The Earth
The Solar System & Time
Using Aeronautical Charts
Basics of Navigation
Distance, Speed & Time
Vertical Navigation
Fuel Planning
Practical Navigation Techniques
Radio Navigation
Practice Exam

Plotting Bearings and Distances

A bearing is another word for a direction to or from a given landmark. We can:

Use a bearing to fly to a landmark (such as an airport)
Use a bearing & distance from a landmark to determine our position

Let’s look at an example:


Your bearing from Fenland (52°44’22”N 000°01’48”W) is 297°T at a range of 30nm. What is your latitude and longitude?

1 First we need to locate Fenland. Draw a horizontal line along the 52° 44’N latitude and a vertical line along the 000°02’W longitude. Fenland will be in the vicinity of where the two lines intersect.

2 Next, place the centre of your protractor over the top of Fenland with the protractor’s north aligned with the chart’s true north

Remember: the vertical lines of longitude on the chart all point towards true north!

3 Find the bearing of 297°T on the protractor and draw a long line from Fenland along this bearing

4 Using the 1:500 000 scale of a nautical mile ruler, mark across this line at 30nm from Fenland.

This mark is your position at 30nm from Fenland on a bearing of 297°T

5 From this position, draw a long vertical and a long horizontal line.

You can now read off your latitude and longitude from where these lines cross the chart’s parallels of latitude and meridians of longitude.

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