Flight Redemptions

What is CH in Aviation? (Course Heading)

Updated: February 20, 2024

Understanding Course Heading (CH) in Aviation

In aviation, Course Heading (CH) plays a crucial role in navigation. It refers to the direction an aircraft is flying in relation to true north. Pilots use course headings to determine the path they need to follow to reach their destinations. Understanding the concept of Course Heading is essential for safe and efficient navigation in the skies. In this article, we will explore Course Heading in detail and its significance in aviation.

Importance of Course Heading in Aviation

In the world of aviation, Course Heading is of utmost importance as it allows pilots to navigate through the vast airspace with precision and accuracy. By knowing their Course Heading, pilots can plan their routes, avoid obstacles, and maintain safe separation from other aircraft. Here are a few key reasons why Course Heading is crucial:

1. Precision Navigation

Course Heading provides pilots with a clear direction to follow. By setting the correct Course Heading on their aircraft's navigation systems, pilots can fly the desired path and reach their destination accurately. This is particularly crucial during instrument flight, where pilots rely on their instruments to navigate through clouds or low visibility conditions. The Course Heading helps them maintain the desired track and avoid any deviations.

When flying on Course Heading, pilots can also make use of various navigation aids, such as VOR (VHF Omnidirectional Range) or GPS (Global Positioning System). These aids provide precise guidance and help pilots stay on track throughout their journey.

2. Avoiding Obstacles

Another significant advantage of Course Heading is its ability to help pilots avoid obstacles. By following a predetermined Course Heading, pilots can navigate around mountains, buildings, or restricted airspace areas. This ensures the safety of the aircraft and its occupants.

During flight planning, pilots assess the terrain and airspace along their intended route. They consider factors such as minimum safe altitudes and obstacle clearance requirements. By aligning their Course Heading with the planned route, pilots can minimize the risk of encountering obstacles and maintain a safe and efficient flight path.

3. Traffic Separation

Course Heading also plays a crucial role in maintaining safe separation between aircraft. Air traffic controllers use Course Heading information to assign specific routes and altitudes to different aircraft. By ensuring that aircraft are flying on different Course Headings, controllers prevent any potential conflicts or collisions in the airspace.

When operating in controlled airspace, pilots must follow the Course Heading instructions provided by air traffic control. This helps maintain an orderly flow of traffic and reduces the risk of mid-air collisions. By adhering to assigned Course Headings, pilots contribute to the overall safety of the airspace system.

How to Determine and Adjust Course Heading

Now that we understand the importance of Course Heading, let's explore how pilots determine and adjust their Course Heading during a flight:

1. Using Magnetic Compass

One way to determine Course Heading is by using a magnetic compass. The magnetic compass indicates the aircraft's direction in relation to magnetic north. Pilots can compare the magnetic compass reading with the desired Course Heading to make adjustments if necessary.

It's important to note that the magnetic compass is susceptible to errors caused by magnetic deviations in the aircraft. These errors can be compensated for by referring to a compass correction card specific to the aircraft.

2. Using Navigation Systems

Modern aircraft are equipped with advanced navigation systems, such as GPS or inertial navigation systems. These systems provide accurate Course Heading information to the pilots. By selecting the desired Course Heading on the navigation system, pilots can follow the prescribed route with precision.

Navigation systems also allow pilots to make adjustments to their Course Heading in real-time. This flexibility ensures that pilots can adapt to changing weather conditions, air traffic control instructions, or any other factors that may require a Course Heading change.

3. Cross-Checking with Navigation Aids

When determining or adjusting Course Heading, pilots can cross-check their information with various navigation aids available to them. These aids include VOR, NDB (Non-Directional Beacon), or GPS waypoints. By verifying their Course Heading against these aids, pilots can ensure the accuracy of their navigation.

It's essential for pilots to regularly cross-check their Course Heading during a flight to maintain accuracy and prevent any navigational errors. By using a combination of navigation aids and onboard systems, pilots can have confidence in their Course Heading and navigate safely through the skies.


Course Heading is a fundamental concept in aviation that enables pilots to navigate through the skies with precision and safety. By understanding and using Course Heading effectively, pilots can maintain accurate navigation, avoid obstacles, and ensure the safe separation of aircraft. Whether through traditional magnetic compasses or advanced navigation systems, Course Heading remains a vital component of aviation navigation.

So the next time you board an aircraft, remember that the pilots rely on Course Heading to guide you safely to your destination. The importance of this navigational concept cannot be overstated in the world of aviation.

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