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Constructing triangles and bearings



Suppose you were in the middle of nowhere, and there were no signs or landmarks to help you find your way. Would you know how to find your way home? Someone might tell you via phone or radio to 'walk to your left', or 'turn through 60° and then start walking', but how would they know which way you were pointing in the first place?

One way of describing direction from a point is to use 3-figure bearings.

Navigational compass

A compass always points north. Bearings are measured from the north line, always in a clockwise direction.

So when someone tells you to walk on a bearing of 120°, you should face north, turn clockwise through 120° and start walking.


Flight path is shown as 30 degrees east of north

The angle between the north line and the flight path of the aeroplane is 30°. We say that the aeroplane is flying on a bearing of 030° from Heathrow Airport.


Click 'Play' to see the direction change in the diagram below. Click 'Pause' to see the bearing.

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Bearings are always described using three figures. So for less than 100° put an appropriate number of 0s in front. Eg 020°, 037°, 002°, 007°.




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