Flight Redemptions

What is HDG SEL in Aviation? (Heading Select)

Updated: February 27, 2024

The Importance of Heading Select in Aviation

Heading Select (HDG SEL) is a crucial feature in aviation that allows pilots to manually select and maintain a specific heading during flight. This feature is typically found on modern aircraft's autopilot systems and plays a vital role in ensuring accurate navigation and flight control. In this article, we will explore the significance of Heading Select in aviation, its functions, and its impact on flight operations.

The Functions of Heading Select

Heading Select offers pilots the ability to input and maintain a desired heading, which is the direction an aircraft is pointing relative to magnetic north. This feature allows pilots to navigate along specific flight routes, maintain a desired course, and avoid obstacles or restricted airspace. By selecting a heading, pilots can ensure their aircraft stays on track and reaches its destination efficiently and safely.

Heading Select is particularly useful during enroute phases of flight, where pilots need to follow air traffic control instructions or fly predefined airways. It enables pilots to easily make heading changes as required, without constantly manipulating the aircraft's controls. Additionally, Heading Select can be used during approach and landing phases to align the aircraft with the runway's centerline, aiding in precision approaches and reducing the workload on the pilot.

The Advantages of Heading Select

Heading Select offers several advantages to pilots and flight crews, enhancing flight operations and overall safety. Here are some key benefits of this feature:

Accurate Navigation: By allowing pilots to select and maintain a specific heading, Heading Select ensures accurate navigation along defined routes, airways, or approach paths. This helps pilots avoid deviation from the intended flight path, reducing the risk of airspace infringements and improving overall situational awareness.
Reduced Workload: The ability to set a desired heading and engage Heading Select reduces the pilot's workload during flight. Instead of constantly adjusting the aircraft's controls to maintain a specific heading, pilots can rely on the autopilot system to handle this task, allowing them to focus on other critical aspects of the flight, such as communication with air traffic control or monitoring systems.
Enhanced Flight Stability: Heading Select contributes to flight stability by ensuring that the aircraft maintains a consistent heading. This stability is particularly important during adverse weather conditions, such as strong crosswinds or turbulence. By automatically adjusting the aircraft's controls to maintain the selected heading, Heading Select helps pilots maintain control and stability, reducing the chances of a loss of control situation.

Implementing Heading Select in Aircraft

Heading Select is typically incorporated into an aircraft's autopilot system, which is responsible for controlling various flight parameters, including heading, altitude, and airspeed. The autopilot system consists of multiple components, such as sensors, actuators, and a flight control computer, all working together to provide precise and automated control of the aircraft.

Modern autopilot systems are often equipped with advanced features, such as Heading Select, that offer increased functionality and flexibility to pilots. These systems can be controlled through the aircraft's flight management system (FMS) or flight control panel, where pilots can input the desired heading and engage Heading Select mode. Once activated, the autopilot system will adjust the aircraft's controls, such as the ailerons and rudder, to maintain the selected heading.

It is important for pilots to receive proper training on the use of Heading Select and other autopilot features to ensure safe and effective operation. Familiarity with the aircraft's systems, limitations, and procedures is essential to make the most of Heading Select and utilize it appropriately in various flight phases.


Heading Select is a valuable tool in aviation that allows pilots to manually select and maintain a specific heading during flight. This feature enhances navigation, reduces pilot workload, and contributes to flight stability. By incorporating Heading Select into autopilot systems, aircraft manufacturers have provided pilots with a powerful tool to improve flight operations and ensure safe and efficient travel.

Next time you step on an aircraft, remember the importance of Heading Select in keeping the flight on track and reaching your destination smoothly. With Heading Select, pilots have greater control and precision in navigating the skies, making air travel safer and more enjoyable for everyone onboard.

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