading. [Figure 15-16]
Figure 15-16. Relationship between true, magnetic, and compass headings for a particular instance.
By determining the amount of drift, the pilot can counteract the effect of the wind and make the track of the aircraft coincide with the desired course. If the mass of air is moving across the course from the left, the aircraft drifts to the right, and a correction must be made by heading the aircraft sufficiently to the left to offset this drift. To state in another way, if the wind is from the left, the correction is made by pointing the aircraft to the left a certain number of degrees, therefore correcting for wind drift. This is the wind correction angle (WCA) and is expressed in terms of degrees right or left of the true course. [Figure 15-17]
Figure 15-17. Establishing a wind correction angle that will counteract wind drift and maintain the desired course.
- Course—intended path of an aircraft over the ground or the direction of a line drawn on a chart representing the intended aircraft path, expressed as the angle measured from a specific reference datum clockwise from 0° through 360° to the line.
- Heading—direction in which the nose of the aircraft points during flight.
- Track—actual path made over the ground in flight. (If proper correction has been made for the wind, track and course are identical.)
- Drift angle—angle between heading and track.
- WCA—correction applied to the course to establish a heading so that track coincides with course.
- Airspeed—rate of the aircraft’s progress through the air.
- GS—rate of the aircraft’s inflight progress over the ground.
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