A CIESE Realtime Data Project

CIESE -Navigational Vectors - Lesson #7

Lesson #6

Lesson #7
Relative Velocity

Lesson #8

A) Real Time Flight Data

  1. Go to the Flight Tracker web site shown below. Select "Track Random Flight" or input the flight number and airline that your teacher has pre-selected. Print out the web page or write down all of the flight information given. Also, note the current time (your local time) for the flight.
    • The text version is faster and will give more precise numerical information.
    • If the random flight information is insufficient, click on the "Reload" or "Refresh" button in your browser to get another random flight.
  2. Find the exact locations of the plane's departing, arrival, and current locations. If you are not sure of their exact locations, you can use latitude and longitude coordinates to pinpoint the locations. Review material for how to find latitude and longitude may be found in the Reference Material section.
    a) What is the plane's departing location?
    b) What is the plane's arrival location?
    c) What is the plane's approximate current location?
  3. Plot the plane's departing location, arrival location, and approximate current location on a map. Use latitude and longitude coordinates if you are not sure where the locations are. Draw a straight line between the current location and the arrival location.
  4. Find the plane's current directional heading in degrees. This is the angle of the line you just drew as measured from 0º North. Use two different methods to find this heading:

    a) Estimate the plane's heading in degrees off of your map using a compass rose. (Note: If you enter the flight number and airline in the graphical version of Flight Tracker you will see an approximate heading but you need to get a more precise a number.)

    b) Check your work by entering the flight's current closest city and arrival city (or latitudes and longitudes) on the web site below to find the plane's directional heading in degrees.

    • How Far is it? - Find the distance between two cities and directional heading
  5. What is the plane's ground speed (km/h)?

B) Real Time Wind Data

  1. Find the wind speed (in knots) at the plane's current location and at the approximate altitude that the plane is flying.
  2. Convert the wind speed from knots to km/h.
  3. Determine the precise direction the wind is blowing towards (degrees measured from 0º North) using a compass rose

C) Flight Data Summary

Record the following important flight information you have obtained so far in this lesson. You will need this information for the next part.

  1. Plane's groundspeed (km/h) and directional heading (degrees)
  2. Wind speed (km/h) and direction (degrees)

D) Determine Air Speed

As a pilot, you must determine at what velocity (air speed and direction) to fly a plane to compensate for wind and to maintain your ground speed. Using the flight and wind data from above, construct a vector diagram according to the directions below. The diagram will help you determine the plane's air speed and course heading.

  • On a piece of paper, place a dot to represent the plane's current location. Then, using the plane's directional heading in degrees and the plane's ground speed, draw a vector from this point. The vector should be located with its tail at the plane's current location. Use an appropriate scale (e.g. 1 cm = 50 km/h) to represent the ground speed. Make sure to indicate on your diagram that this vector represents the ground speed.
  • Plot the wind speed vector on your diagram with its head at the same location as the head of the ground speed vector. You should now have two vectors with both heads located at the same point. The direction of the wind speed vector should represent the direction the wind is blowing towards (degrees) and the length of the vector should represent the speed of the wind (drawn to scale). Make sure to indicate on your diagram that this vector represents the wind speed.
  • The air speed and direction can be determined using the previously plotted vectors. The air speed vector should be drawn with its tail at the plane's current location and its head at the tail of the wind speed vector. Think of it this way: The air speed vector should be head to tail with the wind speed vector. Air speed and wind speed are both component vectors in this diagram. Ground speed is the resultant of the air speed and wind speed vectors.

E) Flight Questions

  1. At what air speed should you fly the plane?
  2. What direction (degrees as measured from 0º North) should you head the plane?
  3. Think about your results, especially with respect to the wind. Do they make sense? Why or why not?

F) Ready to Become a Pilot?

  1. Imagine you are the ship navigator for a large cruise ship. Make up a problem that you might encounter on a cruise between Miami and the Bahamas that involves the ship velocity and the ocean current. Show how vector analysis could be used to solve the problem.

  2. A manufacturer of airplane navigation equipment is looking for suggestions from pilots about new types of instrumentation to include in the cockpits of airplanes. What suggestion would you make? Explain how your suggested navigation instrument would help pilots. (Optional)

  3. A small plane requires an airspeed of 45 m/s for lift-off. If there is a wind speed of 10 m/s, would it be better to take off with or against the wind? Why? Use vector analysis to provide a general recommendation as to whether planes should take off with or against the wind. (Optional)